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Discrimination on the grounds of race, colour and national or ethnic origin in employment, joining trade unions, housing, access to places and goods and services and in advertising, is illegal under the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (s9). A number of provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act are of particular importance to Aborigines. The Act specifically protects ‘special measures’ by governments designed to enable victims of discrimination to overcome its effects (s8). Laws which are discriminatory, either on their face or in effect, are also unlawful under the equality before the law provisions of the Act (s10).

The meaning of ‘special measures’ has been much debated in the context of the Howard Government’s Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 (Cth) which specifically exempted the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 in order to implement overtly racist control measures under the guise of protecting children from sexual abuse. There has been some discussion on the possible implications for Tasmania of the activities of the federal government in the Northern Territory.

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