Equal opportunity means giving everyone a fair go. These laws make sure this happens in South Australia.

Equal Opportunity Act

The purpose of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 is to promote equality of opportunity for all South Australians.

It aims to prevent discrimination against people and give them a fair chance to take part in economic and community life.

Not all kinds of discrimination are against the law.

Under South Australian law, only particular types of discrimination occurring in certain places are against the law. It is unlawful to discriminate because of:

  • age
  • association with a child (in customer service or accommodation)
  • caring responsibilities
  • disability
  • gender identity
  • marital or domestic partnership status
  • intersex status
  • pregnancy
  • race
  • religious appearance or dress (in work or study)
  • sex
  • sexual orientation
  • spouse or partner's identity.

Discrimination laws also cover:

  • sexual harassment
  • victimisation for making a complaint about discrimination or sexual harassment or whistleblowing.

The Act only covers discrimination that happens in public life, not in private. In South Australia it is unlawful to discriminate in:

  • work, including volunteers and contract workers
  • customer service
  • accommodation
  • selling land
  • clubs and associations
  • education
  • granting qualifications
  • advertising.

Discrimination is against the law when, as a result, someone:

  • feels humiliated, embarrassed, ridiculed, denigrated or segregated
  • is denied access or refused services
  • loses an opportunity or income.

A complaint about something that happened can be made within 12 months of that date. Late complaints can be accepted in some cases.

Sometimes discrimination that would usually be against the law is allowed under the Act.

Exemptions are specific and strict requirements apply.

Employers and principals can be held vicariously liable for discriminatory or unlawful acts of their workers, if it occurs in the course of their employment.

Employers must take reasonable steps to ensure that workers will not contravene the Act. Examples include:

  • having a policy in place to prevent the conduct
  • taking steps to implement and enforce it
  • promptly investigating reports or complaints.

Employers also have a positive duty obligation under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth). This requires them to take reasonable and proportionate measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination and sexual harassment. Click here to find out more about the positive duty obligation.

Racial Vilification Act

Racial vilification is behaviour in a public place that incites hatred, serious contempt or ridicule of a person or group of people, because of their race.

A person's race includes their colour, country of birth, ancestry, ethnic origin or nationality.

It is unlawful under the Racial Vilification Act 1996 to vilify people because of their race by threatening to harm them or their property, or urging others to do so.

Private remarks, light-hearted jokes, artistic works, or fair reports on racial conduct, are not unlawful racial vilification.

For racial vilification to be unlawful, it must occur in public.

Public Interest Disclosure Act

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2018 (the PID Act) protects informants from being victimised for revealing public interest information.

South Australians are protected when they reveal information which they believe:

  1. poses a substantial risk to public health and safety, or to the environment, or
  2. in specific circumstances - when they make a disclosure of 'public administration information', as long as they comply with the requirements set out in the PID Act.

The PID Act replaces the Whistleblowers Protection Act 1993.

More information about the PID Act can be found on the Office of the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment website.

South Australians are also covered by federal equal opportunity laws.