What is discrimination?

Individuals or an organisation are discriminating against you if they treat you differently from everyone else because of something about you that they don’t respect. Discrimination can be a horrible and hurtful experience and, in many instances, it’s against the law. Get info on common reasons for discrimination, what the signs are and what you can do about it.

This can help if:

  • you’re being treated unfairly or threatened

  • you want to know about the common types of discrimination

  • you want to know what you can do if you’re being discriminated against.

Boy looking unhappy wearing necklace

What is discrimination?

Everyone has the right to be treated fairly and respectfully. When someone is being discriminated against, it means they’re being treated badly or unfairly based on a personal characteristic.

Common reasons that people are discriminated against:

  • their sex or gender

  • if they have any kind of disability

  • their race

  • their age

  • their sexual preferences.

**Some examples of discrimination:

  • someone saying hurtful things or attacking you repeatedly

  • being made fun of

  • being excluded or left out

  • having a group of people gang up on you

  • being made to do hurtful or inappropriate things

  • being threatened

  • finding yourself having to defend who you are and what you believe against stereotypes and untrue claims.

It’s against the law to be discriminated against in these areas of public life:

  • the workplace

  • school or uni

  • accommodation

  • government services

  • accessing goods, services and facilities.

Discrimination is often linked with bullying

People who negatively discriminate often behave in a way that is intended to disturb or upset the other person. Find out what you can do if you’re being bullied or harassed in this way.

What to do if you think you’re being discriminated against

If you feel you’re being discriminated against, there are things you can do to address it.

Try to take action yourself

Explain to the person involved that their behaviour offends you or makes you uncomfortable.

Keep a record

Write down everything that’s happened, including any attempts you’ve made to address or resolve the situation. Include the date, time of day and where it happened.

Check out your legal rights

Formal processes for handling issues of discrimination can be very different depending on where and when the discrimination occurs. Check out the Australian Human Rights Commission’s website for information on your rights and your options.

What can I do now?

  • Talk to someone, whether HR at work or a friend or family member at home.

  • Check out the website of the Australian Human Rights Commission.

  • Use the ReachOut NextStep tool to find the best support options for you.


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