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Discrimination toolkit

Discrimination Toolkit cover pictureAbout this Toolkit

The Discrimination Toolkit is for people who believe they have been discriminated against and want to do something about it. It will also be a useful resource for community workers, advocates and lawyers who want to help clients who are experiencing discrimination.

The Toolkit has five sections:

Discrimination basics will help you work out if you've been unlawfully discriminated against and whether you might have grounds for a discrimination complaint.

What you can do about discrimination looks at the legal and non-legal options for dealing with discrimination and gives you some guidance about how to decide what is best for you. This section also takes you through the steps involved in making and running a discrimination complaint.

Courts and tribunals describes what happens if your discrimination case ends up in a court or tribunal. Although most discrimination cases get sorted out before this stage, it's important to know what is involved if your case does get that far. This section also gives you some basic information on court procedures and rules.

Getting help looks at how you can get legal representation or advice. It has a list of contacts for legal and non-legal help, and places where you can get more information about discrimination if you need it.

Glossary gives definitions of some of the legal words you will come across if you are making a discrimination complaint.

Dealing with the legal system can be stressful, and sometimes the results aren’t exactly what you hoped for. But using discrimination law and standing up for your rights can be empowering and worthwhile. There have been a lot of positive changes in the way people are treated because of our discrimination laws. Freedom from discrimination is a basic human right. We hope this Toolkit will help you navigate the discrimination law system so you can stand up for that right.


This publication is for general information purposes only. It is not intended as advice on any particular matter and is not a substitute for legal advice from a qualified professional. No reader should act or fail to act on the basis of any material contained in this Toolkit. Legal Aid NSW, Kingsford Legal Centre, Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre and the authors disclaim all liability for errors or omissions of any kind whatsoever, or for any loss or damage, in whole or in part, arising from any person relying on any information in this publication.


© Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre, Kingsford Legal Centre and the State of New South Wales through Legal Aid NSW, 3rd edition 2014. You may copy, distribute, display, download and otherwise freely deal with this work for any purpose, provided that you attribute Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre, Kingsford Legal Centre and Legal Aid NSW as the owners. However, you must obtain permission if you wish to (1) charge others for access to the work (2) include the work in advertising or a product for sale or (3) modify the work.

For more information or to find a legal service near you contact LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529.


I have been a discrimination lawyer for much of my life. I’ve run tribunal cases as a lawyer, heard cases as a member of tribunals, and was Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner. But when I walked into court as the client, in my discrimination case against RailCorp, I was scared, and a little overwhelmed. And when I have attended conciliation conferences as the complainant, I am also worried, and think that the balance of power is not in my favour.

When we are discriminated against we are disempowered, and it is very hard for us to challenge that discrimination. I really didn’t understand that properly until I went through the process myself. That’s why this Toolkit is so important, and why I’m pleased to have the opportunity to write this Foreword.

Legal Aid NSW and community legal centres have supported people who have experienced discrimination for many years — on the grounds of our sex, race, age, sexual orientation or disability. And the staff of those organisations have done so firstly because it’s their job, but secondly because of their passion for fairness and equality. They understand the power imbalance that usually exists, and how hard it is to even lodge a discrimination complaint. So they have developed this Toolkit — to provide information about the process, but more importantly because once a person who has been discriminated against has this information it makes the complaint process much easier.

The information in the Toolkit is drawn from many years of experience gained by Legal Aid NSW and community legal centre lawyers. And it is crafted in a way which clarifies the process for people who are often experiencing discrimination for the first time in their lives.

I recommend the Toolkit to you. It won’t make the process you have chosen to go through easy. But it will prepare you for many of the experiences you will have, and inform you about discrimination law more generally. Information is power, so the power imbalance will be reduced.

Being discriminated against, on whatever ground, is an unpleasant experience. However, much of that unpleasantness can be removed by challenging that discrimination, and speaking up to say it is unfair. This Toolkit will mean that you are better resourced to do that.

Graeme Innes AM


The authors would like to acknowledge and thank the many individuals and organisations who generously contributed funds, time and expertise to each edition of this publication.

They include Graeme Innes, and our expert reviewers (past and present) from the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (and its predecessor the Administrative Decisions Tribunal), Ashurst (formerly Blake Dawson Waldron), Clayton Utz, and all our colleagues at Legal Aid NSW. Your thoughtful and constructive comments have been of great value and significantly contributed to this publication.

The principal contributors to the first edition of the Discrimination Toolkit in 2007 were Fiona Pace (Legal Aid NSW), Teena Balgi (Kingsford Legal Centre) and Meredith Osborne (Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre). The second edition was produced in 2011 by Fiona Pace and Meredith Osborne (Civil Law Division, Legal Aid NSW) and Emma Golledge (Kingsford Legal Centre). The 2014 third edition was updated by Fiona Pace (Civil Law Division, Legal Aid NSW).