What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 2 – 8 November 2015

A recent report by the AHRC has found that many Muslim Australians feel inadequately protected by the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA). Many Muslims spoke of a spike in attacks following the events of last year’s Sydney siege. The raising of the official terror alert made many Australian Muslims feel a sense of ‘us versus them’. However, race not religion is protected under the RDA making many Muslim people feel it had little relevance. The report also found there is a problem of under reporting of racism. This was largely a result of the legislation relying on groups and individuals to bring forward cases of discrimination, not the AHRC.

The report also strongly advocated for reform of the nation’s constitution to remove racist clauses and recognise Aboriginals as the first peoples in Australia. The report also found that Australians from diverse cultural backgrounds suffer discrimination in the workplace, and noted many with non-Anglo names failed to secure employment.

Australian research shows that gender inequality extends to performance-based rewards like bonuses. Despite getting the same performance ratings as their male colleagues, women get smaller bonuses on average. Even men who only partially met their performance objectives got bonuses 35% larger than their female counterparts. The gap increases as salaries increase. More recent data reveals that the pay gap is 24.7% if bonuses are included.

Almost 2 years on, the number of bullying complaints made under new Fair Work regime has been significantly lower than expected. Only 1 in 874 applications are successful. Some of the possible reasons for this are that compensation is not one of the options, a person must still be employed in order to make an application to Fair Work, the definition of bullying is relatively narrow and employees are more likely to make a worker’s compensation claim instead where they can receive monetary compensation as a remedy.

This is very disappointing but not surprising. The FWC missed out on an opportunity to provide a real avenue of recourse for those experiencing work place bullying by drafting the legislation in the way they did. A much better option would have been to offer a similar range of options that are available in the state Equal Opportunity legislation for behaviours related to harassment and discrimination.