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What Is a Case Study?
When you’re performing research as part of your job or for a school assignment, you’ll probably come across case studies that help you to learn more about the topic at hand. But what is a case study and why are they helpful? Read on to learn all about case studies.
Deep Dive into a Topic
At face value, a case study is a deep dive into a topic. Case studies can be found in many fields, particularly across the social sciences and medicine. When you conduct a case study, you create a body of research based on an inquiry and related data from analysis of a group, individual or controlled research environment.
As a researcher, you can benefit from the analysis of case studies similar to inquiries you’re currently studying. Researchers often rely on case studies to answer questions that basic information and standard diagnostics cannot address.
Study a Pattern
One of the main objectives of a case study is to find a pattern that answers whatever the initial inquiry seeks to find. This might be a question about why college students are prone to certain eating habits or what mental health problems afflict house fire survivors. The researcher then collects data, either through observation or data research, and starts connecting the dots to find underlying behaviors or impacts of the sample group’s behavior.
During the study period, the researcher gathers evidence to back the observed patterns and future claims that’ll be derived from the data. Since case studies are usually presented in the professional environment, it’s not enough to simply have a theory and observational notes to back up a claim. Instead, the researcher must provide evidence to support the body of study and the resulting conclusions.
As the study progresses, the researcher develops a solid case to present to peers or a governing body. Case study presentation is important because it legitimizes the body of research and opens the findings to a broader analysis that may end up drawing a conclusion that’s more true to the data than what one or two researchers might establish. The presentation might be formal or casual, depending on the case study itself.
Once the body of research is established, it’s time to draw conclusions from the case study. As with all social sciences studies, conclusions from one researcher shouldn’t necessarily be taken as gospel, but they’re helpful for advancing the body of knowledge in a given field. For that purpose, they’re an invaluable way of gathering new material and presenting ideas that others in the field can learn from and expand upon.
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Race discrimination case studies
November 2022: Michael is chinese and was asked by his supervisor how to pronounce an Asian surname.
April 2021: Ben* is an Aboriginal man and was working as a casual trainer for a gym.
June 2022: Aaliyah* is a young woman of Palestinian decent.
February 2018: Craig* is an Aboriginal man and worked as a bartender and courtesy bus driver for a registered club.
April 2022: Yousef* is Muslim and has a Palestinian background.
March 2017: Alice* worked as an Aboriginal Liaison Officer.
September 2022: Mandeep* is Sikh.
September 2014: Wang Wei* is a student.
Goods and services
July 2022: Jasmine is of Pacific Islander descent and regularly makes large purchases of groceries for her family.
June 2021: Hung* is an Asian man.
June 2022: John*, a Caucasian man, went to a bank to open a new savings account.
June 2020: Haoran* and Kai* were denied entry to a hotel by a security guard.
February 2022: Amara* resides in NSW on an Australian visa.
December 2016: Isaac* is a Maori man and a regular drinker at his local hotel.
June 2021: Samuel* is an Aboriginal man.
December 2014: Daniel* is an Aboriginal man.
October 2016: Lilly* is an Aboriginal woman.
July 2018: Niu* is a Polynesian-Australian woman.
March 2015: Amy* is an Aboriginal woman.
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These sex discrimination case summaries are grouped into two categories: court and tribunal decisions, and conciliated outcomes.
- Sex discrimination: summaries of court and tribunal decisions
- Sex discrimination: summaries of conciliated outcomes
Court and tribunal decisions are made after all the evidence is heard, including details of loss and damage. The full text of court and tribunal decisions is available from:
- AustLII website
- Queensland Supreme Court Library website
Conciliated outcomes are where the parties have reached an agreement through conciliation at the Queensland Human Rights Commission.
Court and tribunal decisions
Different dress requirements for men.
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Woman excluded from sporting club, private school allows pants for girls, sex discrimination when recruiting for a construction site, female refused haircut at barber shop, ongoing sexist and sexual comments in workplace ignored, sex discrimination and sexual harassment on farm, requiring husband to be present for a quote, hours cut for female deckhand, but not for males.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates
Racial discrimination act complaints : conciliated outcomes examples, racial discrimination act complaints : conciliated outcomes.
Under the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 it is unlawful to do any act involving a distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on equal footing, of any human right or fundamental freedom in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life. The Act also prohibits offensive behaviour based on racial hatred.
The summaries presented below have been collected here from the Commission's Annual Reports over recent years to provide easier access. Additional summaries are available on the Commission's conciliation register
WARNING: SUMMARIES OF COMPLAINTS REFLECT THE SUBJECT MATTER OF COMPLAINTS RECEIVED BY THE COMMISSION AND HENCE CONTAIN WORDS AND DESCRIPTIONS THAT MAY OFFEND.
Complaint of racial discrimination in employment
The complainant, who is of Lebanese/Armenian racial origin, is employed with the respondent finance company. The complainant alleged his former supervisor sent him an email about Muslim women that he found offensive, as his wife is Muslim. He also alleged the individual respondent called him an ‘Arab' and a ‘bomb thrower' in front of other staff and also told him to ‘speak English'. The complainant said that, after he made an internal grievance about his supervisor, his higher duties were removed, his work was over-scrutinised and his performance was unfairly criticised.
