Strategic enforcement of anti-discrimination law: A new role for Australia's equality commissions

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In Australia, anti-discrimination law is enforced by individuals who
lodge a discrimination complaint at a statutory equality commission. The
equality commission is responsible for handling complaints and attempting
to resolve them. In most instances, the equality commission cannot advise
or assist the complainant; it must remain neutral. In other countries, the
equality commission plays a role in enforcement, principally by providing
complainants with assistance to resolve their complaint including funding
litigation. The equality commission’s assistance function has been most
effective when used strategically as part of a broader enforcement
program, rather than on an ad hoc basis. This article discusses equality
commission enforcement in the United States of America, Britain,
Northern Ireland and Ireland and shows how the equality commissions in
those countries have engaged in strategic enforcement in order to develop
the law and secure remedies which benefit the wider community, not only
the individual complainant. Based on their experience, it is argued that
the Australian equality commissions should play a role in enforcement so
that they can tackle discrimination more effectively.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-137
Number of pages35
JournalMonash University Law Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • discrimination
  • equality
  • human rights commission
  • enforcement
  • Australia
  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • United State of America

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