Racism in aged care
Recently the Commission
was involved in the successful mediation of a race discrimination complaint in the area of employment at the State Administrative Tribunal.
The complainant was a French-speaking woman of African descent with dark skin.
Her first contact with the respondent was during a telephone conversation to arrange an interview
for a job position as an aged care worker.
She was invited to attend a face to face interview, which went well. The respondent’s representative informed the complainant at the interview she would be contacted to formally sign a contract and to attend an induction, however following the interview she received an email from the respondent informing her she had been unsuccessful.
When the complainant contacted the respondent to find out the reasons, she was told she was unsuccessful because of her accent. The complainant questioned this, as her accent was not brought up during the telephone conversation or at the interview.
The complainant was then contacted by another representative from the respondent, who informed her accent was not actually the reason for her application being rejected; rather it was that the person originally assessing the applications felt overwhelmed by the volume of applications and the complainant’s accent was the first thing that came to mind when providing a reason for why she had been unsuccessful.
The complainant then lodged a complaint of race discrimination with the Commission. As part of the investigation, the respondent provided a response to the Commissioner which explained the reason for rejecting the complainant’s application was in fact that she was of ‘large stature’ and could overwhelm the clients.
The complainant’s height and weight were such that it would not be considered large or overwhelming.
The matter did not resolve in conciliation at the Commission and was referred under section 93 of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 by the Commissioner with legal representation by the Commission’s Senior Legal Officer Allan Macdonald.
Mr Macdonald said the mediation was successful because it ticked all the boxes.
“It was a strong complaint, there was a respondent who was legally represented, willing to negotiate and even prepared to make a partial admission of liability.
“Importantly, there was a level of empathy between parties often absent in discrimination disputes, and the mediation process was also adapted to suit these particular parties,” he said.
Mr Macdonald said it was a strong example of how the complaint process could not only resolve an issue between parties but provide an even longer lasting impact of educating parties about discrimination and equality.
“Sometimes the conciliation and mediation processes allow people to place themselves in another person’s shoes and when this happens it can encourage people to change policies and procedures, they would never have thought needed changing,” he said.
As in previous years, Commission staff, family and friends participated in the Perth Pride Parade to show its support for WA’s lgbti community.
Acting Commissioner John Byrne said the event, held on 30 November this year, was a well-supported and positive event.
“The state should be very proud of its support of the WA lgbti community and the Commission was once again delighted to take part in it,” he said.
Dr Byrne said there had been a slight increase in sexual orientation complaints at the Commission over the last few years, which he attributed to public discussions about same sex marriage; however he acknowledged complaints received were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to sexual orientation discrimination.
“Despite the success of the same sex marriage vote among Australians and the level of support we have seen at state level for the Pride Parade, we know discrimination against the lgbti community still exists.
“The Commission would like to see amendments made to our Equal Opportunity Act 1984, to address parts of the Act that do not cover those transitioning gender, which is a particularly vulnerable time for trans people,” he said.
Commission staff, family and friends at the parade
Regional Awareness and Accessiblity Program (RAAP) in the Goldfields
Equal Opportunity Commission Community Education Officer Stephen Goodall accompanied staff from the WA Ombudsman, Health and Disability Services Complaints Office and Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office to provide outreach to the Goldfields.
From 2 to 5 December Mr Goodall attended the Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison, community information forums, community complaint clinics, attended a stall outside a shopping centre in Kalgoorlie and facilitated an Aboriginal awareness forum in Leonora.
Mr Goodall said the combined government department program was very well received.
“Community members who engaged with the staff commented that it was tremendous to see Government representatives at both State and Federal levels in the region connecting with community in such a beneficial way,” he said.
He said the community took the opportunity of having representatives of all four organisations in a one stop shop to make enquiries, speak about their issues and lodge potential complaints.
“It makes such a difference having a strong regional presence as it can sometimes be quite onerous for members of the regional communities to access services in the metropolitan area.” he said.
“Given the response from the Goldfields community to the RAAP initiative it would be worth strong consideration by the various government agencies to replicate the program in other regions around the state of Western Australia,” Mr Goodall advocated.
Stephen Goodall providing outreach in Kalgoorlie