Variety in the world keeps life interesting. Various people bring unique qualities, characteristics, values, ideas and opinions to society. If everyone were the same, advances such as cures for diseases, new technologies and one-of-a-kind artworks would be obsolete. Unfortunately, discrimination often goes hand and hand with the variety that society so desperately needs. People who are not like the majority are discriminated against in terms of work, benefits, religion and relationships. The discrimination definition includes two branches: general and unlawful.
General discrimination is when a group tries to get everyone to be like them. Often known as cliques, these groups of like-minded people ban together and discriminate, do not allow, others who are not like them, into their group. For example, the surfer culture is a tight-knit group of like-minded, active individuals who are not likely to embrace the book-worm, academic who spends his days in the library. Even if the studious man wants to surf and befriend the surfers, the group will make it very difficult for him to fit in.
To define discrimination in general terms, these are deliberate acts of keeping others separate from the group. These actions are not unlawful, yet harmful to the self-esteem of the outsider and can limit society’s growth and acceptance. It is important to have variety in the Australian culture to keep life interesting.
If you or your child are the victims of general discrimination, work hard to break the barriers. Be open to including outsiders into your social circles so others will be willing to include you in theirs. Set an example for children by befriending diverse people of various colors, shapes, sizes, genders and interests. Discover the opportunities for growth that arise when you socialize with people of different mindsets.
Unlawful discrimination is illegal. It is not simply being excluded from a peer social group. Unlawful discrimination separates you, or treats you differently based on one, or more of the following:
- Sexual preference
- Religious beliefs
- Skin color
- Physical characteristics- weight, height, hair or eye color
- Political party
- With child
- Married or single
- Family status
- Mental or physical impairment
- Partner’s identity
- Relationship status
- Parental responsibilities
- Parental status
- Physical deformity
- Learning disabilities
- Psychiatric concerns
- Irrelevant criminal records
Unlawful discrimination goes a step, or many steps, beyond general discrimination. When you are legally discriminated against, you are affected in these areas:
- Customer services
- Hotels and motels
- Home purchasing or renting
- Social clubs
- Sports participation
- Marketing or advertising
- Trade groups
- Earning certifications/qualifications
- Health services
- Access to information
- Employment agencies
- Access to automobiles
- Community service agencies
At first glance, it may be difficult to envision a scenario in which discrimination occurs. Unless you have been the victim of discrimination, you may not understand what it feels like to be denied a job based on your religious beliefs. Other discrimination examples include females prevented from participating in sports, home and mortgage applications not approved based on the color of one’s skin and not being accepted into college because of sexual preferences.
Talk to your friends, co-workers, family and neighbors about their discrimination experiences. Arm your children with these stories so they are prepared to face the real-world. This may not be the example of society you want to give to your child, but the more honestly you represent life, the better tools your children have to deal with it.
Federal Anti-Discrimination Legislation
Fortunately, you do not have to deal with discrimination on your own. If you, or your child have been victims of discrimination that has led to loss of work, rejection from school, being banned from sports, or an inability to purchase a home, you have laws to protect you.
The Australian government at the federal, state and territory levels developed anti discrimination legislation to protect and defend your rights. If you need individual advice, seek the guidance of a lawyer, the Commission or any anti-discrimination agency.
1- Anti Discrimination
The Anti Discrimination Act of 1977 protects Australians who have been discriminated against for:
- Sexual Harassment
- Transgender Grounds
- Domestic or marital status
- Job responsibilities
- Sexual preferences
The act outlines the process of filing a complaint if you have been discriminated for any of the above reasons. Your complaint is investigated, brought before a tribunal and a board to determine if it is accepted or denied.
2- Human Rights
The Australian Human Rights Commission Act of 1986 protects your discrimination rights in any Commonwealth agency or body, in employment and in education.
3- Age Discrimination
The Age Discrimination Act of 2004 protects Australians who have been discriminated against based on age. This includes young and old persons, as young people are often overlooked for jobs for which they are qualified. This act does contain limitations and does not protect age-discrimination in the following:
- Tax regulations
- Social Security
- State legislation
- Adolescent Wages
- Some health programs
- Religious activities
- Volunteer programs
4- Disability Discrimination Act
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 exists to protect you and others from discrimination based on a physical or mental disability. These disabilities include such things as:
- Physical disabilities or deformities
- Learning disabilities
- Intellectual disabilities
- Sensory challenges
- Psychiatric illnesses such as bi-polar
- Altered perceptions of reality
- Neurological disabilities such as brain tumors
- Presence of diseases such as HIV and AIDS
5- Racial Discrimination Act
The Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 protects your rights based on your color, ethnicity, race and place of origin. It also protects those who are the victim of racial hatred crimes such as destruction, physical harm and bullying.
