Discrimination on the basis of certain attributes such as age, sex, race or disability is not always against the law.

The term ‘positive discrimination’ is sometimes used to refer to ‘positive measures’ or ‘special measures’. Special measures aim to foster greater equality by supporting groups of people who face, or have faced, entrenched discrimination so they can have similar access to opportunities as others in the community.

The Age Discrimination Act allows for “positive measures to be taken on the basis of age”. The Act says that it is “not against the law to provide a genuine benefit to people of a particular age group or to do something that helps meet an identified need for people of a certain age group or is intended to reduce a disadvantage experienced by persons of a particular age.”

Example: A hairdresser gives discounts to customers with a Seniors Card.

Other federal discrimination laws allow special measures to be taken to improve equality of opportunity for people based on their race, disability or sex.

Example: A gym offers a women’s only exercise class as a special measure after it receives feedback that women are less likely to participate in exercise classes with men because they feel uncomfortable.

Special measures can also be taken ‘to achieve equality of opportunity for people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, relationship status, pregnancy or potential pregnancy status or family responsibilities’.