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Discrimination means treating someone unfairly because of personal characteristics that aren't relevant, such as a person’s race, disability or age.

Only certain types of discrimination are unlawful in South Australia. Discrimination is against the law when it:

  1. is based on certain personal characteristics
  2. happens in an area of public life
  3. causes loss or humiliation.

Here’s an example of race discrimination in customer service:

A shop employed a security officer to check the bags of customers leaving the store. The security officer always checked the bags of customers of Middle Eastern appearance and cracked jokes like ‘just making sure you don’t have a bomb in there!’ or ‘not carrying any little presents from Osama are we?’.  He often let other customers through without checking their bags or, if he did check their bags, did not make these comments.

An unfair rule or requirement can also be discrimination (this is sometimes called indirect discrimination). Even though the rule seems to apply to everyone equally, it may in fact be harder for some people because of their age, disability or other characteristic. If there isn’t a good reason for the rule, it may be unlawful. Here’s an example:

Joe was the sole carer of his grandson, Zac. Joe belonged to a service club that raised funds to build a school in a third-world country. The club was organising a trip for interested members to visit the school. Joe was keen to go and asked if he could bring Zac along, because there was no-one who could care for him in Joe’s absence. The club refused, saying that it couldn’t accept any non-members on the trip.

If there was no good reason why Zac shouldn't be allowed to go with Joe on the trip, then the club’s decision would be discrimination.

For more information about the kinds of discrimination that are unlawful in community life, click on the links in the menu. If you feel that you are being discriminated against in community life, see what to do about issues in community life.