Discrimination, Bullying and Harassment

The University of South Australia has a zero-tolerance policy regarding discrimination, bullying and harassment.

Bullying, discrimination and harassment are never okay. Whether direct or indirect, intentional or unintentional, these behaviours can occur in person or via remote, digital or cyber means. Find out more about what these behaviours look like and available support below.

Counselling Services

It is often useful to have someone to talk to about your feelings, fears and concerns.  Professional counselling can offer you someone to talk to  and can provide you with information about your support and reporting options, in a safe and confidential manner.      

For students:

Counselling for students is free of charge and available from Monday to Friday, 9am - 5pm.  You can book an appointment online or by phone:  

  • Metropolitan campuses:  1300 301 703
  • Mt Gambier Campus:  (08) 8723 1999
  • Whyalla Campus:  (08) 8645 8233

For staff:

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is free of charge and available to all UniSA employees and their immediate family.  Appointments are available from Monday to Friday, 9am - 5.00pm and can be booked by calling:  

  • Metropolitan campuses:  1300 277 924
  • Mt Gambier Campus:  (08) 8723 1999
  • Whyalla Campus:  (08) 8645 8233

Campus Security

  • 24 hours/free call:  1800 500 911 or 88888 from internal University telephones

UniSA’s Campus Security is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

UniSA Out-of-Hours Crisis Line

  • Call 1300 107 441 or text 0488 884 163

(Out-of-Hours runs between 5pm and 9am on weekdays and 24 hours on weekends and public holidays).

Australian Human Rights Commission

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is an independent statutory organisation, established by an act of Federal Parliament. We protect and promote human rights in Australia and internationally. You can make a complaint to the AHRC no matter where you live in Australia and it doesn’t cost anything to make a complaint.

National Centre Against Bullying

The National Centre Against Bullying (NCAB) is a peak body working to advise and inform the Australian community on the issue of childhood bullying and the creation of safe schools and communities, including the issue of cyber safety.



Bullying can happen in person or online, via various digital platforms and devices and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert). Bullying behaviour is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time (for example, through sharing of digital records).

Bullying is an ongoing misuse of power in relationships causing physical and/or psychological harm.

Bullying is an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening.

Bullying can happen in person or online, via various digital platforms and devices and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert). Bullying behaviour is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time (for example, through sharing of digital records).

Bullying of any form or for any reason can have immediate, medium and long-term effects on those involved, including bystanders.

Single incidents and conflict or fights between equals, whether in person or online, are not defined as bullying.

Equal Opportunity law protects people from bullying based on personal characteristics such as race, religion or sexuality.

What bullying is not:

  • single episodes of social rejection or dislike;
  • single episode acts of nastiness or spite;
  • random acts of aggression or intimidation;
  • mutual arguments, disagreements or fights.

These actions can cause great distress. However, they do not fit the definition of bullying and they’re not examples of bullying unless someone is deliberately and repeatedly doing them.

Cyberbullying is a form of bullying online. It can occur in many ways:

  • abusive texts and emails;
  • messages, images or videos including image-based abuse (sometimes incorrectly referred to as 'revenge porn'), where a person distributes or posts false, humiliating or intimate/sexualised videos or photos of you without your consent;
  • imitating others online by using an alias;
  • humiliating, harassing or threatening people and/or their family or friends online;
  • hacking and misusing another person's email accounts;
  • nasty online gossip and chat.

For more information on how to identify cyber abuse, cyberbullying and image-based abuse, check out the eSafety Commissioner's webpage.

  • take many forms, including jokes, teasing, nicknames, emails, pictures, text messages, social isolation or ignoring people, or unfair work practices;
  • involve many different forms of unreasonable behaviour, which can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert);
  • be intentional or unintentional.

Sometimes people do not realise that their behaviour can be harmful to others. This does not make it okay.

Seek advice and support

If you are experiencing bullying, tell trusted people in your support network that you’re being bullied and how this is impacting you. This can include friends, family, neighbours, work mates, peers or staff at university. Staying silent can make a person who is being targeted by bullying to feel dis-empowered. 

