Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act (1975)

Australia through the United Nations has agreed to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD1965). This obliges Australia to eliminate racial discrimination and promote understanding among all races, including in education and training. The Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) is Australia’s response to CERD. The RDA applies throughout Australia, to all people regardless of their age or where they live. It makes racial discrimination against the law. The RDA aims to ensure that everyone is treated equally, regardless of their race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin. It ensures:

Civil and political rights

  • equal treatment before the courts
  • protection by the government against violence or bodily harm
  • right to participate in elections and take part in the government
  • freedom of movement and residence
  • right to own property
  • right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion


Economic, social and cultural rights related to:

  • work
  • housing
  • public health, medical care, social security and social services
  • education and training
  • equal participation in cultural activities
  • access to any public place or service


In some cases the RDA permits distinctions based on race where affirmative action is needed to correct past injustices and to allow all people to enjoy the same human rights on an equal footing with the rest of the community. This special measure will be removed when equality has been achieved. The RDA is administered by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) with a HREOC Commissioner responsible for investigating complaints.

For further information refer to the following websites:

State websites:

Theme: Countering racism – education, policy, legislation – International racism and anti-racism