The individual respondent denied sending the email and said that the comments he made were misunderstood. The company advised that, in response to the complainant's internal grievance, they met with the individual respondent and he moved to a different section of the company. The company denied that action taken in relation to the complainant's work performance was because of the complainant's race or because he had made an internal grievance.
The complaint was resolved at a conciliation conference. The individual respondent provided the complainant with a verbal apology at the conference. The company agreed to pay the complainant's legal costs to the value of $5000 and provide the complainant with a training fund to the value of $10 000 to assist his career development. The company also agreed to hold a staff meeting to confirm that the type of behaviour, that was the subject of the complaint, was unacceptable and to advise that the dispute between the complainant and the individual respondent had been resolved.
Alleged racial hatred on a website
The complainant, who is of Asian background, complained about a website which he said advocated violence against Asians. The comments on the website included:
"Asians take all our good Jobs and Careers leaving us aussies to have to fight and often miss out on a opportunity for spots in our universities and good jobs." "Asian People Flood our city with their Asian shops with their language all over them, having their own dedicated “china town” and their own suburb ..." "... we understand everyone has different Levels of hate for Asians and so we have ... Yellers. Their job is to Yell at the Asians with passion i.e. “YOU GOOK F**K OFF TO CHINA” and do what ever they can to show Asians they are not welcome in Australia ... Fighters ... are their to express there anger physically by laying the Gooks out."
On receipt of the complaint, the Commission contacted the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to establish the identity of the website owner. Within a few days of contacting the ISP, the ISP advised that the website had been disabled because it breached the ISP's Acceptable Use Policy.
The complainant informed the Commission that the action by the ISP resolved his complaint.
Complaint of racial discrimination and racial hatred in sport
The complainant lodged a complaint on behalf of his 18-year-old son, who is of Ethiopian origin. The complainant alleged that, during a recent game between his son's football club and the respondent football club, a player from the respondent club called his son a ‘black c**t'. He also alleged a member of the respondent team's coaching staff told his son to ‘wash the dirt off', which was a derogatory reference to his son's skin colour. The complainant advised that his son's club made a formal complaint to the football league about the player's comment, but he was not satisfied with how the matter was handled. The complainant said he wished to complain against both the respondent football club and the football league.
The respondent club said its player denied making the alleged comment. The club confirmed a member assisting the coaching staff said ‘wash the dirt off', and advised that this member had been counselled. In its response to the complaint, the club said it has zero tolerance for racism and expressed regret for what occurred. The complainant advised the Commission that this response resolved his complaint against the club.
The respondent football league advised that it had investigated the complaint in accordance with its rules and procedures. The league said the matter went to a hearing and the tribunal found that the player had made the alleged comments. However, the player successfully appealed the decision.
The complaint against the football league was resolved by means of a telephone conciliation process. The terms of agreement included an undertaking by the league to review and revise its complaint procedures to ensure clearer procedures for investigating complaints and to provide for conciliation before a hearing.
Alleged race discrimination in employment
The complainant advised that he is Aboriginal and was employed with the respondent manufacturing company as a spare parts coordinator. The complainant alleged a senior supervisor told him that he should not apply for a promotion as he is an ‘Abbo' and therefore incapable of fulfilling the role. The complainant said he made an internal grievance, but felt the matter was not handled appropriately. The complainant resigned from his employment.
When the company was informed about the complaint, they confirmed that the complainant had reported the incident, but said they understood the matter had been resolved. The company agreed to participate in conciliation without providing a formal response to the complaint.
The complaint was resolved at a conciliation conference, with an agreement that the company would pay the complainant $7000 compensation and that the company and the individual respondent would provide the complainant with statements of regret.
Complaints about racial hatred online
The complainants, who are of Aboriginal background, complained about a respondent social networking site. They claimed that a social group entitled, ‘No I'm Not Bloody Sorry & Don't Have Anyone to Be Reconciled With!', was created and loaded onto the respondent site. The complainants alleged the members of the group made comments that racially vilified Aboriginal people. Some of the comments included:
"Why should I have to apologise for something that happened over 200 years ago? Consider it survival of the fittest." "‘I have nothing wrong with an Aboriginal being named Australian of the Year, but when it's just handed out as a token gesture rather than being EARNT..."
After being advised of the complaint, the respondent company informed the Commission that the group had been disabled from the website because it violated the site's user policy. The complainants advised the Commission that the action taken by the respondent company resolved their complaint.
Alleged racial discrimination in employment
The complainant advised that she is from Switzerland and speaks English with a French accent. The complainant applied for a position as a conference producer through a recruitment agency. She said a staff member from the agency left a message for her, but when she called back and spoke to this staff member, she was told the position was no longer available. The complainant claimed that, when her partner and friend, who do not have French accents, subsequently called to enquire about the position, they were told the position was still open. The complainant claimed the respondent agency discriminated against her because of her origin and her accent.
The managing director of the respondent agency advised the Commission that the employee named in the complaint had been dismissed. The managing director offered to meet with the complainant to discuss her concerns. The parties met a few days later and, after this meeting, the complainant advised the Commission that the action taken by the managing director resolved her complaint.