  • Seek professional support and advice from university counselling or externally
  • Stay positive. Focus on the things you do well and the people who support and care about you
  • Keep doing the things you enjoy
  • Report the behaviour – to Campus Security or a university staff member if on campus
  • If you fear for your safety or feel threatened by the person(s) bullying you, call police on 000
  • Documenting is really important if you choose to make a formal complaint now or down the track. Make a note of all instances of bullying e.g. date, time, place, names and any witnesses present during an incident
  • When reporting behaviours to the university or police, describe the behaviour that is upsetting you as well as how its affecting you e.g. not turning up to lectures or tutorials or campus or taking time off study
  • Keep evidence of bullying behaviours where possible e.g. copies of messages, photos or online conversations
  • If you are experiencing bullying in class or elsewhere on campus, you may also report the behaviour for further investigation by following the Student Complaints Resolution policy and process

If you witness someone experiencing bullying, you can help by choosing to be an active bystander if it is safe to do so. Examples are:

  • Interrupting the behaviour and distracting from the situation when it is safe to do so (e.g. if you know the person being targeted, engaging them in a conversation about class work or asking them how they are)
  • Talking privately to the person being targeted and asking if they are ok
  • Talking privately to the personal engaging in the bullying behaviours and letting them know why their behaviour is of concern to you
  • Bringing the behaviour to the attention of others and considering how to intervene as a group
  • Getting help from someone with authority (e.g. teaching staff or campus security if on campus)
  • Talking with a University counsellor about how you are feeling about what you witnessed and about your options. To book an appointment by phone:

Metropolitan campuses/UniSA Online students
1300 301 703
Mount Gambier campus
(08) 8723 1999
Whyalla campus
(08) 8645 8233

  • Not becoming violent yourself
  • Calling for help (use campus emergency phones available on every campus or 1800 500 911 (24x7 free call)


Discrimination may occur when distinctions are made between individuals or groups so as to disadvantage some and advantage others. It can be classified as either direct or indirect.

Discrimination happens when a person, or a group of people, is treated less favourably than another person or group because of their background or certain personal characteristics. This is known as ‘direct discrimination’.

It is also discrimination when an unreasonable rule or policy applies to everyone but has the effect of disadvantaging some people because of a personal characteristic they share. This is known as ‘indirect discrimination’.

  • age;
  • disability;
  • race, including colour, national or ethnic origin or immigrant status;
  • sex, pregnancy, marital or relationship status, family responsibilities or breastfeeding or;
  • sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.

Direct Discrimination - when someone is treated less favourably than another person or group in a similar situation because of personal characteristics protected by law.

Indirect Discrimination - when an unreasonable requirement, condition or practice is imposed that has, or is likely to have, the effect of disadvantaging people with a personal characteristic protected by law.

Protected Personal Characteristics include:

  • a disability, disease or injury, including work-related injury;
  • parental status or status as a carer;
  • race, colour, descent, national origin, or ethnic background;
  • age, whether young or old;
  • sex;
  • sexual orientation, intersex status or gender identity, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, queer and heterosexual;
  • industrial activity, including being a member of an industrial organisation such as a trade union or taking part in industrial activity, or deciding not to join a union;
  • religion;
  • pregnancy and breastfeeding;
  • marital status, whether married, divorced, unmarried or in a de facto relationship or same sex relationship;
  • political opinion;
  • social origin;
  • medical record;
  • mental health concern;
  • an association with someone who has, or is assumed to have, one of these characteristics e.g. being the parent of a child with a disability.

It is also against the law to treat someone unfavourably because you assume they have a personal characteristic or may have it at some time in the future.


Harassment occurs when uninvited or unwelcome behaviour causes someone, or a group of people, to feel intimidated, insulted or humiliated. It can occur in a single incident or a series of incidents. Harassment may also be experienced as a result of witnessing behaviour not directed to that person e.g. overhearing an unacceptable joke. Each person perceives things differently as their values and experiences are unique to them. As such, they may react differently to how someone might expect.

Harassment can be against the law when a person is treated less favourably based on certain personal characteristics, such as race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, breastfeeding, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status. Some limited exemptions and exceptions apply.

Harassment can include:

  • telling insulting jokes about particular racial groups;
  • sending explicit or sexually suggestive emails or text messages;
  • displaying racially offensive or pornographic posters or screen savers;
  • making derogatory comments or taunts about someone’s race;
  • asking intrusive questions about someone’s personal life, including his or her sex life.

The law also has specific provisions relating to certain types of harassment.

  • Sexual harassment is any unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour where a reasonable person would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. It has nothing to do with mutual attraction or consensual behaviour.
  • Harassment linked to the disability of a person or their associate is against the law.
  • Offensive behaviour based on racial hatred is against the law. Racial hatred is defined as something done in public that offends, insults, humiliates or intimidates a person or group of people because of their race, colour or national or ethnic origin.

A single incident is enough to constitute harassment – it doesn’t have to be repeated.

Racial harassment is another form of serious harassment. It describes any unwelcome conduct which can offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate a person because of colour, race, nationality, social or ethnic origin or extraction. It can range from relatively minor abuse to physical violence. It can be discriminatory remarks, jokes, behaviours, images or practices which show racial intolerance against another person.

Racial vilification occurs when someone incites or encourages hatred, serious contempt, revulsion or severe ridicule against another person or group on the grounds of their race and/or religion.