Part of what makes Australia such a great country – aside from our amazing beaches and excellent coffee – is that we are home to an interesting, culturally diverse population. We are lucky to have the world’s oldest continuous cultures, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, as well as Australians who identify with more than 270 ancestries from across the world. 

Unfortunately discrimination of people who are different to others still exists and it can happen to anyone.

People can be discriminated against for their race, colour, sex and gender identity, religion, political opinion, social origin, age, medical record, criminal record, marital status, impairment, disability, sexuality or trade union activity. This is even though there are very clear Australian laws against it.

Around one in four young people aged 15-19 years report that they have experienced unfair treatment or discrimination, and the three main reasons for this were reported as gender, race/cultural background and age reasons. Half of young people also report seeing someone else being discriminated against or treated unfairly, most often on the basis of race/cultural background or sexuality. 

Mental health discrimination

When you’re going through a tough time, one of the most important things is to feel supported on your journey to recovery. Unfortunately, stigma and discrimination can make the experience of anxiety or depression worse and can also affect how you go about getting support.

People experiencing mental health conditions generally report more experiences of being treated positively than not, particularly from friends, loved ones and family members. So these are great people to reach out to first to talk about what’s going on and how you’re feeling.

Racism and racial discrimination

Discriminating people based on their race means treating people badly or unfairly because of their race, which includes skin colour, country of birth, ancestry and nationality.

Racism is the name used for the behaviours, practices, beliefs and prejudices that cause this type of discrimination. Racism can have really negative effects on your health, education and social life and these effects can be carried for many years into adulthood  Research shows that subtle or 'casual' racism can be just as harmful as more obvious forms. 

  • Around one in three young Australian adults aged 18-24 years report experiencing racial discrimination because of their skin colour, ethnic origin or religion.
  • Around one in four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 15–24 years report experiencing discrimination because they were of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin.

Check out Beyond Blue's anti-discrimination campaign The Invisible Discriminator, which highlights the effects of racism on the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

What can you do?

The Australian Human Rights Commission have developed the It stops with me campaign to help you stand up to racism in a safe way. Check out What can you do? to find out how you can help yourself or a friend. 

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Gender and sexual discrimination

What is it?

  • Gender or sex discrimination is treating people unfairly because they are either male or female. 
  • Sexual orientation discrimination is treating people unfairly because they are attracted to males, females, or all genders.
  • Gender identity discrimination is treating a person unfairly because of their gender-related identity, appearance, mannerisms or other characteristics.

The Australian Human Right Commission has established a law against discriminating towards people because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.

Learn more about gender identity and sexuality.

Try and remember that being bullied or discriminated against says a lot more about the person doing the bullying than it does about you.

If you have experienced discrimination – report it. You can also talk to someone you trust, or contact Beyond Blue’s free Support Service via phone on 1300 22 4636, email or chat online at beyondblue.org.au/get-support