The 30th anniversary of the Anti-Discrimination Act has highlighted the importance of human rights law in Australia.
The NSW Anti-Discrimination Board will mark the 1977 legislation with a ceremony at NSW Parliament House next Thursday.
In the past two years, the Anti-Discrimination Board has fielded 72 complaints on the grounds of homosexuality discrimination and vilification, 31 complaints relating to transgender, and one complaint on the basis of HIV/AIDS discrimination.
The Anti-Discrimination Act was groundbreaking when it was introduced, president of the board Stepan Kerkyasharian said, and it remains crucial to addressing inequalities in Australia.
We have a responsibility here at the board, that has been given to us by the legislation, to make sure we are living in a non-discriminatory environment, he said.
People should not feel that they have to be ashamed or treated differently because of who they are or what they are, and that gives us all a tremendous amount of satisfaction and drive.
The Anti-Discrimination Act has undergone major changes since its inception in 1977, now making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex, race, disability, pregnancy, sexual preference, age, transgender status, marital status or carers responsibility.
Homosexuality was added as a ground of complaint in 1982, HIV/AIDS vilification was added in 1994 and transgender status was added as a ground in 1996.
A number of cases of discrimination have aired in recent years, including one involving two lesbian women who were transferred to a new, predominantly male workplace.
Before their arrival, rumours were circulated that two dykes were coming. The women were questioned about their sexual preference in the workplace, and were subject to ongoing harassment. After lodging a complaint, the women were paid substantial compensation, and the board educated all staff members about discrimination.
Kerkyasharian said he looked forward to celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Act.
Let us look back with pride at this valuable piece of human rights legislation, and what it means for us today, he said.
The anniversary ceremony will be held at Parliament of NSW in Macquarie Street on Thursday 25 October at 5.30pm.

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