The Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW had a year of steady progress in 2016-17. We continued to successfully perform our core activities of complaint handling and education, with an increasing emphasis on links with other agencies and the community.
A major change this year was the relocation of our head office from the Sydney CBD to Parramatta in January 2017, under the State government’s decentralisation policy. Our premises in Valentine Avenue, near Parramatta station, place us closer to many of the communities that experience discrimination. We have easy access to public transport and the Justice precinct is also close by.
Particularly in light of our need to minimise disruption to services, the move was a considerable logistical exercise. By being very efficient with packing and unpacking, and performing the actual move on the weekend, we were able to complete the exercise without any break in our enquiry or complaint handling services
My thanks go to all staff and above all to those organising the move for their efforts. I particularly thank the staff in our two regional offices in Wollongong and Newcastle, who supported us while we tackled the physical and technological challenges of the move, and remained stalwart through out the year.
During the year we continued our consultation program, with an increasing emphasis on communities experiencing discrimination – including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, gay, lesbian and bisexual, multicultural and transgender communities. The consultations provide an opportunity to network, discuss legislative reform, and explain how issues can be addressed through our education and complaint processes. A number of community activities have developed or been enhanced as a result.
While the Board’s website is still one of our main avenues for communicating directly with the public, we also continued to build up our social media profile in 2016-17. Using social media enables us to communicate in a more immediate way, extend our reach and meet current stakeholder expectations for receiving information. Our followers on Facebook and Twitter increased significantly in 2016-17 and our average reach per post also increased.
Our Enquiry Service continues to assist individuals who are dealing with discrimination issues, as well as employers and service providers seeking advice about antidiscrimination law. In 2016-17 we answered 3,424 enquiries – the number has gradually decreased as more people use the website, but the enquiries we now receive are often more complex.
Discrimination complaint numbers have dropped slightly this year at 891 complaints, however the number of complaints has remained relatively stable over the longer term. Disability, race and sex discrimination were the most frequent grounds of complaint. Complaints remain an important mechanism for achieving change on an individual level, but the Board is also aiming to address more systemic issues through increasing community engagement.
The conciliation team achieved excellent results, with 965 complaints finalised in 2016-17. The team took an average of 5.98 months taken to finalise complaints, and 91% were finalised within 12 months. This is an excellent achievement for the complaint handling team in 2016-17, as we had considerable staff turnover this year. My thanks go to the more experienced team members who have done an excellent job of mentoring the newcomers.
The Board’s Education Service continued its training program for employers and service providers, delivering 183 on-site training sessions and eight seminars to reach a total of 3,685 participants. We are currently looking at ways to diversify the options offered to clients and incorporate newer technologies into their services.
Our community education program has flourished in 2016-17, with staff undertaking education and information activities throughout NSW. These include attending expos for various multicultural communities, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras events and disability events.
Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team continued its activities in 2016-17. As well as ongoing networking within their community, the team worked with other agencies to provide joint information sessions for community workers and leaders, provided training for real estate agents and participated in a number of fairs and information days.
We are increasing our collaboration within the NSW government, and in particular with agencies in the Justice Services division of the Department of Justice, with which we have many synergies.
As well as the ongoing task of managing our social media presence, the Board’s communications staff continued to maintain our complex website and produce monthly e-newsletters which link back to the site. This year we have focussed on making sure all our information is accessible to screen readers used by people with vision impairment, including our non-English information.
Staff are also working with the Department of Justice to introduce online lodgement of complaints and ordering for publications and seminars, and improving the content and design of our guidelines and factsheets to improve accessibility and meet current user expectations.
Our Legal Officer provided advice on applications for exemptions from the Elizabeth Wing (left) spoke at the Reserve Bank of Australia’s Diversity Discussion Series with federal Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane. Pictured also is Melissa Hope, the RBA’s Head of Human Resources. Anti-Discrimination Act, as well as dealing with other important legal matters. The Legal Officer’s assistance and expertise is crucial to the Board’s operations and I am very grateful for this.
A new President, the Honourable Dr Annabelle Bennett AO SC, was appointed in August 2017, along with three new Board members: Patricia Azarias, Melissa Monteiro and Trevor Robertson. I look forward to working with them to deliver our core business and further develop our engagement with the community of NSW in the future.
My thanks go to all the Board’s staff, who continue to bring great dedication and professionalism to their work and to the values and goals of the Board.
Acting President 2016-17
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.