Making a complaint to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC)
If a person with a disability or an Associate of a person with a disability feels that they have been discriminated against because of their disability, they can make a complaint to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC). Below is a brief description of the complaint process.
Seek information and assistance
Many complaints begin with a telephone call to HREOC. The first telephone conversation will usually help clarify whether or not a complaint is covered by the DDA. If it is covered, information will be given about the next step to take. Other organisations that may give more information and assistance with complaints are listed in this booklet.
Put the complaint in writing
If you decide to make a formal complaint, you need to put your complaint in writing. HREOC has complaint forms that can be filled in, which can be posted out to you, if you wish. Alternatively, the complaint can be made in a letter. A friend or support person can help with writing the complaint down, or a HREOC officer can help. Basically, the written complaint should provide contact details for all parties, report what happened, who was involved and, where possible, your preferred outcome to the complaint. It is a good idea, too, to list all the people or organisations that have been contacted about the complaint and to attach copies of any letters you've sent or received so far. HREOC's complaint handling process is free.
Assessing the complaint
Upon receiving the written complaint, HREOC will determine if the circumstances of the complaint are covered by the law. If they believe that they are not or they fall under some other area of law, HREOC will let you know that they can't accept the complaint. Sometimes, HREOC may ask you to give them more information about the circumstances of the complaint to help them make their assessment. Normally, HREOC will not consider complaints that have been lodged over 12 months after the time the discrimination happened unless there are special circumstances. Because of this, it's important to enquire about the complaint process as soon as you can after an act of discrimination happens.
Dealing with the Complaint
Generally the process followed by HREOC is as follows:
- HREOC will contact the person or organisation complained about to get their version of events and ask them some questions about what happened. The person or organisation will provide a written response, setting things out as they see them. Usually HREOC will then ask the person who has made the complaint if they would like to provide some written comments about that response.
- HREOC will organise conciliation between the person making the complaint and the person or organisation they have complained about. Conciliation aims to help the parties agree on what should happen to resolve the complaint. All parties need to be realistic about the outcome and be prepared to compromise at times. Conciliation is free, and lawyers do not need to be involved. It's often good, though, to take a support person such as a family member or friend with you to the conciliation. The conciliation is run by trained conciliators, who don't take sides in the complaint and cannot make orders or give judgments.
- Sometimes conciliation does not work, and there is no agreed outcome between the parties. When that happens, the person making the complaint has the option to take the complaint to court. However, this is a very big step, and anyone thinking about going down this path should talk to a lawyer first.
For more information on the complaints process with HREOC go to:
www.humanrights.gov.au/complaints_information/lodging.html or contact the
HREOC Complaints Info Hotline
Phone: 1300 656 419
TTY: 1800 620 241