Alleged racial hatred and racial discrimination in employment
The complainant, who is Maori, said he commenced employment with the respondent building company as a casual labourer and then became a permanent employee. The complainant claimed that during the 10 months he worked with the company, co-workers used offensive race-based terms in his presence such as ‘blacks', ‘niggers', and ‘coons'. He also alleged that co-workers spoke to him aggressively and called him a ‘f****** abo'. The complainant said that after he complained to the company director, his co-workers refused to work with him, he reverted back to being a casual employee and was eventually not offered any more work.
The complainant's co-workers admitted making some of the alleged race-based comments, but claimed that these were jokes and not directed at the complainant. The company director said that when he became aware of the complainant's concerns, he spoke to the complainant's co-workers and advised that such behaviour was unacceptable. The company denied that the complainant's employment status changed from permanent to casual after his internal complaint. The company claimed that it had attempted to contact the complainant to offer him additional work, but the complainant did not respond.
The complaint was resolved through a conciliation process. The parties agreed that the company would pay the complainant $7 000 compensation, provide him with a written reference and arrange anti-discrimination training for staff.
Complaint of race discrimination in the provision of accommodation
The complainant, who is Indigenous, alleged that the operators of a boarding house refused to provide him with accommodation because of his race. The complainant claimed that the terms of the rental agreement had been pre-arranged; however, when he arrived at the boarding house the caretaker said, ‘We don't take anyone who is Aboriginal because there have been problems in the past. This is a management policy'.
In response to the complaint, the owners of the boarding house confirmed that they were reluctant to provide accommodation to Aboriginal people because of previous bad experiences with some Aboriginal tenants. However, they denied there was an ‘official policy' not to accept Aboriginal tenants and agreed that the caretaker's remark to the complainant was unacceptable.
To resolve the complaint, the respondent agreed to provide the complainant with accommodation and also provide him with an apology and $3 000 compensation. The respondent also agreed to develop an anti-discrimination policy.
Alleged race and disability discrimination in employment
The complainant advised that he is an international student from India and had been employed by the respondent fast food company. He claimed that one night at work, he was injured when his arms were hit by a machine. He alleged that, following the accident, his manager discriminated against him on the ground of his race and disability. In particular, he claimed that the manager: abused him and said he would send him back to India; failed to call a company doctor to attend to his injury; and refused to pay his medical allowances. He alleged that his employment was finalised one week after the work accident.
The Commission contacted the company by telephone and advised of the complaint. While the company disputed some of the complainant's allegations, they advised that they were willing to participate in a conciliation conference prior to providing any written response to the allegations.
The complaint was resolved at the conciliation conference with an agreement that the company would reinstate the complainant to a comparable position at a different location; provide him with assistance to lodge a worker's compensation claim and pay him $3 100 in lost wages. The complainant's previous manager also agreed to provide a letter of apology to the complainant.
Complaint of race discrimination and sexual harassment in employment
The complainant is Indigenous and worked as a cook in a bistro. He alleged that his manager racially discriminated against him in employment by saying: ‘Are all black c**** as dumb as you?'; ‘Can you pass me the Abocado?'; and ‘Abo's want everything for nothing'. He also claimed that his manager sexually harassed him by making comments such as: ‘Whilst you're down there.'; ‘Do you want me to f*** you'; and ‘I always knew you were gay'. The complainant said he resigned from his employment because of the way the manager treated him.
The respondent, who is the owner of the company, denied that he discriminated against the complainant because of his race or that he sexually harassed him. The respondent claimed that the workplace was one where a certain level of banter between employees was tolerated and the complainant had also engaged in such banter.
A conciliation conference was held. The complaint was resolved with an agreement between the parties that the respondent would pay the complainant $10 000 compensation and provide him with a Statement of Service.
Complaint of race discrimination and racial hatred in employment
The complainant, who is Indigenous, stated that during his employment as a labourer with the respondent engineering company he was regularly harassed and vilified because of his race. He claimed that co-workers would call him names such as “black”, “dark”, “half cast” and “coon”. He said the company did not have policies in place to deal with racial abuse and claimed he was not given adequate support to resolve the issues in the workplace.
In reply, the engineering company said that the first time they became aware of the complainant's concerns was when he walked out of the premises and abandoned his employment. The company advised that it has anti-discrimination policies in place and is of the view that these are adequate. The company provided statements from its employees who agreed that they had referred to the complainant as “black” or “dark”, but said that the comments were made in jest and the complainant had laughed when the comments were made.
The complaint was resolved by the respondent agreeing to review and improve its anti-discrimination and harassment policies. This included nominating harassment contact officers and holding regular team meetings in which discrimination issues could be raised. The respondent also agreed to pay the complainant $7400 in general damages.
Alleged race discrimination and racial hatred in the provision of accommodation
The complainant, who is Kenyan, rented a unit from a company through a real estate agency. The complainant claimed that the real estate agent told him that the company wanted him to vacate the property. The complainant said that even though he had negotiated a date on which he would vacate the premises, the company changed the locks on the unit without telling him. The complainant said that as he had nowhere else to go, he had to sleep in a nearby park. The complainant alleged that the next week when he went to the unit to collect his property, he was racially abused by the company director's son who said comments such as “Go back to your country you black bastard” and “f*** off you black c***”. The complainant also claimed that his bed and some of his furniture was missing from the unit.
