About the Equal Opportunity Commission

The Equal Opportunity Commission is responsible for the administration of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984.
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The Equal Opportunity Act 1984

The main objective of the Act is to:

"promote equality of opportunity in Western Australia and to provide remedies in respect of discrimination on the grounds of sex, marital status, pregnancy, sexual orientation, family responsibility or family status, race, religious or political conviction, impairment, or age, or involving sexual or racial harassment or, in certain cases, on gender history grounds."

The Commissioner carries out this role by conducting community education and training, investigating and conciliating complaints of discrimination, and providing information to the community about equal opportunity.

The Commissioner is also involved in a number of projects designed to address the underlying causes of discrimination, often in partnership with other agencies.

Your rights

Under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 people in Western Australia people have the right to an equal opportunity under certain grounds and areas of public life covered by the Act.

It doesn't matter what sex, race or age a person is, their marital status, pregnancy, family status or family responsibility, the religious or political beliefs they hold, if they have spent convictions, their sexual orientation, gender history or if they have a disability - they have the right to an equal opportunity.

The Equal Opportunity Act 1984 sets out the grounds, or types of discrimination which are unlawful and the places where they apply.

Grounds or types of discrimination:

  • Age – being regarded as young or old *
  • Breastfeeding – feeding a child by breast or bottle
  • Family responsibility – having a caring role
  • Family status – being a relative of a particular person or having the status of relative
  • Fines enforcement registrar's website – publication of relevant details
  • Gender history – reassigned gender as certified by the Gender Reassignment Act 200
  • Impairment – having a physical, intellectual or mental disability current, past or imputed *
  • Marital status – being single, married, de facto, separated, divorced or widowed
  • Political conviction – including a lack of conviction
  • Pregnancy– pregnancy, characteristics associated with pregnancy or imputed pregnancy
  • Race – including colour, ethnicity or national origin or descent *
  • Racial harassment– offensive or insulting comments or other behaviour racial in nature
  • Religious conviction – including a lack of conviction
  • Sex – being a man or woman
  • Sexual harassment – offensive or insulting comment or other behaviour sexual in nature
  • Sexual orientation – actual or assumed heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality *

*The Act may also apply to a relative or a person who has a close relationship to a person affected by these grounds.

Other types of discrimination under the Act

Spent conviction – having a spent conviction under the Spent Convictions Act 1988.

Victimisation - includes threatening, harassing or punishing a person in any way because they have objected about the discriminatory manner in which they have been treated. It also applies to anyone who has made a complaint, or appears as a witness, under the Act.

Areas or places

The Equal Opportunity Act 1984 applies only in certain areas of public life. These include:

  • Employment
  • Accommodation
  • Education
  • Provision of goods, services and facilities
  • Access to places and vehicles
  • Disposal of land
  • Clubs
  • Application forms
  • Advertisers
  • Superannuation and insurance
  • Sport

To find out more about which grounds apply to which areas, go to our Ready Reckoner below:

If you feel you have been discriminated against on one or more of the above grounds, in one or more of the above areas or places you can lodge a complaint with the Commission in writing or by using the complaint form online, via email or post.

To learn more about the complaint process, please read our Complaint Process fact sheet.

Your responsibilities

It is unlawful for an employer, educational authority, service provider, property owner or agent, or a club, to unlawfully discriminate against a person, in one or more areas of life identified by the Equal Opportunity Act 1984.


The Equal Opportunity Commission offers workplace training for organisations to learn about their responsibilities regarding discrimination and harassment. Organisations can choose from the Commission's list of calendar courses or contact the training section to organise customised training.

Vicarious liability

When an employee, or agent, in connection with their employment, does something which is unlawful under the Act, their organisation, employer or principal will be liable for that act, unless they have taken all reasonable steps to prevent the unlawful act.

Causing an unlawful act

A person who causes, instructs, induces, aids or permits another person to do an act that is unlawful under the Act shall be considered to have also done that act.


Victimisation is also against the law. Victimisation includes threatening, harassing or punishing a person in any way because they have objected to being discriminated against. It also applies to anyone who has made a complaint, or intends making a complaint, under the Act, and to anyone who provides information or documents to the Commission or the State Administrative Tribunal (the Tribunal).

Victimisation also applies to anyone appearing as a witness before the Tribunal.

Recruitment and selection

Getting the recruitment process right is not only essential to ensure compliance with the Act, but to make sure you get the best person for the job. The Commission has a range of resources for employers relating to recruitment and selection of staff. These include publications and a comprehensive training program.


Under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 it is unlawful to publish or display an advertisement that shows an intention to discriminate.

Advertisements as defined under the Act includes every form of advertisement or notice, whether to the public or not. This includes television, newspaper, radio and online advertisements, as well as circulars, catalogues, price lists etc.

Substantive Equality

Substantive equality identifies policies and practices that suit the majority of clients, and which appear to be non-discriminatory, but so not address the specific needs of certain groups of people. In effect they may be indirectly discriminatory, leading to systemic discrimination.

The WA public sector has done extensive work with the Commission to address indirect discrimination in its policies and practices. 

The Commission also offers Substantive Equality training for organisations that would like to learn more about indirect systemic discrimination and how to address it. To learn more please visit our Community Education and Training page. We also have Substantive Equality resources on our Fact Sheets and other resources page.

