Balancing the Act: ADCQ newsletter -

Roles of ADCQ and QCAT

The ADCQ and QCAT are the two main bodies responsible for resolving discrimination and sexual harassment complaints in Queensland. While there is a link between the agencies, ADCQ and QCAT perform distinctly different functions. The ADCQ resolves complaints informally. The QCAT decides complaints at a public hearing.

The ADCQ is the statutory body responsible for resolving complaints under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 in Queensland. Complaints of discrimination and sexual harassment must be made to the ADCQ and only progress to the QCAT where they cannot be resolved at the ADCQ. The QCAT is an independent tribunal which has the power to deal with a wide range of matters, including discrimination matters. It is not connected to the ADCQ in any way and falls under the justice administration division of the Department of Justice and Attorney-General. Its job is to hear and decide complaints referred to it by the ADCQ.

When the ADCQ receives a complaint, it is assessed to see if it comes within the jurisdiction set out in the Act. If it does not, the ADCQ will try to refer the person complaining to an agency that can better help them. In these circumstances, the person complained about is not asked to respond to the complaint.

For those complaints that are within the ADCQ's jurisdiction, conciliation by the ADCQ provides a great opportunity to resolve complaints informally and quickly without a need for a hearing. The complaint resolution services of the ADCQ are free and private and are open to everyone who has a complaint under the Act.

The ADCQ conciliation process involves a meeting between all parties to the complaint. An experienced conciliator from the ADCQ will organise and manage the conference, assist parties to discuss the issues and reach agreement. The conciliator does not take sides and does not decide whether there has been discrimination or sexual harassment. The conciliator will help all parties to understand their rights and responsibilities under the Act.

If the parties are able to agree on how to settle the complaint, the conciliator will write up a formal agreement for everyone to sign. This agreement is legally binding. Most complaints are resolved through conciliation in the ADCQ.

If the matter is not able to be settled at the ADCQ, then it may be referred to QCAT for determination, if the complainant wishes.  Only about 20% of complaints under the Act are referred to QCAT for hearing.

When matters are referred, a referral report including documents provided by the parties to the complaint is sent by the ADCQ to the QCAT. This starts the QCAT processes.

The QCAT process is quite different to the conciliation process through ADCQ.  Anti-discrimination matters are managed by a selected Tribunal Member who will consider all information provided by parties to the complaint in order to make a determination. In some instances this takes place through a public hearing.

At the hearing, after considering all evidence presented by the parties, the QCAT member will decide whether the complaint has been proven. If it has, the member may order that the respondent/s must:

  • stop doing the action that caused the complaint;
  • pay compensation to the complainant;
  • do specific things to redress the loss or damage suffered;
  • make a public or private apology or retraction;
  • implement programs to eliminate unlawful discrimination;
  • pay the other party's costs;
  • declare an agreement is not legally binding.