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Discrimination Law and Practice

5th Edition





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AUD $84.95 gst included

The fifth edition of Discrimination Law and Practice has been completely updated and provides a comprehensive analysis which simplifies the complex definitions of unlawful discrimination including direct and indirect discrimination, reasonable adjustments and harassment. The book then provides the reader with detailed commentary about the protected areas covered by the legislation including employment, education and the provision of goods and services as well as the available defences.

The book also addresses one of the most challenging aspects of practising in this area – what relief is reasonable to claim. In this context the authors distil recent cases concerning the level and foundation for damages and other relief to ensure that the reader has a clear understanding of the likely stakes and potential outcomes in bringing or defending discrimination claims.

This concise account of discrimination law in Australia, now in its fifth edition by popular demand, brings clarity with depth and is suitable for all involved in this branch of the law including lawyers, business people, human resources practitioners and industrial relations staff, advocates and students.

Table of Cases
Table of Statutes


Historical background to legislation
Statutory approach to discrimination
Discrimination laws around Australia
Equal opportunity and affirmative action
Charter of rights


What is a “ground” or “attribute”?
Specified grounds
Other grounds


Separate definitions
Direct discrimination
Indirect discrimination
Reasonable adjustment
Equality before the law


Applicants for employment
Unlawful discrimination against an employee
Dismissal from employment
Employment-related matters
Breach of employment contract
Pay equity issues


Admission as a student
Curriculum or training courses
Special measures
Disability issues
Private schools


Defining “harassment”
Sexual harassment in employment
Disability harassment
Racial harassment


Federal racial hatred legislation
State legislation


Goods, services and facilities
Access to premises
Administration of Commonwealth laws and programs
Requests for information


Other unlawful acts and offences
Other offences


Vicarious liability
Aiding or permitting
Acts done on behalf of others


Positive measures
Main exceptions
Minor exemptions
Procedural exemptions


Approaches to conciliation of complaints
The “complainant”
The “respondent(s)”
Time factors
Termination of complaint
Powers during conciliation
Outcome of conciliation
Agency as a complainant


Federal approach
State approaches
Procedure in the Federal Court and the Federal Circuit Court


Orders in favour of respondent
Orders in favour of applicant


Requirement of Fair Work Australia to take into account discrimination law principles
Unfair dismissal
Unlawful termination
General protections (adverse action) claims
Making a choice – dismissal, adverse action or discrimination claim?
Awards and enterprise agreements must not contain discriminatory terms
Equal remuneration applications


Bullying defined
Workplace bullying
Causes of action for workplace bullying and cyber-bullying
Who may be liable for workplace bullying or cyber-bullying?


Appendix A: Grounds of Unlawful Discrimination
Appendix B: Areas of Unlawful Discrimination
Appendix C: Exceptions to Coverage
Appendix D: Conciliation and Inquiry Powers
Appendix E: Contact Points


Discrimination Law and Practice was designed as a reference tool and handbook for those interested or practising in anti-discrimination law across Australia. True to this intention, it is organised in a way that is both user-friendly and reflects the practical application of anti-discrimination laws in Australia. … [It] provides a valuable reference tool for legal practitioners practising in the anti-discrimination jurisdiction.

Queensland Law Reporter – 12 April 2019 – [2019] 14 QLR

Reviews of previous editions:

Discrimination law is an area where change has occurred at a relatively rapid pace, sometimes in very controversial ways. Cases involving sexual harassment or racial vilification sometimes dominate the airways and involve high profile individuals and/or companies. Most discrimination cases however do not receive much, if any attention, and it is often difficult for practitioners to find appropriate resources.
             This is the fourth edition of this very useful text, first published in 1998. The second edition was described this way in the Tasmanian Law Society newsletter, August 2004:
             “This is an excellent source of learning and is highly recommended both for students and experienced practitioners.”
              The fourth edition sets out the main elements of discrimination law in Australia, predominantly focusing on the federal jurisdiction but with enough practical guidance to make it applicable across both federal and state law. Where applicable, reference is made to the relevant provisions of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (Tas).
              The text sets out the key case law very well.

Craig Green, Law Letter, Law Society of Tasmania, June 2013

The fourth edition of Discrimination Law and Practice is a useful and generally well-written account of the main elements of discrimination law in Australia, with an emphasis on the federal anti-discrimination legislation and federal institutions. … Practical issues like remedies and costs are given good treatment, making the book useful for employers and others trying to find their way around a complex legal area.
             Overall, practitioners, students and employers will find this book a useful guide to an important area of law and legal practice.

Dr Karen Wheelwright, Monash University, InPrint, Law Institute Journal Victoria, March 2013

Discrimination Law and Practice is an easily digested overview for the newcomer to discrimination law. It is aimed not only at practitioners but at organisations that may seek to ensure compliance. Coverage of the socio-economic and political background to the legal developments allows a further level of depth. The comprehensive use of cases provides the analysis and direction necessary for an understanding of the law by practitioners.
             …A book previously described as “arguably the best available starting point for an understanding of the basic concepts”, this third edition is just that. It recognises the changing nature of discrimination law, presents it in a manner that is interesting and is a well-weighted guide for general purposes.

Hearsay, Queensland Bar Association, Issue 33, February 2009

…this book provides an excellent introduction to the law of discrimination in Australia. Ronalds has created an easily referable text and the comprehensive discussion including statutory reforms, extracts of parliamentary debates, judicial criticisms and interpretations juxtaposed against informal discussions recommend it to the student and the practitioner alike…
             The format is easy to digest and includes useful further reading lists at the end of each chapter so that those who need greater detail can seek it.

