Combating discrimination the Australian Human Rights Commission

Budget Review 2011-12 Index

Budget 2011–12: Combating discrimination—the Australian Human Rights Commission

Juli Tomaras

The Government will provide additional funding of $2.8 million over four years to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).[1] $1.2 million of this amount will provide the funding for the establishment of an Age Discrimination Commissioner and support team.  The remaining $1.6 million will fund the return of the stand-alone positions of Race and Disability Discrimination Commissioners.  The position of Sex Discrimination Commissioner continues.  As a result, each of the areas of Age, Race, Sex and Disability will receive equal and deserving prominence in their own right.

On 30 September 2010, the Government introduced legislation to establish for the first time, at the federal level, a stand-alone position of Age Discrimination Commissioner in the AHRC.[2] The new commissioner will take office from 1 July 2011, replacing the current arrangement whereby the Sex Discrimination Commissioner has also been responsible for age discrimination issues. This dedicated position will provide for a more explicit focus on the issue of age discrimination and raise the visibility of this salient issue, especially in light of a noted ageist culture in Australia,[3] our ageing population and the challenges posed by skills demand in the workforce.  The comparative weakness of this area of discrimination has in part been attributed to the absence of a dedicated commissioner to deal with this issue.[4]

However, it has been pointed out that in addition to the establishment of the position of Age Discrimination Commissioner, there also needs to be attached to this position, powers that are sufficiently wide as to effectively deal with systemic discrimination, as is the case with the position of Sex Discrimination Commissioner.[5] And, there also needs to be a review of the breadth and depth of exemptions relating to the issue of age discrimination.[6]

The establishment of a dedicated Age Discrimination Commissioner is a necessary and welcomed step, though arguably, by itself, not sufficient.

[1].       Australian Government, Budget Measures: Budget Paper No.2: 2011-12, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2011,, p. 100, viewed 17 May 2011

[2].       Sex and Age Discrimination Legislation Amendment Bill 2010.

[3].       Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), In Conversation: Uncovering Age Discrimination, AHRC website, viewed 16 May 2011, see

[4].       Ibid.

[5].       Law Council of Australia, Submission the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Inquiry into the Sex and Age Discrimination Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 [provisions], March 2011, viewed 16 May 2011,
, p. 25.

[6].       AHRC, In Conversation: Uncovering Age Discrimination, op. cit.