People with albinism (“PWA”) tend to be a vulnerable group within society. The lack of pigmentation (melanin) commonly results in very light coloured hair, eyes and skin, and some degree of visual impairment (approximately 80% of PWA are legally blind, although most have better functional vision). So, in addition to the human rights and discrimination problems facing vision impaired people generally in the community, PWA also face human rights and discrimination challenges because of their physical appearance compared to other members of their community.
Numerous laws and agencies exist throughout Australia to combat discrimination and human rights abuses for vulnerable groups in society. This website aims to provide basic information about those laws and agencies in order to educate and empower PWA, and their supporters. This website is intended as a guide only; you should contact the relevant human rights/anti-discrimination agency or a qualified lawyer if you require advice on a specific matter.
FEDERAL ANTI-DISCRIMINATION SYSTEM
At the Federal level, there are laws relating to disability, age, racial and sex discrimination.
The Disability Discrimination Act outlines the grounds of unlawful discrimination, which include:
- Physical, intellectual, psychiatric, sensory, neurological or learning disabilities; and
- physical disfigurement.
Unlawful discrimination is regulated in the areas of employment, education, access to premises, accommodation, buying or selling land, activities of clubs, sport, administration of Commonwealth laws and programs, provision of goods, and services and facilities.
Complaints about discrimination can be made to the Australian Human Rights Commission for conciliation.
The Australian Human Rights Commission is the independent agency with responsibility for anti-discrimination and human rights education and awareness, and discrimination and human rights complaints.
For more information:
- Kenton Miller, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Federal and state anti discrimination law
- Australian Human Rights Commission: https://www.hreoc.gov.au/about/index.html
- Disability Rights, Australian Human Rights Commission: https://www.hreoc.gov.au/disability_rights/index.html
- Complaints, Australian Human Rights Commission: https://www.hreoc.gov.au/complaints_information/index.html
STATE AND TERRITORY ANTI-DISCRIMINATION AND HUMAN RIGHTS SYSTEMS
Each State and Territory has a range of anti-discrimination and human rights laws. The grounds of unlawful discrimination in all States and Territories include disability and impairment.
Unlawful discrimination is regulated in the various areas of public and private life. Each system differs in the areas regulated under the anti-discrimination law, but examples include employment, education, access to places and vehicles, the provision of goods, services and facilities, accommodation, memberships of clubs, partnerships, superannuation and insurance, and the conferral of qualifications.
Complaints about discrimination or human rights violations can be made to the State and Territory Anti-Discrimination Agencies (see below).
For more guidance on the laws, the grounds of unlawful discrimination, the areas covered by the law, and the complaints procedure, see:
- Kenton Miller, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Federal and state anti discrimination law.
- Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Quick Guide: Equal Opportunity Act 2010
State and Territory Anti-Discrimination Agencies
Each State and Territory has an independent agency dedicated to anti-discrimination and human rights. These agencies undertake public education and awareness about anti-discrimination and/or human rights, and have a role in resolving complaints about discrimination and/or human rights concerns. The agencies are listed below.
Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission
Level 3, 380 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne 3000
Tel: 03 9281 7111 (switch)
Enquiry line: 03 9281 7100 or 1800 134 142 (country callers)
TTY: 03 9281 7110
Fax: 03 9281 7171
New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Board
Tel: 02 9268 5544
South Australian Equal Opportunity Commission
Tel: 8207 1977/ 1800 188 163
Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission
Tel: 1300 130 670 / 1300 130 680
Western Australian Equal Opportunity Commission
Tel: 08 9216 3900 / 1800 198 149
Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission
Tel: 03 6233 4841 / 1300 305 062
Australian Capital Territory Human Rights Commission
Tel: 02 6205 2222
Australian Human Rights Commission
Tel: 1300 656 419
United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
There is also an international Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The purpose of the Convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights for all people with disability, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity. The principles of the present Convention include:
- Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons;
- Full and effective participation and inclusion in society;
- Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity;
- Equality of opportunity;
- Equality between men and women; and
- Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.
The Convention then specifically protects various civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in a manner specific to persons with disabilities, and places various obligations on countries to ensure this.
The Convention also creates a monitoring body, called the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Committee has three functions. First, the Committee receives reports from countries on the measures they have taken to give effect to the obligations in the Convention. Secondly, the Committee has power to receive complaints from individuals and groups of individuals who believe that their country has breached the Convention. Thirdly, the Committee has the power to conduct inquiries into complaints of grave or systematic breaches of the Convention, where there is reliable information to support such allegations.
For more information on:
- the Convention, see https://templatelab.com/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/
- the Committee: https://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/crpd/pages/crpdindex.aspx
- rights of persons with a disability rights within in the United Nations system, see https://www.un.org/disabilities/
Australia ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 17 July 2008 and acceded to its Optional Protocol on 21 August 2009. This means that Australia is subject to all of the international legal obligations contained in the Convention. It also means that the three functions given to the Committee apply to Australia – that is, the periodic reporting obligation, the ability to make individual complaints to the Committee, and the power to consider grave or systematic breaches of the Convention.
Australia is yet to incorporate the Convention into domestic law, as such. Until the Australian Parliament enacts the Convention into domestic law, it is not directly enforceable in the Australian legal system, but is influential within the State, Territory and Federal anti-discrimination/human rights systems described above.
For further information about the Convention in relation to Australia, see https://www.ag.gov.au/www/agd/agd.nsf/Page/Humanrightsandanti-discrimination_UnitedNationsConventionontheRightsofPersonswithDisabilities [Create link to this site]
Equal opportunity law
Australian Legal Information Institute
Provides a link to relevant laws and legal decisions for most jurisdictions
(Commonwealth, state and territory)
Federation of Community Legal Centres
Tel: 9652 1500
Australian Federation of Disability Organisations
Tel: 03 9662 3324
Disability Discrimination Legal Service
Tel: 03 9654 8644 or 1300 882 872
National Ethnic Disability Alliance
www.neda.org.au [Create link to this site]
Tel: 1800 982 182