Jennifer O’Grady, (2008) 28 Queensland Lawyer 304

This is a useful and informative text on discrimination law in Australia. It works through substantive and procedural components of state and commonwealth discrimination law in a sensible and logical sequence, covering the key legislation and cases. …
             This book is a necessary inclusion on the shelf of any practitioner with an interest in discrimination law.

Emrys Nekvapil, Law Institute Journal Victoria, August 2008

This publication is of immeasurable value. It is written with respect to State and Commonwealth legislation and captures something which is often missing from text books. It manages to identify very fundamental concepts and treat them in such a way as to not be patronising to those who know them, but at the same time be instructive to those who don’t.
             In the almost seven years since the first edition was published, the law has developed a great deal, so that an easy way of becoming more up to date, is to take the time to absorb its contents.
             The style of the book is to identify and develop the concepts of discrimination on the grounds of sex, age, disability, race, religious belief etc and then to take the reader through areas such as employment, where the cases illustrate the application of the law to various factual instances.
             It considers racial vilification, victimisation and devotes a chapter to fostering an understanding of how and in what circumstances discrimination may be exempted from the various Acts.
             To the uninitiated, it gives an overview of the conduct of proceedings and, I think, of greatest importance, explains the remedies available. I say this is of greatest importance because I have seen a number of instances where practitioners have applied for remedies which are simply not available to their client under the particular legislation. It is quite embarrassing to have to explain to another practitioner (hopefully in the absence of their client), that there is no power to give them the remedy they are seeking. It is even more difficult when they don’t accept this and have to be told by the Court that there is no power to make the Order sought. Hopefully, by use of this very fine book, such events will no longer occur.
             This is an excellent source of learning and is highly recommended both for students and experienced practitioners.

BJM, Tasmanian Law Society Newsletter, August 2004

Arguably the best available starting point for an understanding of the basic concepts of equal opportunity and anti-discrimination law. It will serve different purposes for legal practitioners, human resource professionals and students, but will be useful for all three groups.

Ryan Carthew & Simon Adams, Public Administration Today, Sept-Nov 2004

The first edition was widely regarded as the best and most practical guide to the complex areas of discrimination law … The second edition builds on and expands the framework established in the earlier edition … the laws of direct and indirect discrimination are comprehensively and clearly explained. … The book represents a clear guide through the various twists and turns of discrimination law and practice. Of great assistance to practitioners in the area (such as myself) or other interested parties are the individual chapters dedicated to complaint-handling processes, conducting a hearing and remedies obtained and obtainable by complainants … the chapters dealing with the processes of complaint and litigation are essential reading material for any practitioner advising a client, or any party interested in entering the fray. … It will be no surprise that this excellent book should make its way onto compulsory reading lists at universities as well as into the libraries of practitioners.

Athena Scott, Journal of Industrial Relations, Dec 2004

One particularly useful section for people management professionals [in this revised edition] is a new chapter which examines the remedies obtained by people who pursue claims through the courts and the range and type of orders usually made. Ronalds and Pepper also include a comprehensive section on industrial laws. …
             Discrimination Law and Practice is a legal text and, as such, makes for pretty dry reading. But its concise approach and clear layout makes it easy to browse and locate relevant interest areas.

Human Resources Magazine, 19 May 2004

[This book] is compact and instructive and provides a comprehensive coverage of the main issues. …
             It explains in clear terms the development and definition of discrimination law and canvasses the main grounds of discrimination in Australia …
             Throughout the book emphasis is given to the practical aspects of dealing with discrimination. Practical coverage is given to issues affecting liability, defences and remedies. The authors also explain the complaint-handling process and how a hearing is conducted. …
             The appendices … provide an excellent comparison of the legislative features in all nine Australian jurisdictions …
             [T]his is a useful book and highly recommended to students, practitioners and the general reader …

Ethos, ACT Law Society, Vol 192, March 2004

This book sets out the gamut of discrimination which can attract legal redress. It is not only a reference book for lawyers and students of the law but, perhaps even more importantly, it is of value to the lay reader who goes into bat for a colleague, an asylum seeker or even for him or herself. It is clearly set out with chapters on definitions of discrimination; grounds for complaint; as well as a background to the subject.
             More specifically, it examines discrimination with examples and legal references in such areas as employment, education, harassment, vilification and racial hatred; and the vexed area of victimisation. The authors provide practical guidance to the sort of legal obstacle courses involved, covering liability, vicarious liability and defences; general exemptions; complaint handling processes; how a hearing is conducted (and how to conduct a hearing). There are chapters, too, on remedies and industrial laws. Appendices cover grounds of unlawful discrimination; areas of unlawful discrimination; exceptions to coverage; conciliation and inquiry powers; and contact points.

Unity No 374, 19 March 2004

… indispensable … Topic by topic the author examines the law clearly and concisely, and … demonstrates the way it operates by reference to numerous practical examples, leading decided and unreported cases, and current usage.

Victorian Bar News

The chapters on complaint handling processes and inquiry proceedings demystify the bodies which actually handle and resolve discrimination complaints. They provide an excellent discussion of the procedures which a complaint goes through, the rights of complainants and how to go about matters like making changes, appealing, or joining parties.
             … an excellent guide to discrimination law. It is well researched, skilfully compiled and easy to follow. I strongly recommend it to lawyers and non-lawyers alike.

Law Society Journal (NSW)

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