News & Current Affairs

By Elizabeth Beard

10.04.17

Roll Out of New Discrimination Laws Creates More Offences in the ACT

Beginning in April 2017, an updated version of the Discrimination Act 1991 (ACT) will be in force providing new protection against discriminatory treatment. These new laws will focus on preventing discrimination on five new grounds:

  • Accommodation status
  • Employment status
  • Status as a victim of family or domestic violence
  • Immigration status
  • Physical features

As a result of these new laws, several new offences have emerged. An example reported by the Canberra Times is in some situations it will now be illegal for a real estate agent to refuse accommodation to a person who has previously been homeless or lived in public housing.

ACT human rights commissioner Dr Helen Watchirs said the most important of these changes is the new laws concerning discrimination against survivors of domestic and family violence. These laws aim to eradicate situations where people lose their employment due to harassment from their partners at work or when they are unable to attend work due to court orders or medical appointments.

The 2017 Discrimination Act 1991 (ACT) update has also provided further clarity and stronger protection regarding:

  • Gender identity
  • Intersex status
  • Irrelevant criminal record
  • Parent/family/carer/kinship responsibilities.

New laws concerning irrelevant criminal records aim to prevent past actions influencing the future of people who no longer commit criminal acts. Thus, reformed offenders may be fully rehabilitated and accepted back into society.