Last Updated 17 August 2021

In Queensland, the law relating to discrimination and human rights is contained in seven pieces of state and federal legislation:

The Australian Human Rights Commission administers the Commonwealth laws, and the Queensland Human Rights Commission administers the Anti-discrimination Act and the Human Rights Act.

In the workplace, there are also protections against discrimination in the Commonwealth Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and the Queensland Industrial Relations Act 2016 (Qld). These laws are not covered in this chapter. More information about workplace law can be found in the Employment chapter.

There is a significant overlap between the state and Commonwealth laws, and complainants will be faced with a choice of whether to proceed under the state or the Commonwealth laws. It is important to make this decision before any complaint is made to a commission because it is very difficult, in some cases impossible, to change process once a complaint is lodged.

In many cases, the greater flexibility of the state laws and the wider range of grounds (known under the Anti-discrimination Act as attributes), together with the enforceability of conciliation agreements and decisions of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) means that it will be better to proceed under the Anti-discrimination Act. In any case, legal advice is strongly recommended before commencing the complaints process. There are some areas where the Anti-discrimination Act has exclusive application, for example it prohibits discrimination and vilification against persons on the basis of religious belief and religious activity. Similarly, the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act contains specific provisions for complaints about acts of racial hatred.

People who are not covered by the Anti-discrimination Act, for example Commonwealth Government employees or people who are complaining about the actions of a Commonwealth Government agency, must proceed under Commonwealth laws. This can lead to gaps in protection afforded to people such as a complaint of discrimination by a Commonwealth authority on the basis of religious belief.