Annual Report 2006-2007 Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commission
Tabled paper 1144
Tabled papers for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Tabled papers; ParliamentNT
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Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commission 2006/2007 Annual Report 16 However the Act does give discretion to accept complaints outside the time limit when it is appropriate to do so. This discretion will generally be exercised if a complainant is able to demonstrate that the justice of the case requires an extension. Conduct that occurred out-of-time will also usually be allowed to form part of a complaint if it is shown that it is part of a continuing pattern of prohibited actions that extended into the six-month timeframe. Once the Commission receives a written complaint, an initial decision is made as to whether the complaint should be accepted or rejected. The Act requires this decision to be made within sixty days of receipt of the complaint. A complaint must be rejected if the Commission reasonably believes that it is frivolous, vexatious, trivial, misconceived, lacking in substance or if it fails to disclose any prohibited conduct. If this appears to be the case, the Commission will often utilise the sixty day period to make preliminary inquiries regarding the complaint. Complainants may be asked to provide further information in support of their complaint. A decision of the Local Court in 2004 in the matter of Gedling v Anti-Discrimination Commissioner suggests that, except in very limited circumstances, the Commission is only able to contact respondents after a complaint has been accepted. Prior to the decision in Gedling information obtained at this early stage gave parties the opportunity to comment before a decision was made regarding acceptance. In some cases making early contact with potential respondents to discuss a complaint resulted in disputes being defused and a satisfactory resolution being achieved without the need for the complaint to proceed through the formal complaint-handling process. The Commission intends to make submissions in the forthcoming review of the Act suggesting removal of the initial accept/reject stage and seeking more flexible provisions which will allow for conciliation at an earlier stage of the process. Once a complaint is accepted, it is often the Commissions practice to contact the respondent by telephone before sending out the formal complaint notification letter. This initial contact is used to explain the nature of the complaint, why it was accepted, and the Commissions complaint-handling processes. Speaking to a respondent at this early stage often helps to allay any concerns or misconceptions held by respondents, in particular the most common misconception, which is that the Commission represents a complainant or is promoting a claim. The Act requires that complaints be accepted or rejected within sixty days of being received however, in practice, this decision is generally made within two weeks of receipt. If a complaint is rejected the Commission must notify the complainant in writing of the reasons and this decision is appealable to the Local Court. Of the 128 complaints finalised this year, 19 were rejected at the outset. c. Investigation After acceptance a complaint is investigated to determine if the complainant has established a prima facie case of discrimination. The investigation phase of complaint- handling gives the parties the opportunity to comment on any of the issues which may