Policy last updated
2 June 2021
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 School Policy Templates has a template Diversity and Inclusion (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 Resources tab.
The department values the human rights of every student.
Schools must comply with federal and state anti-discrimination laws and the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities 2016 .
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 Expulsions 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 School Policy Templates has a template Diversity and Inclusion 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 Student Engagement Policy and the Bullying Prevention and Response Policy 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 Students with Disability, Student Support Groups, Individual Education Plans (IEPs), Student Support Services, Behaviour – Students, Enrolment and Duty of Care.
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.
The Intercultural Capability Curriculum must be taught in Victorian government schools from Foundation to Year 10 to build awareness and respect for cultural diversity. Refer to the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority for more details.
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 Interpreting and Translation Services Policy.
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.
More information about the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities can be found on the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission .
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: International Holocaust Remembrance .
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).
- Behaviour – Students
- Bullying Prevention and Response
- Duty of Care
- Health Care Needs
- Individual Education Plans (IEPs)
- Koorie Education
- LGBTIQ Student Support
- Marrung – Aboriginal Education
- Pregnancy and Parenting – Students
- Student Engagement
- Student Support Groups
- Student Support Services
- Students with Disability
- Aboriginal Employment
- Equal Opportunity – Employees
- Respectful Workplaces
- Sexual Harassment – Employees
- Workplace Bullying
- Age Discrimination Act 2004
- Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006
- Disability Discrimination Act 1992
- Disability Standards for Education 2005
- Equal Opportunity Act 2010
- Multicultural Victoria Act 2011
- Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001
- Racial Discrimination Act 1975
- Sex Discrimination Act 1984
For advice on any issues relating to human rights and discrimination law, Victorian government school principals can contact the Legal Division:
03 9637 3146
Other contacts relevant to this topic are:
Inclusive Education Division
03 9637 3699 or 03 9637 3690
Religious or racial discrimination
Report racism or religious discrimination in
There is no further guidance for this topic. For more information, refer to the Resources tab.
Local school policy templates
The School Policy Templates (staff login required) has policy templates available for government schools to download and customise for their local setting including:
Resources to address discrimination in schools
A range of resources and programs are available to support students and schools to prevent and address bullying, racism and other forms of discrimination:
- Bully : supports students, parents, teachers and principals in working together to prevent and address all forms of bullying
- Schools Standing Up To : a suite of resources designed to support schools to address racism and strengthen inclusion
- Report racism or religious discrimination in including the Report Racism hotline and formal complaint for parents, carers and students
Resources to promote multiculturalism and support students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
A range of learning resources and programs are available in Victorian schools that promote multiculturalism and support students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds:
- Multicultural education programs and provide a range of resources and information to help schools build intercultural capability and strengthen inclusion
- School’s In For website is designed to support students from refugee backgrounds. It includes high-quality guidance and practical resources that focus on teaching, learning, transitions and family engagement.
- Supporting students from refugee
For more information about discrimination and human rights visit:
- Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights — The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission is an independent organisation with responsibilities under Victoria’s human rights laws. Its role is to protect and promote human rights in Victoria.
- Australian Human Rights — The Australian Human Rights Commission is an independent organisation that protects and promotes human rights federally, in Australia, and internationally.
- Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated — The Victorian Aboriginal Education Association is the peak Koorie community organisation for education and training in Victoria.
Reviewed 02 February 2021