Every year, thousands of Victorians support their community by volunteering with a wide range of organisations. Volunteers and unpaid workers are protected from sexual harassment in the same way as paid staff. The law may also protect volunteers from discrimination in certain circumstances. Volunteers should feel safe and be treated with dignity at work.
How does the law protect me?
The law protects you from sexual harassment
As a volunteer, you have the same rights as paid workers when it comes to sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is against the law whether it is committed by:
- the employer
- a paid staff member
- a client or customer
- another volunteer.
Find out more about sexual harassment.
The law may protect you from discrimination
Under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, volunteers are protected from discrimination and victimisation in certain circumstances. It will depend on where you are volunteering and what you are doing.
The areas of public life in which volunteers may be protected include clubs, sporting activities and when goods or services are provided.
This means you are more likely to be protected from discrimination and victimisation if the club or organisation you’re volunteering at:
- is a club that meets the definition of ‘club’ under the Act
- runs sporting activities
- requires people to undertake training or skill development in order to volunteer
- provides accreditation or professional experience as part of volunteering.
You are also protected from discrimination if you are a member of the club you volunteer at.
Find out more about discrimination and victimisation.
You can make a complaint
Get help from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
You can make a complaint to us if you think you have experienced:
If you wish, someone else can make a complaint for you. Find out how the Commission helps people resolve complaints.
We can also give you information about your rights.
Disability and volunteering
Under the Equal Opportunity Act, an organisation may be required to make reasonable adjustments for a volunteer with a disability in certain circumstances. For example, if your organisation is offering a service to volunteers to provide them with new skills, you may be required to make reasonable adjustments for a volunteer with a disability.
Reasonable adjustments for people with disability could include things like:
- adjusting the requirements of a role
- providing a hearing loop at training events
- installing a ramp to allow access to a building.
Making reasonable adjustments involves the organisation weighing up the need for the change with the expense or effort involved in making the change. What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances.
My human rights under the Charter
Every Victorian has the right to equal and effective protection against discrimination, and to enjoy their human rights without discrimination.
Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities contains 20 basic rights that promote and protect the values of freedom, respect, equality, and dignity.
The Victorian Government, local councils and other public authorities must always consider Charter rights, including the right to equality, when they create laws, develop policies and deliver their services.
Find out more about your human rights under the Charter and what to do if you think they have been breached.
Are there any exceptions to the law?
There are some exceptions in the Equal Opportunity Act that mean it’s not against the law to discriminate in particular circumstances. For example, discrimination is not against the law if there is a real risk to someone’s health, safety or property.
Find out more about exceptions.