Skip to content
Get help

Equal Opportunity Act

The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 aims to make public life free from discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation. The law provides avenues for people to resolve complaints, and outlines the Commission’s role in helping government, business and the community to identify and eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation.

View and download a full copy of the Act

What is the Equal Opportunity Act?

Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act recognises that discrimination can cause social disadvantage, and access to opportunities is not equitably distributed through society.

The law, therefore, plays a critical role in providing a framework to recognise rights and to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation as much as possible. This includes identifying and eliminating the systemic causes of discrimination and promoting the progressive realisation of equality.

Under the Equal Opportunity Act it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of a protected personal characteristic.

It is also against the law to sexually harass someone or to victimise them for speaking up about their rights, making a complaint, helping someone else make a complaint or refusing to do something that would be contrary to the Equal Opportunity Act.

The Act includes a positive duty to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation as far as possible. This means that, instead of simply reacting to complaints of discrimination or sexual harassment, organisations must be proactive about discrimination and take steps to prevent it from occurring.

Complaints under the Equal Opportunity Act

The Commission provides a free dispute resolution service to help people resolve their complaints of discrimination, sexual harassment or victimisation.

People can also take a complaint directly to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for determination.

For more detailed information

Download the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 quick guide for an overview of the Act.

Or visit Victorian Discrimination Law, our digital resource for practice guidance, case law and analysis of anti-discrimination laws in Victoria.

What are exceptions, exemptions and special measures?

While the Equal Opportunity Act makes it against the law to discriminate against someone because of specific personal characteristics protected by the law, it also recognises that discrimination may be justified in certain circumstances.

An exception or exemption is a defence to discrimination. People or organisations who rely on this defence must show that the exception or exemption applies.

People and organisations can also take positive steps to help disadvantaged groups by using special measures. Special measures do not require an exemption from the operation of the Act.

Where an exception, exemption or special measure applies, discrimination is not against the law.

What is the Commission’s role?

The Commission provides a free dispute resolution service to help people resolve their complaints of discrimination, sexual harassment or victimisation.

We also have a range of functions to promote equality and eliminate discrimination, which include educating government, business and the public about Victoria’s human rights laws, undertaking research and reporting.

The Commission may intervene in cases or appear as amicus curiae to assist a court or tribunal considering equal opportunity issues. See a list of our legal interventions.

Our policy submissions engage in government policy processes, inquiries and law reform activities to help ensure equality issues are considered. See a list of our policy submissions.

In addition, we hold several statutory functions to encourage and facilitate best practice and compliance, including reviews and investigations.

Related resources

Victorian Discrimination Law (2nd ed) – Sep 2019