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Obligations to your students

Everyone should be treated fairly and with respect in educational institutions. Education and training providers, such as schools, TAFEs and universities, have a legal responsibility to prevent discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation. The Commission can work with you to help you meet your legal obligations and develop policies to prevent unlawful behaviour in your organisation.

Why does equal opportunity matter?

Everyone deserves to learn, gain knowledge, skills and confidence.

Nearly half of the complaints we receive about discrimination in education relate to disability.

As a provider of education or training, your responsibilities are set out in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 and the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001.

Your obligations include making reasonable adjustments so students and clients with disability can learn without discrimination.

If your education or training provider is a public authority you may also have responsibilities under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. You can find more about your responsibilities under the Charter in the For public sector section of our website.

The Commission can help you make sure you are meeting your obligations.

What are my obligations?

Organisations that provide education or training have a responsibility to ensure they do not discriminate against a student, and do not discriminate when deciding who should be admitted as a student and on what terms.

Educational and training organisations must make reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities.

They also have a responsibility to make sure their premises and services are safe and free from sexual harassment or victimisation.

Your obligations apply to your students, clients and people who use your services.

While a person is responsible for their own unlawful behaviour, employers can also be held responsible.

You can be held legally responsible for incidents of:

You also have responsibilities under federal anti-discrimination laws.

The positive duty

Equal opportunity is about more than just fixing issues as they arise. Genuine equal opportunity means creating an environment where unfair treatment and problem behaviour is unlikely to happen in the first place.

Under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, organisations have a positive duty to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation as far as possible. This means that positive action should be taken to prevent these behaviours – regardless of whether someone has made a complaint.

Victoria is unique in having a positive duty, which creates an opportunity to prevent unlawful behaviour. It helps organisations put a healthy workplace culture in place, just as occupational health and safety laws require employers to take appropriate steps to ensure injuries don’t occur.

Organisations must also put measures in place to ensure that complaints are responded to swiftly and appropriately when they do arise.

The positive duty is about addressing the systemic causes of discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation.

Meeting your positive duty towards your students might include:

  • surveying your students about their experiences in accessing education and training
  • reviewing the survey data to find out if there are any problems or barriers to equal opportunity
  • designing policies that address barriers to equal opportunity and prevent sexual harassment
  • educating staff on their obligations in delivering education and training, including an awareness of diversity and inclusion.

Find out more about the positive duty

Does the Charter apply?

The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act (the Charter) is a Victorian law that sets out the basic rights, freedoms and responsibilities of all people in Victoria. It is about the relationship between government and the people it serves.

The Charter requires public authorities, such as Victorian state and local government departments and agencies, and people delivering services on behalf of government, to act consistently with the human rights in the Charter.

If your education or training provider is a public authority you can find more about your responsibilities under the Charter in the For public sector section of our website.

How can the Commission help?

The Commission has a range of tools and services to help businesses, employers and organisations meet their responsibilities under the Equal Opportunity Act.

We provide tailored education services, including support to organisations to develop equality action plans.

We can carry out organisational reviews to strengthen policies, processes and systems to improve workplace safety.

Our reviews are suitable for organisations of all sizes and across all industries. We always tailor the size and scope of the work to meet an organisation’s needs and budget. We also have experience in major organisational review that reflects our expertise, for example see our Independent Review into sex discrimination and sexual harassment, including predatory behaviour, in Victoria Police.

Contact us

We welcome calls from businesses, organisations and employers who would like more information about how we can help them meet their obligations under the Equal Opportunity Act.

Contact our Enquiry Line on 1300 292 153, chat with us online or email enquiries@veohrc.vic.gov.au.

Related resources

Guideline: Preventing and responding to workplace sexual harassment – Complying with the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 – Aug 20