Australian Human Rights Commission




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1Introduction


In October 2010, the Australian Human Rights Commission (the Commission) launched a consultation regarding the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people in Australia. This consultation process sought views from affected individuals and organisations about the steps that they felt would provide better human rights protection for LGBTI people in Australia. The consultation focussed on the experience of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and sex and/or gender identity and how protection from this kind of discrimination could be included in federal law.

This report summarises the broad range of views heard during the consultation.

The majority of consultation participants identified a need for greater protection from discrimination because of the high levels of discrimination, violence, harassment and bullying faced by LGBTI people. Unlike in state and territory laws, there is little protection in federal law from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Some of the key issues identified by participants included the:



  • importance of using appropriate, inclusive and empowering terminology

  • benefits of having consistent and uniform laws across Australia

  • benefits of having federal discrimination laws that would bind Commonwealth agencies

  • importance of including gender identity and gender expression as protected grounds of discrimination

  • need for government action in other areas such as health care, education, marriage equality, as well as reform of the requirements for changing a person’s legal sex.

Some participants expressed opposition to federal protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and sex and/or gender identity or argued for exemptions from such protections in order to protect the right to freedom of religion and belief and the right to freedom of expression.

This consultation report aims to inform and assist the implementation of elements of the Human Rights Framework, announced in April 2010.1 The Human Rights Framework includes commitments to:



  • develop exposure draft legislation harmonising and consolidating Commonwealth anti-discrimination laws (discrimination law review) and

  • develop a new National Action Plan on Human Rights to outline future action for the promotion and protection of human rights.

The implementation of the Human Rights Framework provides a timely opportunity to consider steps that might be taken to protect and promote the human rights of people of all sexual orientations and sex and/or gender identities.

Importantly, in 2010 both of the major political parties affirmed their support for the inclusion of protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in federal law.2 The Australian Government reaffirmed its commitment to implementing this policy in its recent appearance before the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review.3

The Commission is pleased to provide this consultation report to assist the Government in its consideration of how these protections might be included in federal law, and of other steps it might take to protect and promote the human rights of people of all sexual orientations and sex and/or gender identities.

The Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF) contributed to funding this project as part of its program to promote the implementation of the Yogyakarta Principles. The Commission thanks the APF for its financial support, which has enabled us to conduct this consultation.


2The consultation methodology


The aim of this project was to conduct a targeted consultation regarding protections from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and sex and/or gender identity, and in particular to consider:

  • the possible inclusion of protections from discrimination on these grounds in federal discrimination law

  • any other measures that should be adopted as part of the National Action Plan on Human Rights.

The consultation involved the following steps:

  • commissioning and publishing a Research Paper by Anna Chapman of the University of Melbourne, including an appendix of the specific definitions contained in state and territory anti-discrimination laws4

  • publishing a short Discussion Paper, based on the Research Paper, outlining existing legal protections from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and sex and/or gender identity in Australia5

  • calling for responses to the Discussion Paper

  • holding public roundtables in both Sydney and Melbourne (with participants from other locations given the opportunity to apply for funding to attend)

  • preparing a consultation report summarising the views expressed by participants throughout the consultation.

2.1Background papers


On 1 October 2010, the Commission released a Research Paper and a Discussion Paper informing participants of the current legal protections from discrimination and providing questions for response.

The Commission sought comments from interested individuals and organisations regarding experiences of discrimination, the potential benefits of protection from discrimination, and how such protections might be included in federal law.


2.2How did people contribute to the consultation?


People were invited to contribute to the consultation by:

  • attending one of the roundtables in either Sydney or Melbourne

  • sending in written comments by post or email

  • completing questions from an online feedback form.

    The Commission received responses from people in every state and in the Australian Capital Territory.

The Commission acknowledges the considerable effort made by all individuals and organisations that provided written comments, responded to the online feedback form or attended the roundtables.
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