A complaint of discrimination or harassment can be made to the Australian Human Rights Commission about an issue covered by federal anti-discrimination law. Under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act, the Commission can also investigate and resolve complaints of discrimination, harassment and bullying in employment based on a person’s criminal record, trade union activity, political opinion, religion or social origin.

It does not cost anything to make a complaint to the Commission. An employee, customer, or any other person who has experienced discrimination or harassment can make a complaint.

Once a complaint has been received, the Commission will contact the person or organisation against whom the complaint has been made to allow them a fair opportunity to respond and resolve the complaint.

Where appropriate, the Commission will invite the parties to participate in conciliation. This is where the people involved in a complaint talk through the issues with the help of someone impartial and settle the matter on their own terms.

Complaints can be resolved in a number of different ways, for example, through an apology, reinstatement to a job, changes to a policy or compensation.

The Commission is not an advocate for the person making the complaint or the person or organisation responding to the complaint. The Commission is not a court and under federal discrimination laws, the Commission cannot decide if discrimination has occurred. Rather, the Commission’s role is to get both sides of the story and help those involved try to resolve the complaint.

If the complaint is not resolved or is discontinued for some other reason, the complainant may take the complaint of unlawful discrimination or harassment to court.

Under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act complaints of discrimination in employment harassment and bullying in employment based on a person’s criminal record, trade union activity, political opinion, religion or social origin will be reported to Parliament where the Commission finds a breach of the Act.