The purpose of this policy is to ensure that schools comply with legal obligations to provide inclusive educational environments where students are treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their attributes.
- Schools are required to comply with a number of legislative obligations that relate to equal opportunity and human rights
- It is unlawful for schools to discriminate against students on the basis of certain protected attributes (for example, race, religious belief or activity, disability, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation) – refer to ‘Definitions’ below for a complete list of protected attributes
- All schools must have a local policy (for example, a Diversity and Inclusion Policy) which explains that discrimination will not be tolerated. The has a (staff login required) available for schools to download.
- A range of resources and programs are available to support students and schools to prevent and address bullying, racism and other forms of discrimination. These are available in the .
The department values the human rights of every student.
Schools must take steps to create a school community and learning environment where all students are welcomed, accepted and treated equitably and with respect regardless of their backgrounds or attributes such as race, religious belief or activity, gender identity, disability or sexual orientation so that they can participate, achieve and thrive at school. For a full list of protected attributes, refer to the ’Definitions’ section below.
- must not unlawfully discriminate when deciding who should be enrolled as a student and on what terms
- must not unlawfully discriminate against a student by denying or limiting access to any benefit provided by the school or by subjecting a student to any other detriment because of the student’s attribute
- must not unlawfully discriminate against a student by expelling them because of the student’s attribute – refer to for more information
- must make reasonable adjustments for students with disabilities who require adjustments to enable them to participate in their education and other school activities (for example, school sports, concerts and other events) on the same basis as their peers without a disability
- must take steps to provide an educational setting that is safe for all students and which is free from bullying, unlawful discrimination, sexual harassment, disability harassment (such as hurtful or humiliating comments or actions about a person’s disability) or victimisation
- must acknowledge and respond to the diverse needs, identities and strengths of all students
- must encourage empathy and fairness towards others
- must challenge stereotypes that promote prejudicial and biased behaviours and practices
- must create a learning environment for all students that acknowledges, respects and values different cultures and identities including Koorie cultures
- must respond to complaints and allegations appropriately and ensure that students are not victimised for making a complaint or asserting their rights.
- must have a local policy (for example, a Diversity and Inclusion Policy) which explains that discrimination and other related unlawful behaviours will not be tolerated. The has a available for schools to download.
- must act compatibly with human rights and give proper consideration to human rights when making decisions (refer to 'Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities' for more information below).
Bullying, unlawful discrimination, sexual harassment, disability harassment, vilification, victimisation and other forms of inappropriate behaviour
Bullying, unlawful discrimination, sexual harassment, disability harassment, victimisation, vilification and other forms of inappropriate behaviour targeting individual students or groups because of their attributes must not be tolerated. Schools must take appropriate measures, consistent with the and the to respond to students who demonstrate these behaviours.
Students with disability
Schools have a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate students with disabilities. A reasonable adjustment is a measure or action taken to assist students with disability to participate in their education on the same basis as their peers without a disability. Reasonable adjustments will be made for students with disability in consultation with the student, their parents or carers, their teachers and, if appropriate, their treating practitioners. Schools must support students with disability, and consult with students, in accordance with department policy including , , , , , and .
Supporting students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
Education plays a critical role in promoting social cohesion and building resilience in communities. Schools provide an environment where respectful relationships, acceptance of diversity, knowledge of other cultures and an understanding of global issues and events can be developed.
Schools must offer interpreting and translation services to parents and carers who have limited or no English language skills to communicate key information about their child’s education. Refer to the department's .
Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities
Every Victorian is equal before the law and is entitled to equal and effective protection against discrimination, and to enjoy their human rights without discrimination.
Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities contains 20 basic rights that promote and protect the values of freedom, respect, equality, and dignity.
Public authorities, including all Victorian government schools, must act compatibly with the human rights in the Charter. This applies to actions undertaken in day-to-day work with students and families.
Schools must also give proper consideration to human rights when making decisions. This is known as the ‘procedural’ obligation for a public authority. Proper consideration to human rights must be undertaken before a decision is made which may impact on people’s human rights. Limitations on human rights, for example to protect the safety of others, should be reasonable, justifiable and proportionate.
Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities. For further information refer to: .
A personal characteristic that is protected by State or Commonwealth anti-discrimination legislation. These include: race, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious belief or activity, political belief or activity, age, intersex status, physical features, pregnancy, carer and parental status, breastfeeding, marital or relationship status, lawful sexual activity, employment activity, industrial activity, expunged homosexual conviction or personal association with anyone who is identified with reference to any protected attribute.
Treating or proposing to treat someone unfavourably because of that person’s protected attribute.
Imposing or proposing to impose an unreasonable requirement, condition or practice that has or is likely to disadvantage a person or group of people with a protected attribute.
Unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature towards another person which could reasonably be expected to make that other person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. It may be physical, verbal, visual or written.
Direct or indirect discrimination
Conduct that incites hatred towards or revulsion or severe ridicule of a person or group of people on the basis of their race or religion.
Subjecting a person or threatening to subject them to detrimental treatment because they (or their associate) has made an allegation of discrimination or harassment on the basis of a protected attribute (or asserted their rights under relevant policies or law).
For advice on any issues relating to human rights and discrimination law, Victorian government school principals can contact the Legal Division:
Other contacts relevant to this topic are:
Reviewed 26 April 2023