Our complaints process
This information relates to complaints made to the Commission under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991.
Complaints under the Human Rights Act 2019 are not able to be lodged until after 1 January 2020. Complaints under the Human Rights Act will only be able to be made about alleged breaches which occur after 1 January 2020
The Commission is empowered under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 to provide a complaint resolution service about alleged contraventions of the Act.
This process is free, and a person does not need a lawyer to make a complaint.
The Commission's role is to try to resolve complaints through the conciliation process.
The Commission is not a court and cannot decide if discrimination or another breach of the Act has happened.
We are an impartial body, which means we are not on one side or the other. The Commission staff who deal with complaints are not advocates for the person making the complaint (the complainant) or the person or organisation the complaint is about (the respondent). They are there to help the parties involved in the complaint reach an agreement about how to resolve it.
There are no fees for the Commission's services.
If you are involved in a complaint, the Commission recommends that you keep the complaint confidential and only tell your legal and professional advisers. This may make it easier to resolve the complaint at conference.
The complainant can withdraw their complaint at any time.
Legal information, support or advice
You do not need a lawyer to make or respond to a complaint or participate in a conciliation conference. If you want a lawyer, you will need to organise this yourself.
Lawyers, advocates and other representatives can only take part in a conciliation conference with the permission of the conciliator.
If you need legal or other advice about your case, the Commission can suggest where to go for help. The Commission cannot give you advice or write your complaint or response for you.
Our complaint management process
You can watch the Working It Through video, produced by the Commission, to see how our complaints process works step by step.
Under the terms in the Act, a complaint must be:
- made in writing (this includes through our online complaint form);
- set out reasonably sufficient details to indicate that the person complained about may have breached the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 , or committed a reprisal under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 ; and
- lodged with or sent to the Commission.
A complaint can be made to the Commission within one year of the first incident complained about.
The Commission can accept a complaint made more than one year from the alleged contravention or reprisal, if the person making the complaint shows good cause.
When a written complaint is received by the Commission, it is assessed to see if the matters raised in the complaint would come within the Act.
The assessment usually occurs within 28 days of the Commission receiving the complaint.
The assessment is not to determine whether there has been a breach of the Act itself. The Commission is not a court or tribunal, and does not make a ruling about whether discrimination, harassment, vilification, victimisation or reprisal took place. The assessment simply determines whether or not the allegations in the complaint are covered by the Act.
If there is sufficient information provided in the complaint and it is assessed to come within the Act, it is accepted and the respondents will be notified about the complaint.
If a complaint is not accepted, the complainant is advised in writing with reasons and referred to a more appropriate agency if there is one. If the complainant has further information, they may provide this to the Commission to consider.
The commissioner can also reject a complaint.
If the complaint is accepted, all parties are notified in writing and a date is set for a conciliation conference. Conciliation conferences are compulsory for all parties involved in the complaint.
The date set for the conference is generally between four and six weeks from the written notification of a complaint being accepted.
The respondent is given an opportunity to provide a written response, and/or request an earlier conference date. If all parties agree, the conference may be brought forward.
A meeting is held with all parties and a conciliator to discuss the issues and try to resolve the complaint. This is called a conciliation conference. They are usually held with all parties face to face, but may be via teleconference, or with the parties in separate rooms.
The Commission is an impartial body in this process, and our conciliators are not able to make a ruling about whether or not the conduct in the complaint breached the Act. The role of the conciliator is to help the complainant and the respondent come to an agreement on how to resolve the complaint in a way that reflects the purposes of the Act.
If the complaint is resolved through conciliation
If an agreement is reached by all parties, it is written down, signed by all parties, and filed. Work-related complaints are filed at the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission. All other complaints are filed at the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The agreement is then binding on all parties, as if it is a court order. The complaint is closed and this is the end of the process.
If the complaint is unable to be resolved through conciliation
Sometimes, the parties are unable to reach an agreement at conciliation. If the conciliator considers the complaint may be resolved by further negotiations, they may give the parties time after the conference to reach an agreement.
If the complaint is not resolved by conciliation, the complainant may request the complaint be referred to a tribunal for a hearing.
Tribunal hearings are public, and any determination made by a tribunal is binding on all parties.
Work-related complaints are dealt with by the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission. All other complaints are dealt with by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
If a matter proceeds to tribunal, a complainant must provide evidence to prove that the act of discrimination, harassment, vilification, victimisation or reprisal took place. Similarly, the respondent must provide evidence to prove that their behaviour was reasonable, or that an exemption to the Act applies, if that is what they are intending to argue.
The Commission produced a video about taking matters before the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal. It is intended as a guide for applicants (complainants), respondents, and advocates, and has information about what is involved at each stage of the process.
Our Legal Information section also has information about the various processes required in the lead up to the hearing of a complaint. These notes are based on decisions of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal and discuss topics such as filing contentions, complying with orders and producing documents.
You might also find the following resources useful:
- Remedies awarded by QCAT and QIRC in complaints made under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991.
- QCAT decisions through AustLII
- QCAT decisions through Supreme Court Library
- QIRC decisions through AustLII
- QIRC decisions through Supreme Court Library