Breastfeeding Discrimination

Can I breastfeed in public?

Yes – your right to breastfeed your baby in public places is protected by the ACT’s Discrimination Act 1991. The Act specifically prohibits unfavourable treatment on the ground of breastfeeding.
It is also unlawful to treat you unfavourably on the ground of your status as a parent, or because of a characteristic that women have, that is, breastfeeding.

You are protected against unfavourable treatment in public places including:

  • places where you are receiving goods, services or facilities such as shops, offices, restaurants, schools, sports venues;
  • licensed clubs;
  • educational institutions;
  • your place of employment; and
  • accommodation.

The law recognises that breastfeeding should be encouraged and supported by the community.

Where do I go?

For more information about unlawful discrimination please contact the ACT Human Rights Commission which can also refer you to a community legal service for advice and assistance.

What should I do if someone tells me to stop breastfeeding or asks me to leave?

You should tell them that your right to breastfeed in public is protected under the Discrimination Act 1991. You can tell them that their behaviour is unlawful under the Act and that if they continue to treat you unfavourably you may make a complaint of discrimination to the ACT Human Rights Commission. If they still insist that you stop breastfeeding or ask you to leave, you may choose to lodge a complaint of discrimination with the ACT Human Rights Commission.

What happens if I lodge a complaint?

Unless there are exceptional circumstances, formal complaints to the ACT Human Rights Commission must be made in writing. Complaint forms are available from the Commission or on our website.The Commission is required to consider your complaint. The Commission offers early conciliation in appropriate cases and where all parties consent. During conciliation, the people involved in a complaint try to work out a solution to what has happened. This may involve an apology, a change in policy to ensure breastfeeding mothers are not treated unfavourably in the future, refunds of fees for services and, sometimes, compensation for hurt and humiliation suffered. The ACT Human Rights Commission has successfully conciliated complaints of discrimination on the ground of breastfeeding. If a complaint cannot be resolved it can be referred to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal for hearing.
More information about the complaints process is available by ringing us and on our website.

If you believe you have been given unsatisfactory service by one of the service providers listed above, then you are able to lodge a complaint with us.

The Australian Breastfeeding Association also provides information, support and advocacy on breastfeeding.
ACT Breastfeeding Helpline:
Telephone: 1800 686 268 (toll free)