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Individual rights & freedoms

Areas of life where discrimination is illegal


New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, ss 5, 19

It’s illegal for state schools, universities and polytechs to discriminate against you, unless the particular government policy or action that’s discriminatory is a reasonable limitation on your rights.

It’s also illegal for private schools and tertiary institutions to discriminate against you on any of the illegal grounds of discrimination by:

  • refusing or failing to accept you as a student
  • accepting you on less favourable conditions than those made available to others
  • denying or restricting your access to any benefits or services that the institution provides
  • excluding you as a student or disadvantaging you in some other way.

Exceptions that allow discrimination in private education

Human Rights Act 1993, ss 58–60

These are some of the exceptions that allow private schools and tertiary institutions to discriminate:

  • Institutions for particular groups – Educational institutions can limit access to students of a particular sex, race, or religious belief, or to students with a particular disability, or to students in a particular age group.
  • Preference for jobless or particular ages – Preferential access to training facilities can be given to unemployed people and people in particular age groups.
  • Courses and counselling on personal issues – Educational institutions can provide courses and counselling that are restricted to people of a particular sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, or sexual orientation if highly personal issues are involved, such as sex or preventing violence.
  • Disability – A disabled person can be discriminated against if it would be “unreasonable” to require the institution to provide the necessary special facilities. An institution can also discriminate if your impairment presents a risk to yourself or to others, unless the risk can be reduced to a normal level without unreasonable disruption. For information about learning support for disabled students, see: “Education: Access and learning support for disabled and Deaf students”.

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Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Te Kāhui Tika Tangata/Human Rights Commission

The Human Rights Commission website provides information about human rights in Aotearoa and outlines how you can make a complaint to the Commission.

Website: www.tikatangata.org.nz or www.hrc.co.nz
Email: infoline@hrc.co.nz
Phone:  0800 496 877 (0800 4 YOUR RIGHTS)

To make a complaint online, download a complaint form or find out more about the complaints process: www.tikatangata.org.nz/resources-and-support/make-a-complaint

Human Rights Review Tribunal

This website provides information about the tribunal and the hearing process and contains the relevant application forms.

Website: www.justice.govt.nz/tribunals/human-rights

Make a claim to the Human Rights Review Tribunal: www.justice.govt.nz/tribunals/human-rights/make-a-claim

The Office of Human Rights Proceedings

The Office of Human Rights Proceedings can provide free legal representation to people wanting to bring unlawful discrimination proceedings in the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

Website: www.tikatangata.org.nz/about-us/office-of-human-rights-proceedings
Email: ohrp@ohrp.org.nz
Phone: 09 375 8623

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