The company agreed that it had changed the locks on the unit but said that it only did this because the complainant's rent was in arrears. The company director's son denied racially abusing the complainant.
The complaint resolved through a conciliation process with the individual respondent agreeing to pay the complainant $4500 in compensation and attend anti-discrimination training.
Complaint of race discrimination in employment
The complainant had immigrated to Australia from Zimbabwe four years ago. The complainant alleged discrimination because of his race during employment as a tradesperson with the respondent car repair company. He alleged that two of his co-workers made unwelcome remarks about his skin colour and general appearance. He said they referred to him as a “burnt chop” and said white girls were just after him for his “big black c**k”. He also alleged that his work colleagues made an object that resembled a black male penis and placed this object in his toolbox.
In response to the allegations, the owner of the company advised the Commission that he had taken steps to rectify the situation. In particular, he stated that the staff members responsible were informed that if remarks or behaviour of this nature continued, they would face the prospect of dismissal. He also provided the complainant with a letter of acknowledgement which outlined that he understood the seriousness of the complaint.
The complainant advised the Commission that the actions taken by the respondent resolved his complaint.
Allegation of race discrimination, racial hatred and sexual harassment in employment
The complainant, who is of Lebanese background, claimed that she resigned from her employment as a receptionist with the respondent management services company because she had been discriminated against on the basis of her race and subjected to racial hatred and sexual harassment. She alleged that the director of the company sexually harassed her by touching her, propositioning her and making sexually suggestive comments. She also claimed that another manager made negative comments about people from Lebanese or Arabic backgrounds such as “If it was up to me, I would not have hired you. I hate Arabs, I always have” and “I hate Lebanese and I hate Arabs”. She also said that this manager made disparaging remarks about the Lebanese food she ate for lunch. The complainant also claimed that soon after the Cronulla riots, an e-mail was circulated to all company employees vilifying people of Lebanese background. She said that she complained about these events to her employer but no sufficient action was taken to address her concerns.
The company advised that the complainant made a written complaint about sexual harassment which was investigated. The company said the director denied the sexual harassment allegations but agreed to have no further contact with the complainant. The company confirmed that the complainant had also raised concerns about race discrimination by another manager but claimed the complainant resigned before the company could investigate the matter. The manager alleged to have racially discriminated against the complainant denied the allegations.
The parties resolved the complaint through a conciliation process with an agreement that the respondent company would pay the complainant $21 000 compensation.
Complaints of racial hatred, racial discrimination and victimisation in employment
The two complainants, who are of Nigerian ethnic origin, advised they were employed as factory workers with the respondent manufacturing company. They alleged that their supervisor subjected them to racial hatred and racial discrimination in that he made comments such as “Black idiot”, “Come here, you f…… African”, “Hey you, black man, you're rubbish”, “You eat like a monkey” and “Go back to Africa ”. The complainants also alleged that their supervisor verbally and physically threatened them because of their complaints to the Commission. Additionally, the complainants claimed that the company did not respond appropriately to their internal complaints.
In his written response to the Commission, the supervisor denied the allegations. The supervisor claimed that the complainants made their complaints in response to action taken to address their unacceptable workplace behaviour which included challenging his authority and making adverse comments about him in a different language. The company did not respond in writing to the allegations but agreed to participate in a conciliation process.
The complaints against the company were resolved with an agreement that the company would provide the complainants with written apologies and pay each complainant $17 550. This amount represented compensation for hurt and embarrassment and reimbursement of medical and counselling costs. The company also agreed to establish an anti-discrimination policy and associated complaint process; to provide anti-discrimination training to all staff members; and to encourage the supervisor to attend training and counselling.
Alleged race discrimination in the provision of service by an airline
The complainant, who is of Chinese ethnic origin, alleged that when travelling with a group of students of the same ethnic background, a flight attendant acted in a rude and racist manner towards her and the students. The complainant claimed that when boarding the plane, the flight attendant told her the group could not have their allocated seats near the exit and when she queried this, the flight attendant asked her if she could speak English. The complainant said that despite advising the flight attendant that she had lived in Australia for approximately 30 years, the group was told they could not sit in an exit row and were moved to the back of the plane.
The airline advised that the flight attendant had asked the complainant and her associates if they could speak English because they were sitting in an exit row and she needed to explain the safety briefing card to them. The flight attendant said that she asked the party if they would mind moving from the exit seats because she felt they had not listened to her safety briefing or looked over the safety information cards.
The complaint was resolved through a conciliation process. The airline agreed to pay the complainant $750 compensation, provide her with a statement of regret and review staff training in light of the complaint.
Complaint of race discrimination against Indigenous employee
The complainant, who is Indigenous, advised the Commission that he had worked in a customer service role with a Commonwealth government department for six months. He claimed that during his employment his immediate supervisor unjustly criticised his work and questioned him in relation to his personal leave even though he had provided medical certificates for the absences. The complainant said that he lodged an internal grievance about his supervisor and his subsequent probation report recommended termination of his employment. The complainant alleged race discrimination and victimisation by the respondent department.
The Commission prioritised the complaint and contacted the department to advise of the allegations. In response, the department undertook to conduct an internal review of the decision not to permanently appoint the complainant. The department contacted the Commission a few days later and advised that the complainant's ongoing employment had been confirmed. The department also advised that the complainant had been offered career counselling and the option of moving to a different work location.
