What can I do?

Make a complaint to the shop or shopping centre

There is no agency responsible for monitoring racism in shopping centres or shops in Australia, however, shopping centres and big franchises usually have rules or policies in place to deal with racial discrimination as well as complaint mechanisms to report breaches of such rules and policies. These texts can usually be found on the shopping centre’s or shop’s website. If you cannot find them there, you should request them from staff members.

If the relevant shop or shopping centre does not have a clear complaint mechanism, you should contact the management or customer services department and explain you wish to make a complaint. For example, Australia’s largest shopping centre, in Chadstone, does not publish their policies on their website, but does include information on how to contact their customer service team.

Take your case to a federal or state court

Any matter related to racism can be reported to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) or other state anti-discrimination bodies. You can click here for more information about how to make a complaint to the AHCR or to a state body.

After you have done that, in some cases it might be possible for you to take your case to court. As court procedures can be complicated and vary greatly from state to state, we recommend that if you wish to seek redress through the court system, you first seek advice from your nearest Community Legal Centre and/or Legal Aid to get further assistance on how and to whom you should make a complaint.

Before making the decision to start a court procedure, it is important to keep in mind that these procedures can be quite costly and lengthy. If this does not seem to be the best option for you, there are alternative dispute resolution methods available at anytime.

Go to the police

In some cases, a racially discriminatory act will constitute a crime and can be reported to the police. Which acts constitute a crime will vary depending on the state or territory you are in. If you wish to go to the police, we advise that you consult with a lawyer or your local police station first.

Make a complaint to the Islamophobia Register

In addition to the above legal and institutional reporting options, if the incident was Islamophobic you might also consider sending a complaint to the Islamophobia Register. Making a report to the Islamophobia Register ensures that incidents of Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim sentiments are securely recorded and analysed to build a body of knowledge about Islamophobia in Australia.


One of the biggest surveys on racism in Australia (commissioned by SBS with Western Sydney University) revealed that a place where racism is most likely to be experienced is at a shop or shopping centre.

The law

The Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) makes it unlawful for a person who provides goods or services to the public to discriminate against someone for their race, colour or national or ethnic origin by:

  • Refusing to provide the good or service;
  • Providing the good or service on less favourable terms and conditions; or
  • Providing the good or service in an unfair manner.

“Provision of goods or services” means services includes banking and insurance, professional services (e.g. services provided by lawyers or doctors), shops, restaurants, hotels and entertainment.

The following case was resolved by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and serves as an example of racial discrimination experienced in a shop :

A man claimed that a staff member at a supermarket checked his bag on the way out because of his race and skin colour. The supermarket stated that it is a condition of entry that customers may be randomly asked to have their bags checked and that the race or skin colour of customers are not factors in the random selection of customers for bag checks. The complaint was resolved through conciliation and the man accepted a private statement of regret from the supermarket.

Codes of Conduct

Most shopping centres have their own policies and code of conducts in place to deal with racial discrimination. These documents might be published on the shopping centre’s website or be available upon request to its staff. In addition, the Shopping Centre Council of Australia enacts regulatory documents to encourage industry best practice. The Council has published a Code of Conduct for Fair Service Provision in Shopping Centres which establishes that shopping centres should “prohibit any form of bullying, harassment, intimidation or discrimination on the basis of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, colour, national or ethnic origin, religion, marital status, family status, citizenship status, veteran status and disability” by its employees and services providers,  including those involved in cleaning, maintenance and security.

It should be noted, however, that even though no one can be refused service for discriminatory reasons, shopping centres and shops can refuse service in certain circumstances. For example, a restaurant may have a dress code in place banning shorts. In this case, it is acceptable for the restaurant to deny entry to anyone in shorts as long as the dress code is applied equally to everyone. All service providers must also comply with the legal requirements that apply to them. Therefore, a liquor shop must refuse to sell alcohol to all persons under the age of 18. Similarly, a service provider can deny service for safety reasons.

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