6- Sex Discrimination
The Sex Discrimination Act of 1984 defends the rights of those who have been discriminated against based on their gender, pregnancy, martial status, and family responsibilities. This law also covers those who are the victims of sexual harassment.
File a Complaint
You begin your process of protecting your rights by filing a complaint in writing. This complaint is examined within the jurisdiction you filed. If it is found to be an accepted discrimination complaint, it goes to the Federal Court of Australia or the Federal Magistrates Court. If your complaint is reviewed and found not acceptable, it is terminated. The President of the Commission terminates the unaccepted complaints.
Although the process sounds lengthy, your lawyer will advise you of your best options. If you have been the victim of discrimination, it is not wrong to stand up for your rights. Your example may prevent the same situation from happening to another person, or to your child.
Discrimination is based on a few people’s beliefs of what is acceptable and what isn’t. It an extreme form of judgement that excludes people from employment, education, religion and social clubs. Discrimination is a type of abuse that can be verbal or non-verbal.
People often use stereotypes to justify and defend their discriminatory actions. For example, churches or neighborhoods may cater to those who are all the same race, color, class level and wear the same types of clothes. These neighborhoods exclude others of different colors or status who try to purchase homes. This example of discrimination leads to consequences for the victims.
Victims of discrimination may feel:
- Reduced self-esteem from thinking they don’t fit in
- A desperate need to change to be accepted
- Powerless to change anything about yourself
- Excessive stress
- Depression because some things can’t change such as skin color
- Anger over being mistreated because of gender or race
- Scared of consequences for standing up to others
- Lack of confidence over life decisions such as sexual preferences
- Humiliated because of the physical or mental illness you cannot change
- Hurt by unkind words about your physical or mental attributes
- Unsure how to protect yourself
- Embarrassed that you attracted sexual attention from your boss or a co-worker
In Your Face
If you are told you did not get a job because of your age, this is blatant discrimination and you should consider speaking to a lawyer or anti-discrimination agency to protect yourself and your family. Other forms of discrimination are not so obvious.
You may suspect you didn’t get the job based on your age, but unfortunately, this is very difficult to prove. However, if you are in a wheelchair and access to the workplace does not have a wheelchair ramp or elevator, you are being discriminated against. No one is verbally communicating that you cannot enter the building, but the physical premises prevent you from doing so. Again, it is important to seek legal advice for this type of discrimination.
You do not have to remain the victim of discrimination. Whether the situation occurs at work, school, church, social groups, sporting teams or in the community, you have options. Gather your facts and write down the incidents as clear as you can. Then:
- Speak with a trusted friend, neighbor or family member about your situation. Listen to their perspective and any helpful suggestions they may have.
- Talk to the person who is discriminating against you. Hopefully, if you bring the behavior to their attention, it will stop. Prepare yourself by learning conflict negotiation techniques, so you remain calm, present the facts and try to keep emotions out of the conversation.
- Locate a person who is trained to handle discrimination such as a lawyer or someone at an anti-discrimination agency. Schedule a time to discuss your experience with them.
- Present your facts to your union representative if the discrimination occurs at work.
- Speak to a school counselor or trusted teacher if the situation occurs at school.
- Talk to a school principal or athletic director if discrimination is sports related.
- Make an appointment with the Equal Opportunity Commission in Australia to learn which of your rights are protected in your territory.
- Ask your employer to contact the Equal Opportunity Commission to obtain pamphlets, posters and other information on anti-discrimination laws. Seek out posted publications at work to learn your rights.
- Contact club organizers and refer them to the Equal Opportunity Commission if your rights have been violated at social clubs, meeting places or church groups.
You do not have to remain the victim of discrimination. If you are being unfairly treated, put a stop to it. Protect your children and hear them when they talk of being excluded from a group or activity. You are their advocate and can defend them.
When discrimination continues, it affects self-esteem and you begin to doubt your feelings. You may not want to cause waves at work, school or church, but only you can stop this. The person(s) doing the discriminating will not stop, unless you make them change.
Your act of bravery in standing up for yourself regardless of your gender, race, marital status and age protects everyone. When you stop discrimination, instead of one group getting all the jobs, houses and benefits, these blessings are distributed throughout a diverse and prospering society.