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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.

Supervisor makes offensive comments about colour of skin


Bob, an Aboriginal, was a utility worker in a coal mine.  He alleged that his supervisor, Sergiu, made racially offensive comments about colour of his skin, and mockingly questioned him in front of others about whether he received Aboriginal loans.  Not long after, Bob and another colleague walked into the control room where the cricket was on TV.  Sergiu yelled out from his office, "Look at that black c___!", referring to a black English cricket umpire.  Bob believed this was said for no other reason than because he had arrived.

Results of conciliation included a commitment by management to undertake an initiative to improve the communication and interpersonal skills of supervisors, Sergiu receiving appropriate discipline and payment to Bob of $150, for expenses associated with the conciliation conference.

Chef makes offensive comments about terrorism to an Iranian staff member


Habib, an Iranian, worked in a metropolitan restaurant.  Roderick, the new casual chef, asked him in the kitchen if he was the cousin of one of the London Bombers, because of his religion and colour of his skin and hair.  Habib said it was not funny and left the kitchen, feeling humiliated, insulted and disgusted.

Habib notified management, but they pressured him to resolve informally and did not take the complaint seriously, until he advised that he would make a complaint to the union and the Equal Opportunity Commission.

Negotiation by phone led to the restaurant agreeing to pay Habib $1,000.

Can I specify that tattoos are not to be shown in the workplace?

Yes, you can in most cases. Tattoos are not specifically covered by equal opportunity laws. However, it is important to note that for some racial groups, tattoos may hold particular cultural significance (e.g., Maoris).

I saw an advertisement for a job recently which said that preference would be given to people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin. Isn't this discrimination? How can they get away with this?


It is an offence under the Equal Opportunity Act to advertise employment or goods and services for sale in a discriminatory way, unless you have an exemption from the Equal Opportunity Tribunal or are using a special measure.  Advertisements like this usually indicate that a special need has been identified to provide employment or services for a particular disadvantaged group in the community.

Can I ask for a photo?

Yes, you can: but ask yourself if this is really a job where a person's appearance is relevant.  A photo can give information about a person's age, sex, race and sometimes disability.  Making decisions based upon any of these characteristics may leave you open to a complaint of discrimination.

Human rights of international students


Australia and New Zealand Race Relations Roundtable 2009

The rights of international students are a significant human rights concern for national, state and territory human rights commissions in Australia and New Zealand.

Tribunal case - Strickland v Neptar Jam Pty Ltd

Ms Strickland, from Western Australia, tried to book a room at the East West Motel in Ceduna. But the proprietor refused her because she was Aboriginal.

She made a complaint to the Equal Opportunity Commission. We attempted conciliation between Ms Strickland and the motel proprietor, but no resolution could be reached. The case was referred to the Equal Opportunity Tribunal, but on 18 June 2009 it settled on the court doorstep without a hearing.

Jalil v The Palace Gallery [2009] SAEOT 3

Mr Emmanuel Jalil said that he went to the Red Square nightclub wearing a buttoned collarless shirt, jeans and white shoes. While waiting in line he was told that he could not enter the club. He asked why and was eventually told to go home and change his shoes. Mr Jalil asked security if there was anything else he should change, and the response was "Go cut your hair and change your colour."

The four security staff on duty at Red Square that night denied making this comment to Mr Jalil and said they knew people should not be denied entry based on their race.