The complainant informed the Commission that the action taken by the department resolved his complaint.
Alleged race and age discrimination in employment
The complainant, who is over 45 years of age and of Sri Lankan background, alleged discrimination on the basis of his race and age in his employment as a warehouse assistant with the respondent company. He claimed that another employee who was younger than him and of Anglo-Saxon background was given better hours and provided with more assistance than he was. The complainant also claimed that this employee of Anglo-Saxon background would stare at him and make comments such as “Black bastards” and “Black arse holes” whenever he walked by. Additionally, the complainant alleged that he had not been given promotions and salary increments due to him and had only been paid half of the bonuses paid to other staff.
The company denied discriminating against the complainant on the basis of his race or age. The company said that although the complainant and the Anglo-Saxon employee referred to in the complaint had the same job title, they had different duties and hours of work. The company claimed that the complainant was not treated any differently than his co-workers and was not financially disadvantaged at any time. The company also said that the complainant had not raised any concerns with management about race or age discrimination.
The complaint was resolved through a conciliation process. The complainant decided to resign from his employment and the company agreed to pay the complaint his resignation entitlements and $10 000 general damages.
Complaint of race discrimination in the provision of goods and services
Four Aboriginal men complained that when they went to get a drink at a local club with a non-Aboriginal friend, the barman told them that the club does not serve beer to Aboriginal people.
In response to the complaint, the owner advised that the barman who was on duty at the time of the alleged incident was a casual employee and was no longer employed with the club. The owner said that no incident report had been lodged and he was unaware of the alleged incident. The owner claimed that if the matter had been reported to him and the alleged conduct confirmed, he would have dismissed the employee immediately.
The parties agreed to try and resolve the complaint by conciliation. The matter was resolved with the complainants agreeing to accept a verbal apology from the club owner and an offer to attend the club and have a drink with him.
The complainant, who is of Ethiopian origin, claimed that he was discriminated against because of his race during his employment with the respondent manufacturing company. The complainant's allegations included that he was called ‘black b…', referred to as ‘monkey' and asked “Where is there a well developed black country?”. The complainant claimed that he was over scrutinized compared to other employees and that he was rarely acknowledged by co-workers and managers. The complainant said that he eventually resigned because of pressure put on him.
In reply, the company denied that the complainant had been discriminated against because of his race. The company advised that while one employee agreed that he said “How are you, you black b…” to the complainant, this employee claimed that he intended no offence by the words and had apologised to the complainant.
The parties agreed to participate in a conciliation process which was successful. The complaint was resolved with an agreement that the company would pay the complainant $10 000 compensation and provide a verbal reference to prospective employees. The company also agreed to provide anti-discrimination training for its staff.
Alleged race discrimination in accessing facilities at a leisure centre
The complainant, who is of Jordanian origin, stated that in keeping with her customs she wears long sleeve clothing and a head scarf. She claimed that when attending a regular hydrotherapy session at a local leisure centre, a staff member approached her and told her that she was not allowed to enter the pool wearing a long sleeved shirt and scarf. The complainant said that when she told the staff member that she had been swimming in that manner at the centre for three months, the staff member told her that she would be allowed to swim but must shower first. The complainant said that she was embarrassed and humiliated by the action of the staff member.
In response to the complaint the leisure centre stated that it has no policy prohibiting people from wearing long sleeved shirts or head scarfs in wet areas. The centre noted that all members of the public are required to shower before entering the pool. The parties agreed to participate in a conciliation process. The matter resolved with an agreement that the leisure centre would pay the complainant $8 500 compensation and provide her with a written apology.
Complaint of race discrimination in voluntary employment
The complainant, who is of Dutch origin, claimed that he applied to work as a volunteer tourist guide with a non-profit community based organisation. He alleged that his application was delayed and then ultimately rejected because of his race and accent.
In response to the complaint the respondent organisation said that the complainant's application was unsuccessful because he did not have the suitable level of written and oral English language skills required for the job.
The complaint was resolved through conciliation with the organisation agreeing to provide the complainant with a verbal apology and offering the complainant a volunteer position in another section of the organisation. The organisation also agreed to implement procedures whereby prospective volunteers will be provided with information regarding the requirements for the positions they apply for and where the position requires English communication skills, they will be provided with detailed information on the level of skill required.
Alleged racial hatred in employment
The complainant, who is Aboriginal, claimed that while he was visiting a local Police Station as part of his work role, he was offended and humiliated when he overheard police officers making negatives remarks about Aboriginal people. Specifically, the complainant claimed that during a 10-minute period, one officer made the remark "f . . . Abo" at least "ten to fifteen times".
The police station confirmed that it had undertaken an investigation which supported the complainants allegations and recommended disciplinary action be taken against the officer who made the remarks. The officer concerned concurred that he made the alleged comments, but claimed that they were not directed towards the complainant but made with reference to certain Aboriginal young people who had stolen property from his car a few weeks earlier.
The complaint was resolved at a conciliation conference on the basis of a personal apology from the officer concerned and an ex-gratia payment of $2 000 and a statement of regret provided by the department.
