Resources: Blog

Australia’s racial discrimination laws – Does intention matter?

Blog
|

“Boo” or “Boo-Urns”

There was much conversation last week regarding the certain sections of AFL crowds booing and jeering former Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes. As most people know Adam is a Sydney Swans AFL player, a proud indigenous man and a prominent advocate on behalf of the Australian indigenous community.

There was much conversation last week regarding the certain sections of AFL crowds booing and jeering former Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes. As most people know Adam is a Sydney Swans AFL player, a proud indigenous man and a prominent advocate on behalf of the Australian indigenous community.

The behaviour has certainly opened up significant debate about whether such behaviour is bullying fuelled by racism or if fans were heckling the player for other reasons, such as his on-field performance.

The AFL, various sportspersons, commentators – and even politicians have come out in support of Adam. Not surprisingly but most regrettably, Adam was distressed and given indefinite leave but returned last week to his playing duties. The heartening support widely demonstrated by AFL crowds and others over the past fortnight will hopefully be sending Adam and the indigenous community a strong message of support.

The situation also highlights one of the key aspects of anti-discrimination law and the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (the RD Act) which has been generally overlooked in the debate so far – namely, that the claimed intention (or lack thereof) is irrelevant when it comes to considering whether racial discrimination has occurred. The law focuses on the perception of the recipient of the conduct and whether he or she finds the conduct discriminatory. All of the responses to this situation claiming a lack of intention in the booing jeering crowds are misguided from the RD Act point of view.

The RD Act provides that direct and indirect discrimination, on the basis of race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin is unlawful. However, there is no requirement that the conduct be “intentional” to be racially discriminatory. Further, the RD Act also provides that where an action is done for multiple reasons, and where one of those reasons is because of a person’s race, then that action will be considered to have been done because of the person’s race.

Certainly for employers, the AFL saga serves as a reminder that discrimination – in any of its forms is unlawful and should not be tolerated in the workplace or in the wider community.

For more insight and information regarding State and Federal anti-discrimination legislation, be sure to subscribe to our industry e-updates.

 

Information provided in this blog is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Workplace Law does not accept liability for any loss or damage arising from reliance on the content of this blog, or from links on this website to any external website. Where applicable, liability is limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

 

Similar articles

“All reasonable steps” and vicarious liability

You're a liability

Federal and State anti-discrimination legislation makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against or harass a person in their employment. The legislation also places liability on employers for the discriminatory conduct of their employees.

Read more...

Employee dismissed for offensive remarks in the workplace

What did you say?

It goes without saying that employees should treat each other with respect and courtesy in the workplace. In a recent decision, the FWC was tasked with considering a claim from a dismissed employee who alleged that remarks he made in the workplace were not offensive and did not justify his dismissal.

Read more...

Commission orders parties to stop yelling in the workplace

Quiet, please

The Fair Work Commission recently issued interim orders in an application for orders to stop bullying, which required the parties to, amongst other things, treat each other with respect and dignity, and to not yell in an unreasonable manner.

Read more...

Salary reduction brought employee under high income threshold

Below not above

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has significantly impacted the financial stability of many businesses. Employers have had to make difficult decisions and implement different measures to ensure the ongoing viability of their businesses. Some of these measures have included asking employees to agree to temporary reductions in their hours of work or to a reduction in their remuneration.

Read more...

Company vicariously liable for injury resulting from skylarking supervisor

All in good fun

Enjoying the company of your colleagues is something most people hope to find in the workplace. It can make work much more enjoyable and lead to lasting friendships. However, fun in the workplace can cross a line when it takes the form of dangerous skylarking or roughhousing.

Read more...

Managing employee conduct and behaviour in the workplace

Draw the line

Managing employee conduct and behaviour can be a challenge. The question of what is appropriate and what is not appropriate in the workplace will depend on a variety of factors, including the industry in which the employees work, the overall culture of the workplace and community standards at any given time.

Read more...

Let's talk

please contact our directors to discuss how ouR expertise can help your business.

We're here to help

Contact Us
Let Workplace Law become your partner in Workplace Relations.

Signup to receive the latest industry updates with commentary from the Workplace Law team direct to you inbox.