Bullying, harassment and discrimination disputes

Find out the differences between bullying, harassment and discrimination disputes, why you might bring one to us, and how we handle these types of dispute.

What bullying, harassment and discrimination disputes are

Bullying, harassment and discrimination can be defined in different ways depending on the context and the policies of the sporting body involved. You’ll need to check the definitions in the rules of your sport to understand the nature of your dispute and whether it can be brought to us.

We have provided some basic definitions below to guide you.


Bullying is repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed at a person or group that creates a risk to health and safety.

Bullying behaviour is behaviour that is intended to harm others by repeatedly treating them in any of the following ways:

  • victimising 
  • humiliating 
  • undermining 
  • threatening 
  • degrading 
  • offending
  • intimidating.

Harassment and discrimination

It is against the law to harass or discriminate against someone because they have a ‘protected attribute’.

Protected attributes are covered by State or Federal anti-discrimination laws, and include things like:

  • age
  • gender
  • national or ethnic origin
  • and many more.


Harassment happens when someone intimidates, offends or humiliates another person because that person has a protected attribute.

Harassment can be verbal or physical.

A single incident is enough for a harassment dispute. The offensive behaviour does not have to take place repeatedly.


Discrimination happens when a person is treated less favourably than others because they have one or more protected attributes. Discrimination can be:

  • direct – someone treats a person unfavourably because of a protected attribute
  • indirect – someone sets up a system that disadvantages a person with a protected attribute for no good reason.

When determining if a person has been discriminated against, it does not matter if the offender was aware that their actions were discriminatory, or what their motives were.

How we handle these disputes

To start the process off, the parties to a dispute must agree to bring the matter to us. This agreement may be automatically part of a sporting body’s regulations, rules or a contract (e.g. a Member Protection Policy, or a Code of Conduct). If not, the parties may enter into an agreement about a specific dispute.

Our General Division deals with bullying, harassment and discrimination disputes, which are a specific type of disciplinary dispute.

Depending on how the matter is referred to the NST, it can be resolved via arbitration or alternative dispute resolution (ADR). In the first instance we may suggest mediation, conciliation or case appraisal. If the dispute alleges breaches of a policy, or follows the sporting body taking disciplinary action, or if ADR is not successful, this type of dispute may go to arbitration.  

Who can apply to resolve a bullying, harassment or discrimination dispute

We can hear these types of matters if:

  • the dispute is with a sporting body, or
  • the dispute is between members of a sporting body and they are bound by the sporting body’s policies; and
  • all parties involved (including the sporting body) agree to bring the dispute to us, either by written agreement or the agreement is part of the sporting body’s regulations.

If the dispute is between a person and a sporting body, either one can apply to us. The other party will need to provide their signed consent to bring the dispute to the NST.

If a dispute arises in a sporting organisation that is below the national level (for example, a state sporting body), the national sporting body will need to make the application. The national body will then be a party to the dispute. The national body will then also be a party to the dispute.

When you can apply

If you are applying to the General Division, you must apply within the time period for bullying, harassment and discrimination disputes stated in your sporting body’s rules. If the rules do not mention a time period, you must apply within a reasonable period after the event that caused the dispute.

If you are appealing against a dispute decision to our Appeals Division, you must appeal within 30 days of the date of the original decision.

Apply to resolve a dispute

See Our process and Apply for details of how to apply to resolve a bullying, harassment or discrimination dispute.


For more help, contact us.