Complaint of racial hatred at local club
The complainant, who is of Spanish origin, alleged that he was subjected to offensive comments based on his race when he attended a local club. Specifically, the complainant claimed that when speaking in Spanish with a family member the respondent called him a "wog" told him to speak English and said "Go back to your country".
The respondent claimed that he did not recollect the incident as he had been drinking on the day in question. He said that he may or may not have made the alleged comments.
The complaint was resolved by the complainant accepting an apology from the respondent.
Complaint of discrimination on the grounds of race and religion
The complainant claimed that he was discriminated against in his employment with a large manufacturing company because of his Jewish origin and religious beliefs. In particular, he claimed that while other casual employees were made permanent and new employees were employed, his appointment as a permanent employee was delayed for several months. He also claimed that his computer username was changed from his surname to 'Hitler's failure', and following this incident his wage payments were late and/or incorrect.
The company concurred that the computer username incident took place but denied that the complainant was treated less favourably by the company because of his race and/or religious beliefs. The company advised that the computer incident was investigated but the responsible person could not be identified and the company had apologised to the complainant regarding this incident. The company submitted that the disputes concerning the complainant's employment status and wages were resolved prior to the complaint being lodged with the Commission.
The complaint was resolved through a conciliation process. The employment relationship had broken down and the complaint was resolved on the basis of the complainant accepting an ex-gratia payment of $12 500 and payment of accrued annual leave entitlements.
Allegations of racial hatred in employment
The complainant, who is of Aboriginal descent, claimed that during her employment in an administrative position with a large transport company she was subjected to acts of racial hatred by unidentified staff. Specifically, the complainant claimed that someone left written messages on her desk saying 'G'lly Wog leave work early' and 'Black bitch'. The complainant resigned from her employment following the alleged incident.
The company stated that an investigation was conducted into the complainant's allegations but the responsible staff member(s) could not be identified.
The complaint was resolved through a conciliation process with the complainant accepting an ex-gratia payment of $3 000 and the company's commitment to revise its harassment policy within six months and introduce cross-cultural training within 12 months.
Complaint of sex and race discrimination in employment
The complainant, who is of Bosnian descent, was employed by a large private company as an engineer. She alleged that she was harassed and ostracised by staff, yelled at and belittled and eventually dismissed from employment. She claimed that she was removed from a project and told "it is work for a man not a woman" and was paid less than a man for doing the same work. She claimed that comments were made to her such as "Do not be scared, he is not Milosevic" and you "must behave politely in the country where there exists a much higher level of culture than in Bloody Bosnia". The complainant also alleged that she was told she did not have anything to contribute to a project because she was from "these Eastern countries".
The respondent company denied that the complainant was discriminated against because she was female and claimed that the complainant did not have the relevant supervisory skills for the position. The respondent stated that the complainant was not subjected to harassment on the basis of her race and denied that the alleged comments relating to the complainant's ethnic background were made. The respondent also advised that it had comprehensive affirmative action and anti-discrimination policies and was committed to diversity in the workplace. The respondent claimed that the complainant ceased work to travel overseas.
The matter was resolved through a conciliation process, with the respondent company agreeing to pay the complainant the sum of $20 000 compensation in full and final settlement of the complaint.
Complaint of racial hatred in employment
The complainant, who is of Indian descent, is employed as a carer at a Community Aged Care Centre. The complainant claimed that a resident of the centre subjected her to racial abuse on several occasions, including in the presence of other staff members, calling her a "black bitch", a "f . . . bitch" and suggesting that she return to India. The complainant stated that she was offended, insulted, humiliated and intimidated because of these comments about her racial background.
The respondent acknowledged that his comments were offensive and hurtful to the complainant and he apologised for his behaviour. He claimed that when the comments were made he was experiencing personal difficulties and problems with other residents and staff.
The complainant accepted a written apology from the respondent to resolve her complaint.
The complainant, who is of Chinese origin, was employed by a private utilities company. He claimed that during his employment he was subjected to racial abuse in that co-workers would mimic his accent and make comments such as “Bloody Chin-Chong, the room smells like dim sim” and “Don't hug the chin-chong, he has got AIDS”. The complainant also alleged that he was treated less favourably because of his race in that, in contrast with other employees, he was more frequently rostered to work at lunch time and his views were not considered during his performance review.
The company denied that the complainant was abused because of his race and noted that the individual respondents denied making the alleged remarks. One of the individual respondents concurred that he may have offended the complainant by responding on occasions in a purportedly “Chinese” accent but he claimed this was done in the context of a shared joke. The company also stated that the complainant did not make any official complaint in relation to alleged racial remarks. The company claimed that the other issues raised by the complainant were industrial issues in dispute between the complainant and his supervisor and were not related to the complainant's race.
The complaint was resolved by conciliation. The complainant agreed to withdraw his complaint and the respondent agreed to provide the complainant with a written apology and a work reference and pay him $5 000 in recognition of the embarrassment, humiliation and stress that he may have endured during his employment.
Allegation of race discrimination by liquor store
The complainant, who is Aboriginal, alleged that staff of a liquor store discriminated against him because of the colour of his skin. He stated that he entered the store, had a look around and selected a bottle of beer from the fridge. He claimed that when he approached the counter to pay, the teller said “We want to search you” and the Manager said “I saw you put a can of drink into your jumper”. The complainant refused to allow the staff to search him and told the Manager to call the police. The complainant claims that when the police arrived, they strip searched him and then let him go because they could not find any stolen goods on his person.
