ACTCOSS welcomes ACT Discrimination Law Reform

1 June 2022

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has welcomed today’s tabling of the ACT Discrimination Amendment Bill 2022 that aims to bring discrimination law in line with the Human Rights Act and strengthen responses to discrimination.

ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell said: “ACTCOSS welcomes the expansion of the Discrimination Act to cover all areas of public life.

“It means that public authorities would also be covered by the Act and held to account for discrimination in public housing processes, child protection decisions and within the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC).

“We particularly welcome the introduction of a ‘positive duty’ through this Bill – that is the requirement for proactive measures to be implemented to prevent discrimination,” said Dr Campbell.

ACTCOSS said that a transition period would be required so that business and community sector organisations could understand and implement the legislation and called on the ACT Government to provide appropriate tools, supports, and resources.

Dr Campbell said that additional recommendations by ACTCOSS and other stakeholders should also be considered.

“While the Bill is warmly welcomed, more needs to be done to protect vulnerable citizens from discrimination and abuse. This includes:

  • Ensuring that ACT Policing are covered by similar regulation with accessible mechanisms in place for raising complaints, preferably through an independent police complaints mechanism
  • Clearly including people with experience of detention, either in prison or in secure mental health facilities under the protected attribute of ‘accommodation status’
  • Supporting the ‘No Rights Without Remedy’ campaign to allow members of the public to make human rights complaints direct to the Commission instead of expensive and time-consuming litigation in the Supreme Court
  • Continuing consultation with vulnerable or disadvantaged groups, particularly those who are more likely to experience discrimination: Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, people from migrant and refugee backgrounds, LGBTIQA+ people, women and gender diverse people, and people with disabilities; and
  • Commitments to investing in education, enforcement, and monitoring mechanisms, to ensure that there are appropriate accountability measures where necessary.”

Dr Campbell concluded: “In order to protect those in our community who are vulnerable to discrimination and disadvantage we need stronger protections and appropriate resourcing for implementation of those protections. We look forward to working with the ACT Government to progress this important area of law reform.”

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