Canberra is known as a city rich in cultural diversity. Every Canberran and visitor to the territory has the right to be treated fairly regardless of their background, gender, age or ability.


The purpose of the ACT Discrimination Act 1991 is to ensure that everyone in the community can enjoy fair treatment and equality of opportunity.

Discrimination means to treat someone unfavourably because of a number of attributes including disability, sex, race, age and relationship status. These are called protected attributes.

It can occur in many forms such as refusing to serve someone at a restaurant because of their race or not allowing a visually impaired person into a store because they have a guide dog. 


Vilification occurs when a person, by a public act, incites hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, a person or group of people because of one of these attributes:

  • Race/Ethnicity including cultural/ritual dress or clothing, and if applicable, those ‘religious’ faiths included in definition of race (eg Judaism)
  • sexuality
  • HIV/AIDS status
  • gender identity.

Vilification means to say or do anything publicly, that could encourage others to hatred or contempt of individuals because of those attributes. A public act could be making a comment on a radio show, giving a speech, handing out pamphlets or wearing an offensive T-shirt.

When vilification and discrimination involving one of the protected attributes happens in public life it is unlawful, but not a criminal offence.  We encourage you to report any concerns regarding non-serious vilification or discrimination to the ACT Human Rights Commission.

For more information visit the ACT Human Rights Commission website.

Serious vilification

Serious vilification is a criminal offence that involves vilification that incites or threatens violence. If you see serious vilification occurring contact police immediately on 131 444.

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