The respondent denied race discrimination and advised that the complainant was suspected of theft because of his manner when he was in the store. The respondent claimed that the situation deteriorated because of the complainant's initial reaction and his insistence on being searched by the police.
The matter was resolved by conciliation with the complainant accepting a written apology from the respondent company.
The complainant, a 16 year old Aboriginal girl, stated that at the time of the alleged discrimination she had been employed on a part-time basis by the respondent grocery company for approximately four months. She claimed that on her final day of employment she logged onto her cash register but only worked on the register for about 15 minutes as she was instructed to work in another section. She claimed that when she logged off her cash register she noticed that the register was out by $50 and when she advised the Manager of this he said “what have you done with the money”. The complainant alleged that these words, and the manner in which the Manager spoke to her, amounted to an accusation that she had stolen the money. She claimed that she was treated this way because of her Aboriginality and that another non-Aboriginal employee who made a mistake with her cash register was not treated as she was. The complainant resigned from her employment.
The respondent company denied that the alleged words were said to the complainant and denied that the complainant was accused of stealing the money or treated less favourably than other non-Aboriginal employees. The manager of the store claimed that the complainant was asked to explain why her cash register did not balance and that this was standard practice.
The matter was resolved through telephone discussions with the parties, with the respondent company agreeing to pay the complaint $200 in general damages.
Allegation of racial hatred by neighbour
The complainant is of Vietnamese background and is a tenant in public housing. The complainant alleged that since 1998 she has been subjected to racial hatred by her neighbour. The alleged action of the neighbour included saying “Go back to Vietnam ”, calling her an animal, mimicking her accent and making rude gestures to her. The complainant claimed that despite complaints to the department about her neighbour the department failed to take any action to resolve the matter. The complainant alleged that her racial background was also a factor in the department's failure to resolve her complaint.
While the neighbour denied that she had made the alleged comments or done the alleged acts, she agreed that there have been ongoing disputes between her and the complainant. The department denied that it treated the complainant less favourably because of her race. The department also advised that the complainant's concerns were investigated but the investigation was discontinued as the allegations could not be substantiated.
During the Commission's inquiry process the department approved the neighbour's application for transfer and the complainant agreed to resolve her complaint against her neighbour on that basis. The complaint against the department was resolved on the basis of the department's agreement that ‘racial hatred' would be a factor for consideration in the criteria for housing transfer.
Alleged race discrimination and racial hatred in employment
The complainant, who was originally from Serbia , was employed as a van driver for an Australian Government statutory authority. The complainant alleged that his supervisor made offensive comments about Serbians to him and to others while he was present. For example, the supervisor is alleged to have made comments such as “He is a Serb and Serbs make ethnic cleansing, He might kill you”. The complainant claimed that the company was slow to investigate his internal complaint and that he was victimised for lodging the complaint. A co-worker provided evidence to support the complainant's claim that offensive comments about Serbs had been made in the workplace.
The individual respondent denied making the alleged comments but agreed that he had asked questions about the political situation in Serbia . The individual respondent said that he was an immigrant himself and would not make offensive comments about other people's racial background. While the company indicated that it had extensive EEO and harassment policies, it noted that it had no record of the individual respondent having received training in EEO issues.
The complaint was resolved at a conciliation conference. The company had already transferred the complainant to a job he enjoyed where he no longer had contact with the individual respondent. The respondent company assured the complainant that his career had not been compromised in any way and that steps would be taken to ensure the confidentiality of his complaints. The company also provided the complainant with acknowledgement of the distress he had suffered.
The complainant, who is Indigenous, claimed that on 26 January when he attended work, he saw a notice on the staff notice board entitled ‘Aboriginal application for employment'. He claimed that the mock application form reinforced negative stereotypes about Aboriginal people. For example, in the section entitled ‘Income' the following was written “theft-unemployment-armed robbery” and under the section entitled ‘Abilities' the following was written “rapist, VD spreader, pub fighter”. The complainant said that another copy of the document was found in the storeroom and when he told management about the incidents he was told not to worry about it.
The company claimed that it did not formally investigate the incident as the area where the document was posted was accessible to all employees and contractors. The company said, however, that they placed a notice on all notice boards stating that the document was racist and unacceptable. The notice further stated that if an employee was found to be responsible they would be banned from attending the site. The company confirmed that another copy of the document was found and immediately destroyed. The company claimed that they reacted appropriately and took all reasonable steps to address the incident when it was brought to their attention.
The complaint was resolved by conciliation with the complainant agreeing to withdraw his complaint on the basis that the company would revise its EEO policies and procedures, appoint Harassment Contact Officers, implement cultural awareness training for all staff and provide the complainant with a statement of regret.
Complaint of race and disability discrimination in access to premises
The complainant, who is Aboriginal and has cerebral palsy, alleged that she was treated less favourably on the basis of her race and her disability when trying to enter a hospital to see her sick child. The complainant alleged that the security guard at the hospital initially swore at her and refused her entry because he thought she had been drinking. The complainant claimed that she tried to explain that she was there to visit her baby and the driver of the bus she had travelled in also spoke to the guard and advised him that the complainant had a disability which affects her speech and gait. The complainant claimed that the guard persisted in questioning her as to whether she had been drinking and why she was returning to the hospital late in the evening. The complainant advised that she was eventually allowed to enter the hospital and that she lodged a complaint with a hospital official the day after the incident.
