Anti-Discrimination NSW

History of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW)


  • Original bill for Anti-Discrimination Act (ADA) introduced into Parliament.


  • Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) makes it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of sex, race and marital status in the areas of employment, accommodation, goods and services and education (race only).

  • Anti-Discrimination Board (ADB) established. 1980 Office of the Director of Equal Opportunity in Public Employment (ODEOPE) established. Sex and marital status discrimination made unlawful in the area of education.


  • Physical disability included as ground of complaint.

  • Registered clubs added to list of areas in which discrimination is unlawful.

  • Equal Opportunity Tribunal established.


  • Homosexuality and intellectual impairment added as grounds for complaint.

  • Maximum amount of compensation increased from $20,000 to $40,000.

  • Becomes unlawful to publish advertisements indicating an intention to discriminate unlawfully.


  • Racial vilification made unlawful.


  • Compulsory retirement made unlawful for some occupations.


  • Compulsory retirement provisions extended to most public and private sector employees.


  • Age discrimination becomes unlawful.

  • Discrimination because of the sex, race, marital status, and homosexuality of an associate made unlawful.

  • 'Disability' replaces 'physical and intellectual impairment'.

  • HIV/AIDs vilification made unlawful.

  • Maximum penalty for serious racial vilification increased.

  • Definition of race extended to include 'ethno-religion' and 'descent'.

  • Discrimination on the basis of a 'genuine occupational qualification' allowed for the ground of sex.

  • Marital status discrimination extended to cover goods and services.

  • Act extended to cover industrial awards and agreements.

  • Ministers enabled to grant exemptions for special needs programs.


  • Discrimination and vilification on the ground of transgender status made unlawful.


  • Sexual harassment made unlawful.

  • Liability of employers limited if they took 'all reasonable steps' to prevent contravention of the Act.


  • Discrimination on the ground of carer's responsibilities made unlawful in employment, and carers entitled to 'reasonable accommodations'.


  • Time limit for complaints extended from six months to twelve months. ADB President given new powers to decline complaints.


  • Discrimination on the ground of breastfeeding specifically made unlawful.


  • Maximum amount of compensation increased from $40,000 to $100,000.

  • Definition of marital status extended to include 'domestic status' and definition of defacto broadened, thus covering same-sex relationships.

  • Power to grant exemptions to ADA transferred from Attorney General to ADB President. 


  • ADB can investigate discrimination and racial vilification matters referred by the Community Relations Commission.

  • Complaints can be lodged by email.


  • Clarification that the motive for the discriminatory requirement is irrelevant in the case of indirect discrimination.

  • Changes to incorporate new NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.


  • Clarification of the process of tabling the Board's annual report in Parliament.

  • Changes to incorporate new Government Sector Employment Act, change of Community Relations Commission to Multicultural NSW and new Co-operatives Act.

  • Changes to incorporate the establishment of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.


  • ​Changes to update references to government sector agencies.