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Understanding your rights is an important part of being able to speak up against discrimination and advocate for your opportunity to fully participate in community life

Your rights as a person living with a disability

People with a disability have the same rights as everyone else in their community. You have the right to be an active member of your community, to exercise control over your own life and to live free from abuse or neglect.

Having a disability is not a valid reason to be treated unfairly, harassed or excluded and there are specific laws in place that protect your rights and needs.

How your rights are protected

In Australia, your rights are protected by several laws, including:

  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This is an international agreement that sets out what countries need to do to ensure people with disabilities have the same rights as everybody else.
  • The Disability Discrimination Act 1992. This law provides protection for everyone in Australia against discrimination based on disability.
  • State and territories also have their own disability laws. Many of these laws outline state and territory responsibilities for services:
    • Australian Capital Territory: Disability Services Act 1991
    • New South Wales: Disability Inclusion Act 2014
    • Northern Territory: Disability Services Act 2012
    • Queensland: Disability Services Act 2006
    • South Australia: Disability Services Act 1993
    • Tasmania: Disability Services Act 2011
    • Victoria: Disability Services Act 2006
    • Western Australia: Disability Services Act 1993.

The Disability Discrimination Act

The Disability Discrimination Act makes it against the law for you to be treated unfairly because of your disability. It promotes equal access, rights and opportunity for people with a disability and it applies to all states and territories in Australia.

It protects you against discrimination in the following areas of your life:

  • Employment: You have the right to the same employment opportunities as a person without a disability and it is against the law for an employer to discriminate against someone due to their disability. People with a disability are protected against discrimination in recruitment, training, working conditions, promotion and being dismissed. Read more about your employment rights here.
  • Education: The Disability Discrimination Act protects your right to study and participate in learning at any public and private educational institution in the same way as any other student. This includes studying at primary and secondary schools, TAFE, private colleges and universities. Find out more about your right to an education here.
  • Accommodation: You have the right to find a place to live without facing discrimination. This includes buying a house or land, or renting a flat, house, unit, a room in a boarding house, hotel or motel. Find out more about accommodation here.
  • Buying goods or using services: You should be able to purchase goods or use services in the same way as people without a disability. This includes goods and services provided by banks, government departments, doctors, restaurants, shops or entertainment venues. Read more here.
  • Accessing public places: You have the right to be able to access public places. This includes places such as parks, government offices, libraries, places of worship, footpaths, restaurants, hotels or shopping centres. You can learn more about your access rights here.
  • Joining clubs, associations or sports: Sports, clubs and other associations must be inclusive of members with disabilities. Learn more about your rights to join clubs and sports here.

It also protects you from being harassed because of your disability, meaning you have the right to not feel intimidated, insulted or humiliated by others.

The Disability Discrimination Act also covers your family, friends, co-workers and carers.

(Source: Australian Human Rights Commission)

What does discrimination look like?

Disability discrimination is when people with a disability are treated less fairly than, or not given the same opportunities as, people without a disability. Discrimination can be expressed through words, actions, behaviours, rules and procedures.

Direct discrimination is where you are treated less favourably than someone without a disability would be in the same circumstances. An example of direct disability discrimination would be if an employer chose not to employ a person with a disability who was most qualified for the job.

Indirect discrimination is where there are conditions, rules or practices that seem to apply equally to everyone, but which actually put disabled people at an unfair disadvantage. For example, it may be indirect disability discrimination if the only way to access a public building is by a set of stairs meaning people who use wheelchairs are unable to enter the building.

What can I do if I’ve experienced discrimination?

If you think you have been treated unfairly because of your disability, you might feel comfortable to talk directly with the person or people involved. If the problem happened at university or in the workplace, there may be a specific person or department to talk to about your concerns, such as a disability services officer or human resources department.

If this does not resolve the situation, or you don’t feel comfortable, you can make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Your complaint needs to be put in writing and can be made in any language. The complaint should say what happened, when and where it happened and who was involved. The Commission has a complaint form that you can fill in and post or fax or you can electronically lodge a complaint through the Commission’s website.

If you cannot write down your complaint, get someone else to write it down for you, or ask the Australian Human Rights Commission to help you. If you need a translator or interpreter, the Commission can also arrange this for you. A lawyer, advocate or union delegate can also make a complaint on your behalf. For more information, visit the Commission’s website or phone 1300 656 419 or email

The Commission will then investigate your complaint and try to resolve it. The way they do this is by getting both sides of the story and work with you and the other person/s involved to find a solution that everyone can agree with. This is called conciliation. If conciliation does not work, you can take your complaint to the Federal Court of Australia or the Federal Magistrates Court.

Who else can help?

The National Disability Advocacy program connects you with disability advocacy agencies to speak, act or write on your behalf if you have been treated unfairly or experienced discrimination because of your disability. A full list of disability advocacy agencies funded under this program can be located by using the disability advocacy finder.

The National Quality and Safeguards Commission regulates NDIS providers to improve the quality and safety of NDIS supports and services. This independent agency can take complaints about services or supports that were not provided in a safe and respectful way or not delivered to an appropriate standard. You can submit a complaint about a provider online or by calling the Commission on 1800 035 544.

First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FDNA) is a national human rights organisation of and for Australia's First People with disability, their families and communities. You can contact the network on phone number (02) 9267 4195 or email The network supports people in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Disability Network (ATSIDN), Queensland. Our members, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a disability, their carers are connecting, sharing and speaking up about issues that matter most to them. From the Gold Coast to the Gulf, Toowoomba to Palm Island, there are many ways the Network is helping members get connected, such as morning teas, information sessions, a Facebook site and a regular newsletter. The network is supported by Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia (ADA Australia) which has over 20 years experience in community services and many years supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland. You can contact the network on phone number 1800 718 969 or email

Aboriginal Corporation NSW Child, Family & Community Peak (ABSEC) is a not-for-profit incorporated Aboriginal controlled organisation. We are the NSW Aboriginal child and family peak organisation, working to empower Aboriginal children, young people, families and communities impacted by the child protection system, as well as support a quality Aboriginal community controlled child and family sector to deliver needed supports in Aboriginal communities across the state. You can contact the organisation on phone number (02) 9559 5299 or email

First Peoples Disability Network Western Australia, Contact Person-Wendy Wright, Mobile telephone number 0413 401 186 or email at

Where to find more information

The Australian Human Rights Commission provides excellent information about disability rights, the Disability Discrimination Act, making a complaint and current issues.

Each state and territory also have their own anti-discrimination laws. For more information, including how to lodge a complaint about discrimination at a state/territory level, contact:

Acknowledgment of Country

Aboriginal, Australian, and Torres Strait Islander flags

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognize their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.