3 September 1998 (SMG)
(Director: Human Resources)
Amended and approved by Council 18 May 2004
18 August 2006 (Director: Human Resources)
16 June 2014 (Director: Human Resources)

6 February 2020 (Executive Director: People, Talent and Culture)

REFERENCE AUTHORITY: Executive Director: People, Talent and Culture


Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act 1975, incorporating the Racial Hatred Act 1995
South Australia Equal Opportunity Act 1984
South Australian Racial Vilification Act 1996
University of South Australia Act 1990
University of South Australia Equal Opportunity Policy (C-2.4)
University of South Australia Discrimination and Harassment Grievance Procedures (Staff)
University of South Australia Discrimination Student complaints resolution



Policy statement

The University of South Australia recognises that contemporary Australia is made up of many cultures, including those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The University upholds the rights of its students and staff to enjoy an education and employment environment that is free from race discrimination. The University commits itself to providing such an environment.

The University proudly celebrates and seeks to expand the cultural and linguistic diversity within its midst, promoting this diversity as a resource that broadens and enriches all teaching, research, curricular and community service activities.

The University embraces the challenge of preparing graduates for global diversity. In upholding its tradition of excellence, the University restates its commitment to the pursuit of scholarship, research and intellectual innovation that is responsive to the local, national and international communities that the University serves.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the first inhabitants of Australia. An Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person is one who:

  • Is of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent; and
  • Identifies as an Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person; and
  • Is accepted as such by the community in which s/he lives or has lived.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are comprised, as a group, of diverse nations, each with their own language and traditions.


Culture refers to the distinctive patterns of values, beliefs, and ways of life of a social group. It is a dynamic concept, which is influenced by environmental, historical, political, geographical, linguistic, spiritual, and social factors.


Of or pertaining to people who regard themselves and/or are regarded as having common origins and who share or have shared such attributes as culture, history, language, religion or traditions.


The term 'race' is understood to be flexible and evolving. It includes a person’s nationality, country of birth, colour, ancestry, ethnic origin, or people associated with those of a particular race. The word ‘race’ is used in these procedures to reflect relevant legislation.

Use of the term 'race'

The word 'race' is used in this policy to reflect anti-discrimination legislation. 'Race' is commonly taken as the basis upon which groups of people are identified as distinct from each other. This policy recognises however, that the range of difference within groups or 'races' can be great.


The term 'racism' relates to discriminatory attitudes, beliefs, behaviour, distinctions, exclusions, restrictions or preferences that are based on presumptions about a group or person's race (see definition of 'race' above).

Institutional racism

"Refers to a pattern of distribution of social goods, including power, which regularly and systematically advantages some ethnic and racial groups and disadvantages others. It operates through key institutions: organised social arrangements through which social goods and services are distributed. These include the public service, the legal and medical systems, and the education system. People working in these institutions hold expectations and beliefs which influence how they do their jobs, and how these institutions affect other people." (Chambers, Barbara and Pettman, Jan. Anti-racism: A Handbook for Adult Educators. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. 1986, p. 7).

Racial harassment

Racially based conduct that subjects a staff member or a student to discrimination on the basis of race (see definition of 'race' above) or has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's work or study performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work or study environment.

Racial harassment may include, but is not limited to:

  • verbal or written racial slurs, epithets, jokes, comments or terms;
  • repeated remarks to a person that contain racial, derogatory or demeaning implications;
  • sabotage of work or projects when associated with other forms of racial harassment;
  • racially oriented graffiti;
  • verbal, written, or physical expressions of hatred due to race;
  • display or distribution of racially oppressive or demeaning objects, pictures, literature, magazines, cartoons, posters or images;
  • harassment involving objects or items historically or stereotypically associated with race; and
  • unwelcome physical contact, close physical proximity or looks when associated with other forms of racial harassment.


A group of people or a person's entitlements based on Australian law or international agreements to which Australia is a signatory. In addition, the term is often used to refer to rights which do not exist in law but which are based on notions of social justice and fair treatment.



  1. The University of South Australia has a responsibility to provide an education and working environment in which all participants are equally valued and fairly treated. Consistent with this obligation, the University has developed this policy to:
  • promote and enhance awareness, understanding and acceptance regarding the differences that exist between cultural groups, and
  • to acknowledge and celebrate the breadth of experience and intellectual resources that people from diverse backgrounds bring to the University.
  1. In compliance with legislative responsibilities the University, as an educational institution and an employer, undertakes to foster a climate of respect for cultural diversity and of flexibility and acceptance with regard to cultural differences. All effort will be taken to ensure that the University environment is free from unlawful discrimination against or by staff, students or other members of the University community.
  2. Beyond this, the University recognises that implementing this policy greatly enhances its service to both the local and the international community and to its graduates. As a result, a wider range of students and staff will find the University a welcoming environment and one in which their diverse talents are recognised and valued, and the University will have access to a broader range of experience, expertise and intellectual perspectives with which to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world.


Implementation requirements

In affirmation of its commitment to a culturally inclusive environment the University will:

  • ensure that the University environment and culture is inclusive of students and staff from all cultural backgrounds;
  • provide and demonstrate a University environment and culture that recognises and respects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the original inhabitants of Australia; and
  • recognise and utilise the wealth of knowledge and experience that culturally diverse groups bring to the operation of the University.

An essential element in the implementation of this policy is raising the awareness of all members of the University community to the values of cultural diversity.


Responsibilities and/or authorities

This policy applies to the whole University community and includes any activity related to the University both on and off campus (for example, camps or field trips) and off-shore activities.

The policy applies to all members or agents of the University community as follows:

  • staff
  • students
  • individuals engaged to provide a service for the University
  • persons seeking to study or work in the University
  • volunteers and adjuncts.

All staff and students have a responsibility to contribute to the valuing of culturally diverse groups.

Managers and supervisors are accountable for ensuring the workplace and study environment is culturally inclusive and free from racial discrimination and harassment.

Both state and federal legislation deem that the University can be found vicariously liable for racial discrimination or harassment inflicted on others by its employees or its agents..

As a defence against any finding of vicarious liability, the University, through the Executive Director: People, Talent and Culture and the Student Ombud will fulfil its commitment to educating members of the University community as to the nature and effects of this behaviour. Through professional development, information sessions and publicising this policy the University, through the Executive Director: People, Talent and Culture and the Student Ombud will provide its community with an understanding of the rights and responsibilities of all individuals arising from the policy. This includes ensuring staff and students have access to and are aware of effective measures for the investigation and resolution of complaints.

Staff who fail to fulfil their responsibilities under this policy may find themselves personally liable for damages.

This policy does not automatically cover members of the University community undertaking work or study placement in other organisations. In the event that racial discrimination or harassment occurs under these circumstances, the University will act as far as possible to protect its members, and will work jointly with the other organisation (and in accordance with this policy, if deemed appropriate) to investigate the complaint and take such precautions as are possible to prevent further incidents.



The effect of this policy will be evaluated regularly by the People, Talent and Culture Unit and the Student Ombud's Office and recommendations reported to the Vice Chancellor.


Further information or assistance

In compliance with its legislative obligations, the University has developed separate student and staff complaint procedures for investigating and resolving any complaints that might arise on the basis of discrimination or harassment. These two processes are laid out in the University's Discrimination and Harassment Grievance Procedures (Staff) and the University of South Australia Discrimination and Harassment Grievance Procedures (Students).

Copies for staff.

Copies for students.