The Conciliation Process

The conciliation process is an impartial process facilitated by the Equal Opportunity Commission which aims to resolve unlawful discrimination and harassment complaints before they reach the State Administrative Tribunal.

Resolving complaints

Conciliation helps all parties clarify what the complaint is about, and which points are in dispute. It means the parties working with a conciliator, and talking things through. Sometimes, when a complaint is brought to the attention of the other party, resolution is swift the impact of the allegations are acknowledged and apologies are offered. In other matters resolution may involve compensation, commitment to review policies and/or providing appropriate training. All involved are encouraged to maintain confidentiality since this assists conciliation.

If a complaint is not conciliated and has not been dismissed by the Commissioner, it is referred to the State Administrative Tribunal with a assistance from the Commissioner. If a complaint has been dismissed the complainant can have the complaint referred to the Tribunal but is not assisted by the Commissioner.

Victimisation following a complaint

It is against the law for anyone to threaten, harass or subject a person to a detriment because they have made a complaint or intend to make a complaint under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984. This protection is also afforded to anyone giving evidence about a complaint.

Interim orders

The rights and status of complainants and respondents may need to be protected while a complaint is being investigated.  In such circumstances the State Administrative Tribunal may make an interim order.

If you would like to learn more about the complaint process at the Commission please read our Complaint Process fact sheet.

Getting an interim order

The Equal Opportunity Act 1984 recognises that a detailed investigation of a complaint may take time and parties' rights might need protection during the investigation.

Interim Orders

An interim order can be made by the State Administrative Tribunal (the Tribunal) preserving the 'status quo' between the parties, and protecting their existing rights. For example, the Tribunal may order a respondent property manager not to evict a tenant, or an employer not to terminate an employee until the complaint has been investigated and determined by the Commissioner.

How to Apply for an Interim Order

An interim order application can only be lodged by a person whose complaint has been accepted by the Commissioner. It can be made in one of two ways:

  1. Complainants or respondents can apply by completing the application form online at the State Administrative Tribunal - see the section on Urgent and interim applications. For more information phone: 1300 306 017
  2. Or, you may request the Commissioner to apply on your behalf. Contact the conciliation officer who is handling your complaint.

Getting an exemption

The State Administrative Tribunal can grant an exemption from the Equal Opportunity Act 1984.

Granting exemptions

To grant an exemption an application must be made to the State Administrative Tribunal.

The Tribunal holds a public hearing at which interested parties, both supporters and objectors, can be heard.

The Commissioner for Equal Opportunity is automatically a party to the proceedings as is stated in the Equal Opportunity Regulations 1986 under regulation 24:

The Tribunal can grant an exemption for a maximum period of five years, and can impose conditions.

What you should be prepared to demonstrate to the Tribunal

  • What you wish to do is necessary and in the public interest
  • What you wish to do must be possibly discriminatory
  • The conduct you wish to exempt is not clearly prohibited by some other law.
  • That it involves a group protected by the Act
  • It is reasonable and appropriate to grant the exemption.

Exemption Applications

You can complete an Application for Exemption on the State Administrative Tribunal's website. For more information contact:

Executive Officer
State Administrative Tribunal
Level 4, 12 St Georges Terrace


GPO Box V1991 PERTH WA 6845.

or Telephone: (08) 9219 3111 or 1300 306 017 (STD callers) or at www.sat.justice.wa.gov.au.

Exceptions to the Equal Opportunity Act

Sometimes discrimination can be lawful under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984.

The Equal Opportunity Act 1984 recognises that in some circumstances it is ok to discriminate in favour of a particular group of people in the area of employment.

These are called Exceptions.  These exceptions can be broadly described in two groups:

  • When a characteristic such as race or sex is a genuine qualification for the job, and
  • when an employer is wishing to provide employment opportunities or put in place measures intended to achieve equality, for a group with specified characteristics.

Exceptions are set out within the clauses relating to each ground in the Act. Most commonly used are those under race, sex and impairment. 

Education and training

The Equal Opportunity Commission provides training and community education to a range of organisations including public and private sector organisations, educational institutions, as well as community and voluntary organisations.

Dealing with complaints of discrimination and harassment is costly to all concerned. The Equal Opportunity Commission knows more about equal opportunity and diversity, discrimination and harassment than any other organisation in Western Australia.

The Equal Opportunity Commission is in the position to observe at first hand the experiences of complainants, respondents and organisations and uses this knowledge to keep our training programs contemporary and relevant.

The Commission’s education team has a unique range of expertise and practical experience in the areas of education and training, law, human resources, organisational change, and community development.

To learn more please visit our Community education and training page.

Community outreach

The Commissioner for Equal Opportunity undertakes community outreach to promote equal opportunity and prevent discrimination.
The Commissioner also initiates research into discrimination and harassment within the community.

Community events

Laws alone do not end intolerance, prejudice and discrimination in our community - so the Commission's involvement in the community is a vital function that provides education about its functions and the provisions of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (the Act).

Each year Commission hosts and participates in several community events to provide that education and outreach.

Research projects

The Commission partners with other agencies and engages interns from a number of tertiary organisations to conduct research projects and produce publications to educate people about discrimination and harassment in the community.

To learn more about our community events, section 80 investigation and research projects, visit our Community Projects page.

For more information on how to participate in a research project as an intern at the Commission please contact us on (08) 9216 3900 or eoc@eoc.wa.gov.au.