Frequently asked questions

What does Anti-Discrimination NSW do?

We are the New South Wales state government body that administers the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (the Act). We strive to eliminate discrimination in New South Wales by:  

  • answering enquiries
  • investigating and assisting parties to resolve complaints
  • raising awareness about discrimination and its impacts
  • granting exemptions to the Act 
  • advising the government about discrimination issues.

I’m not sure if my situation is covered. Who can I talk to?

We are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm, and have experienced enquiries officers ready to take your call.

We highly recommend that you speak to an enquiries officer before lodging a complaint. They can explain the complaints process and the information required, so, if you do decide to lodge a complaint, we can process it as quickly as possible.

You can contact us by: 

If you need an interpreter, call the Telephone Interpreter Service (TIS National) on 131 450.

If you are deaf and/or find it hard hearing or speaking with people who use a phone, the National Relay Service (NRS) can help you. 

How does Anti-Discrimination NSW help resolve complaints?

We help people resolve complaints of discrimination, sexual harassment, vilification and victimisation.

We use an informal process called conciliation to support both parties to:

  • tell their stories
  • listen to one another
  • understand the impact
  • work together to find an outcome.

Our service is free, impartial, and confidential.

What is conciliation?

An ADNSW staff member, called a Conciliation Officer, helps the participants explore ways and options to resolve the issue.

As part of the process, we may conduct a conciliation conference. This is an informal meeting of the participants held by phone, video or in person. If it suits the participants, conciliation can be done without a conference or meeting, with the Conciliation Officer sharing information between the participants.

What type of complaints can Anti-Discrimination NSW help resolve?

We help resolve complaints under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977.

Under the law, you can make a complaint if you believe you have experienced discrimination, sexual harassment, vilification or victimisation in NSW.

If you are making a complaint about discrimination under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977, the incident or behaviour must have happened:

  • in an area of public life that is protected by the law – such as at work, in education, where goods and services are provided, where accommodation is provided or within registered clubs.
  • because of a ground that is protected by the law – such as disability (includes diseases and illnesses), sex (includes pregnancy and breastfeeding), race, age, marital or domestic status, homosexuality, being transgender, or carer’s responsibilities.

Our complaint case studies explain the types of complaints we help resolve.

What we can’t help you with

If your complaint is about an issue that we are unable to help with, such as a crime or consumer rights (not related to discrimination), we may be able to refer you to another organisation that can assist.

We cannot decide whether there is a breach of the law. This is the role of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which can hear and decide cases. The Tribunal makes decisions as to whether discrimination, sexual harassment, vilification, or victimisation has occurred.

What do I need to know before making a complaint?

If you are thinking about making a complaint, there are some important things you should know:

  • We are independent and do not take sides: This means we do not advocate for or represent anyone in the process.
  • We are not a court or tribunal: This means that we do not have the power to make findings about a complaint or make decisions about the appropriate outcome to resolve it.
  • The process is confidential: This means that anything said or done in the process generally cannot be used in any related court or tribunal proceeding.

We resolve most complaints within five months, but some complaints will be fast-tracked if they require urgent action, for example: if someone is about to lose their job.

What is the complaints process?

Flow chart of the complaints process at ADNSW: ADNSW receives the complaint. If the complaint is covered by law it is assigned to a complaints officer for investigation. The complaints officer tries to help both parties resolve the complaint, which could include a conciliation conference. If they are unable to resolve the complaint, it may be referred to NCAT. If the complaint is not covered by law, or it is found that the discrimination is not unlawful, ADNSW will write to you and let you know.

How do I make a complaint?

You can fill in our complaint form or write a letter to the President of Anti-Discrimination NSW.

Our complaint form is available:

If you wish to write a letter, please follow these tips.

You can write your complaint in your language, and we will have it translated into English for free. If writing your complaint is not possible, you can contact us to discuss other ways to submit your complaint.

We accept complaints made on your behalf by a parent, guardian or carer, or organisations such as unions and other representative bodies. Your representative must name you as the complainant and make it clear that you agree to lodging the complaint.

What information do we need?

To help us understand your complaint, you should include the following:

  • your name and contact details (you can’t make an anonymous complaint)
  • the name and contact details of the person or organisation your complaint is about
  • what happened in your own words, where it happened and when
  • if your complaint is about discrimination:
    • the area of public life it happened in
    • the discrimination ground (e.g., disability, sex, race, age, marital or domestic status, homosexuality, being transgender, or carer’s responsibilities)
    • how you have been affected
  • the type of outcome you would like – such as an apology or financial compensation
  • if you need any adjustments to help you participate in the process, such as an interpreter.

 You should also provide us with copies of any relevant documents.

Not sure if you are ready to make a complaint?

If you are worried about making a complaint, you can contact us confidentially to talk about our service and your options. 

If you just want to report an incident and are not looking for an outcome or resolution, you can use our online community reporting tool.

What happens after I make a complaint?

We will assess your complaint to see if we can accept it – which we can only do if your complaint is covered by the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977.

We may contact you if we need more information to decide whether to accept your complaint.

If we don’t accept your complaint, we will tell you why and give you information about other organisations that may be able to help.

You can withdraw your complaint at any time.

What outcomes can I expect if my complaint is resolved?

You can ask for any reasonable solution, such as: 

  • an apology
  • financial compensation
  • getting your job back – or a transfer, promotion, or extra training at work
  • getting whatever you were previously refused – for example, accommodation, a loan if you applied for one, admission to a course, and so on
  • changes to policies and procedures 
  • education programs in the workplace 
  • a donation to a charity of your choice
  • anything else that might need to be done to make up for the unlawful discrimination.

You may wish to read our complaint case studies to see the real-life outcomes achieved.

Please note that Anti-Discrimination NSW does not issue fines and cannot make a determination that discrimination has occurred. 

What kind of service can I expect from Anti-Discrimination NSW?

We are committed to providing a quality service that is impartial, accessible and accountable.

We will treat you fairly, with courtesy and in an ethical way. We will handle your matter confidentially and according to the law.

We take a flexible approach to meet the different needs of different members of the NSW community. Our Conciliation Officers use strategies to address any disadvantage experienced by anyone in the process and make sure that the process used is tailored to the needs of the participants to keep them safe.

Information alert
Have more questions?

Please contact our Enquiries Line on 1800 670 812

Last updated:

19 Feb 2024

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We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the ongoing connection Aboriginal people have to this land and recognise Aboriginal people as the original custodians of this land.

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