The main activities of AntiDiscrimination Board of NSW in 2011-12 reflect our statutory functions to handle complaints and to inform people about their rights and responsibilities under antidiscrimination law.
The first step for many people experiencing discrimination is to consult the Board’s extensive website. The Department of Attorney General and Justice (DAGJ) has recently adopted a new content management system which will allow a more accessible structure. In 2011-12 Education Services staff have been working to convert the Board’s site to the new system, developing a new structure and revising the existing material in the process.
Other people contact our Enquiry Service, which still receives thousands of enquiries each year. Our Enquiry Officers are respected for their strong expertise in both anti-discrimination law and in dealing with callers who may be distressed because of their situation.
The number of complaints we receive has remained fairly constant for the last nine years, although there has been a slight decrease from 2010-11 (which had been a 14% increase from 2009-10). In 2011-12 we received 1,243 complaints, with disability discrimination, race discrimination and victimisation the most frequent grounds.
In response to research requests and public interest in the subject, this year we have separated sexual harassment complaints from sex discrimination complaints in our reporting. This reveals that we receive around the same number of sexual harassment complaints as all other complaints of sex discrimination. It is also alarming to note that almost all the sexual harassment complaints we received relate to the workplace.
Despite continuing staff pressures, the conciliation team continues to achieve excellent results, with an average time of 5.9 months taken to finalise complaints, and 92.5% finalised within twelve months. Both these figures are improvements on last year.
The Board’s Education Service has continued its workplace training program in 2011-12. Demand for the fee-paying service has weakened since the global financial crisis, but the program still brought in a total of $508,597, including publication sales. The fact that this was achieved despite a very limited marketing budget demonstrates the excellent reputation of our training team.
Community education is another important aspect of the Board’s work. This year we worked with groups including homeless people, the Greek, Sudanese, Bhutanese, Nepalese and Tamil communities, a number of different disability groups, and school, TAFE and university students.
The Education Service also ran our annual art competition for young people, this time a photography and story competition about people from diverse backgrounds. As well as raising awareness, the competition generated some fascinating stories.
A significant project for the publications team was a new edition of our Guidelines for Local Councils. This combined two previous publications and was produced in conjunction with the Division of Local Government, Department of Premier and Cabinet. This is particularly pertinent as local councils are regular users of our training service and frequent applicants for exemptions from the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) (ADA).
Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team also continued its activities in 2011-12. As previously, the team worked with other agencies to provide joint information sessions for community workers and leaders, provided training for real estate agents and attended a number of fairs and information days.
Accompanied by members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team, I undertook a trip to Wilcannia in June 2012. The trip was suggested after discrimination issues in the area were raised by community members during a previous visit by Board staff. This was an excellent opportunity to discuss concerns and meet with local officials, which will hopefully foster better relations in the community.
Another major activity this year was the Board’s participation in the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, for the second year running after a break of ten years. I was delighted to be able to march under the Board’s colourful banner, joining other staff from the Board and DAGJ to take this great opportunity to raise awareness about our services.
Our Legal Officers, Jackie Lyne and Margaret Fahy, continue to advise the statutory Board members on applications for exemptions from the ADA, as well as dealing with other legal matters. We continue to receive significant numbers of these applications, and some raise complex legal issues, so I am very appreciative of their assistance.
All this has been achieved in a context of considerable pressure on the Board’s budget and resources. However, due to budget constraints there has been a significant impact on our ability to deliver on our statutory functions to conduct inquiries, review legislation and develop human rights policies and programs.
Thanks to all the Board’s staff, including our Liaison and Support team who facilitate the core work of the Board, and to the members of our advisory committees who provide valuable input on issues of concern in the community.
Thanks also to the Statutory Board for their advice and participation during the year, and to Director General Laurie Glanfield and the senior management of the Department of Attorney General and Justice for their support.
Stepan Kerkyasharian AO
Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW
02 Dec 2022
We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the ongoing connection Aboriginal people have to this land and recognise Aboriginal people as the original custodians of this land.