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Race discrimination is treating people unfairly because of their race, which includes their colour, country of birth, ancestry, or nationality. It is also racial discrimination to treat people unfairly because of the race of their relatives, friends or workmates.

Jokes in the workplace

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Aired on: 
Radio Adelaide

Equal Opportunity Commission staff member Ian Law interviewed by Mike Stock about crude and offensive jokes in workplace, including work emails”

Racially-motivated complaints lead to eviction


Lois, an Aboriginal woman, claims she was evicted from her tenancy in a regional town on the basis of racially-motivated complaints by her neighbour.  She said that she was not given an opportunity to respond to these complaints.

She made a complaint of race discrimination against her housing authority.

In the meantime Lois' lawyer put submissions to her housing authority that the neighbour's complaints could not be substantiated.

The authority accepted these submissions and gave her alternative accommodation.

School inconsistent about dress code policies


Lucetta lodged a complaint on behalf of her daughter Rihanna, who attended a suburban school.  Lucetta alleged that Rihanna was asked repeatedly by teachers to remove her necklace, despite other students wearing jewellery within view.  She alleged that this inconsistent application of uniform policy amounted to discrimination on the ground of race.

Lucetta subsequently removed her daughter from the school.

At conciliation, Lucetta requested $600 for loss of income (monies paid to the school as a joining fee), and a letter of regret from the school. The matter was settled on this basis.

City cafe customer cops a nice warm cup of racially offensive language

Jack, an interstate business visitor to Adelaide, said that when he bought a coffee at city café a piece of paper was left on his saucer "flat white: pommy c__t".

Graham, the café-owner, was apologetic.  He told the Commission that the comment referred to himself and not Jack.

Graham agreed to meet with Jack to discuss the complaint and provided a verbal apology.

Aboriginal teacher subject to racial slur and refused service at supermarket

Michelle, an Aboriginal teacher, said she was not served in a large regional supermarket.  When she complained to the manager, the shop assistant said, "I couldn't see her because of the colour of her skin".  Michelle said this was witnessed by a non-Aboriginal colleague.  Michelle was quite distressed and went back into the store to follow up with the manager, but did not feel the matter was properly dealt with.

At conciliation, the store undertook to provide discrimination training to all staff and pay Michelle $1500 compensation.

Extra conditions for indigenous person seeking a bank loan

Helen, an Aboriginal woman, applied to a finance company in a large regional town for a $4,000 personal loan towards a car.  The loan was approved over the phone. 

At conciliation, the company agreed to consider a new application for finance from Helen, to investigate the customer service provided to her, to nominate the company's Branch Manager as a person she can approach if she has any further concerns about their service, and to offer an apology for any inconvenience Helen experienced. The settlement agreement was signed by the finance company but at that point contact was lost with Helen.

"You Africans will not be allowed to enter the club"

Kyran and two friends were waiting in a queue to enter a club in the city.  A security guard approached them and said, "You Africans will not be allowed to enter the club".  This was the first time they had been to the club, so they couldn’t understand why they weren’t allowed in.  They had never been involved in any disruptive behaviour. 

When asked why, the guard told them that if they didn't leave they would be arrested.

Kyran and his friends made a complaint of race discrimination.

When approached for a response, the club management thanked the Commission and Kyran and his friends for bringing the issue to their attention. The complaint was resolved at conciliation with an apology for any hurt and humiliation experienced. It was agreed that the guard involved would undertake cultural awareness training.

Sudanese man labelled a terrorist


Gabriel, a Sudanese man, worked for a metropolitan manufacturer.  He overheard his boss, Andrew, and other workers say that he was a terrorist.  He confronted Andrew soon afterwards, telling him he was a refugee from a war-torn country and was very upset by being called a terrorist.

When Gabriel made a complaint of race discrimination, Andrew denied calling him a terrorist.  However, Gabriel said that he could identify other workers who heard him.

At conciliation, Andrew agreed to apologise to Gabriel for any distress he suffered at work, personally deliver a copy of the company's policies on discrimination and harassment to each employee, and provide all employees training sessions on discrimination and harassment.

Health centre volunteer not able to apply for paid position


Sylvana worked as a volunteer at a metropolitan community health centre.  After five years service, she was told she was no longer required.  Her job was being changed to a paid position that only Aboriginal people could apply for.

At conciliation, the health centre's management agreed to provide a written apology to Sylvana, acknowledging the impact of poor communication processes that took place and thanking her for her years of service. They also agreed to talk to Dorothy about how she spoke to Sylvana, and to improve communication with volunteers generally.

Applications accepted from Aboriginals only


Margaret made a race discrimination complaint after seeing a job advertisement for an Indigenous Advisor in a university.  It invited applications only from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people so, because of her race, she was precluded from applying.

Margaret reached a negotiated settlement with the university.
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