Download factsheets:

  • Discrimination and the Anti-Discrimination NSW [PDF, 126KB]​
  • Unfair treatment - your rights (For people from non-English speaking backgrounds) [PDF 135KB]
  • What you can do if you are treated unfairly (For people with intellectual disabilities) [PDF 313KB]
  • For ​Abori​ginal and Torres Strait Islander people [PDF, 261KB]

What is discrimination?

Discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favourably than others in similar circumstances, and it is because they belong to a particular group of people or have a particular characteristic. 'Less favourably' means you have suffered a loss, harm or injury.

There are two types of discrimination, direct discrimination and indirect discrimination.

Read more on direct and indirect discrimination

Bullying and harassment may also be covered by anti-discrimination law when it happens because of one of the characteristics listed below.

>Read more on harassment

What types of discrimination are against the law in NSW?

Age discrimination

When you are treated less favourably because of your age - for example because people think you are too old or too young. Forcing people to retire at any particular age is also against the law. 

Read more on age discrimination

Carer's responsibilities discrimination

When you are treated less favourably because you are responsible for caring for or supporting certain family members, or people think you are. 

Read more on carer's discrimination

Disability discrimination

 When you are treated less favourably because:

  • you have a disability,
  • someone thinks you have a disability,
  • you had a disability in the past, or
  • you may or will get a disability in the future.

Disability includes physical disabilities, diseases that make the body or brain work differently, mental illness (psychiatric disability), behavioural disorders, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, changed or different body parts, and any virus or bacteria in the body that could cause disease (such as HIV). 

Read more on disability discrimination

Homosexual discrimination

When you are treated less favourably because you are gay or lesbian, or someone thinks you are gay or lesbian. 

Read more on homosexual discrimination

Marital or domestic status discrimination

When you are treated less favourably because of your marital or domestic status - for example because you are single, or married, or living in a de facto relationship. 

Read more on marital status discrimination

Race discrimination

When you are treated less favourably because of your race, colour, ethnic background, ethno-religious background, descent or nationality. 

Read more on race discrimination

Sex discrimination

When you are treated less favourably because you are a woman or because you are a man. This includes being treated unfairly or harassed or not given the same opportunities because you are pregnant or breastfeeding. 

> Read more on sex discrimination

Transgender discrimination

When you are treated less favourably because you are transgender or people think you are transgender. You are counted as transgender if you identify as the opposite gender (sex) to your birth gender and you live or seek to live as your identified gender. 

Read more on transgender discrimination

​Discrimination because of who you are related to, or who you associate with

When you are treated less favourably because of the sex, pregnancy, breastfeeding, race, age, marital or domestic status, homosexuality, disability or transgender status of one of your relatives, friends or associates.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is also against the law. This is when you are subjected to:

  • unwelcome sexual advances,
  • unwelcome requests for sexual favours, or
  • other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, and
  • a reasonable person would have expected you to be offended, humiliated or intimidated by this behaviour.

Read more on sexual harassment

When does this law apply?

The law generally applies in five main areas of public life, apart from discrimination because of carer's responsibilities, which is only against the law in employment. The areas are as follows:


When you apply for job, when you are at work and when you leave a job. This also covers bodies which issue licences to perform particular jobs, for example taxi licences or registration to practice as a nurse.

Goods and services

When you get or try to get most types of goods or services - for example, from shops, banks, lawyers, government departments, the police, public transport, local councils, doctors, hospitals and other medical services, hotels, sporting venues and entertainment venues.

State education

When you apply to get into or study in any State educational institution, which includes any government school, college or university. Also, private educational institutions are not allowed to discriminate against people because of their race, or allow sexual harassment to occur. However the law does not cover other types of discrimination in private educational institutions.


When you rent accommodation such as houses, units, flats, hotel or motel rooms, caravans or commercial premises.

Registered clubs

When you try to enter or join a registered club, or get services from one. A registered club is any club that sells alcohol or has gambling machines.


Vilification is any public act that could incite or encourage hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule. In NSW it is against the law to vilify people because of their race, homosexuality or transgender status, or because they have HIV/AIDS.

Public acts could include remarks in the media or on the internet, graffiti, posters, verbal abuse, speeches, badges and clothing with slogans on them. The vilification law does not cover acts that are not public, for example abuse over a back fence that cannot be heard by any other people.

Read more on vilification


It is against the law for anyone to hassle or victimise you or treat you unfairly because you make a discrimination complaint, even if it is not a formal complaint, or support someone who has made one. 

Read more on victimisation

Examples of complaints

Pregnancy discrimination: A woman complained that her employer suddenly became critical of her work when she told him she was pregnant, and she had to take stress leave. It was agreed that it was not viable for her to return to the job, but the employer agreed to give her a statement of performance and a payment for lost wages.

Age discrimination: A man was told that he was dismissed from work because his employer wanted someone younger. The employer acknowledged that the matter could have been handled better and gave the man an apology, a reference and financial compensation for the loss of his job.

Marital or domestic status discrimination: A single man and his friend were told by a real estate agent that the owner 'wanted a family' to rent his property. The agent agreed that the agency had discriminated against the man, paid him financial compensation and agreed to train staff and owners about anti-discrimination law.

Homosexual discrimination: A lesbian complained that she was barred from a local club because she is a lesbian. After we contacted the club, she applied to join and was successful.

Transgender discrimination: A woman alleged she was made redundant because her supervisor did not want to employ a 'weirdo'. She was the only person made redundant and her position was later advertised. The company agreed to review its anti-discrimination policies and pay the woman $4,000.

Disability discrimination: A woman with an intellectual disability was refused a cheque account at a bank. We contacted the organisation's head office, and they agreed to give the woman the account and instruct the branch office about fair customer service.

Carer's responsibilities discrimination: A man complained that he was refused annual leave to look after his daughter while his partner was overseas. The request was reconsidered and he was granted the leave.