The hospital advised that they had a contractual agreement with the respondent security firm which stipulated that security guards were required to question unidentified persons found on the premises after 8pm. The security firm advised that the guard involved in the matter had left their employment, but from their records it appeared that the guard thought that the complainant had been drinking and questioned the complainant about this when she sought to enter the hospital. The records indicated that the guard agreed that he spoke with the bus driver but denied that he swore at the complainant. The guard claimed that he offered to escort the complainant to the ward but his offer was declined.
The matter was resolved by conciliation. The security firm agreed to pay the complainant $3 000 which included $2 000 in general damages and $1 000 legal costs. The firm also agreed to provide the complainant with a written apology and to introduce a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy. The hospital agreed to pay the complainant $3 000 which comprised $2 000 for general damages and $1 000 legal costs.
Alleged discrimination on the ground of race in the provision of goods and services
The complainant advised that his wife is of Russian background and does not read, write or speak English. The complainant alleged that he was vilified because of his wife's racial background when he contacted the respondent state government department to enquire, on his wife's behalf, about obtaining a particular qualification. The complainant alleged that a female officer answered his call and when he advised the officer that his wife was Russian, the officer said "Oh! A mail order bride eh!" The complainant also alleged that the department discriminated against his wife in that study guides for the qualification are not published in Russian.
The department advised that due to budgetary constraints study guides are not published in various languages and the department was of the view that non-provision of the material in Russian did not constitute discrimination on the ground of race. The department concurred that during a telephone conversation, a part-time Client Relations Consultant had made the alleged statement to the complainant in response to the complainant advising the consultant that he had a "Russian bride".
The complaint was resolved by conciliation with the department agreeing to pay the complainant $1 000 compensation for hurt and humiliation and the Client Relations Consultant agreeing to provide a written apology to the complainant.
Complaint of race discrimination in provision of banking services
The complainant is of Iranian background, does not read, write or speak English and was recently released from detention after being granted refugee status. The complainant claimed that he went with a friend to the local bank to open a savings account. The complainant alleged that he was discriminated against on the basis of his race in that the bank refused to open an account under his name because he does not speak, read or write English and would not allow his friend, who speaks English, to assist him. The complainant stated that the next day, he went to another branch of the same bank and was able to open an account without any problems.
The bank advised that it initially did not open an account for the complainant because it was not satisfied that the complainant was able to understand the terms and conditions pertaining to his responsibilities as an account holder. The bank stated that the complainant was able to open an account at a different branch as an employee at that branch spoke the same language as the complainant. The bank denied race discrimination but agreed that the complainant's inability to communicate in English was a factor in the initial refusal to allow him to open an account.
The matter was resolved by conciliation with the respondent providing a verbal apology to the complainant and agreeing to issue a national bulletin to advise all staff to use the Telephone Interpreter Service to assist customers who have difficulties communicating in English.
Alleged race discrimination by hotel
An Aboriginal elder lodged a complaint on behalf of himself and another Aboriginal person, alleging discrimination on the ground of race by the respondent hotel. The complainant claimed that he and the other complainant had performed at a dance function, showered and then sought to enter the hotel to purchase some cigarettes. The complainant claimed that they were refused service and asked to leave the premises because staff of the hotel said they smelt.
The hotel denied race discrimination and claimed that the complainants were refused entry because of their strong body odour and because they did not meet the hotel's hygiene standards. The hotel stated that the complainants were informed that they were welcome to return after they had showered.
The complaint was resolved at conciliation with the respondent agreeing to pay each complainant $6 000 in general damages and also provide each complainant with a letter of apology.
Alleged race discrimination by bus driver
The complainant, who is an Aboriginal, alleged she was discriminated against by the driver of a public bus. The complainant claimed that when checking the validity of passenger's tickets, the bus driver made racist remarks to Aboriginal passengers by referring to them as "the coloured man in the hat", "you blacks" and "black fellas". The complainant alleged that when she and other passengers objected to this language the driver said "if I had my way, I'd line you all up outside". The complainant advised that she made a complaint directly to the bus service when she returned home.
The respondent company advised that it had conducted an investigation of the complainant's allegations and while the bus driver admitted using the term "coloured" he denied using the terms "blacks" or "black fellas". The company also advised that the driver admitted saying words to the effect "if I had my way everyone would be lined up outside" but claimed this was said in the context of enabling a ticket check because he knew that one passenger did not have the correct ticket. The company also advised that the driver had been dismissed.
The complaint was resolved at conciliation with the company agreeing to develop and implement anti-discrimination policies for inclusion in the driver induction process. The company also agreed to engage a relevant agency to provide an initial series of anti-discrimination forums for all drivers, with follow-up forums to be held annually.
Alleged racial vilification in local council meeting
The complainant, who is a councillor of a local council, claims that at a council meeting the respondent became insulting and argumentative towards him and racially vilified him by making remarks such as "Jews don't understand", "Jews are the same", "Jews don't know better" and "f…king Jews". The complainant claimed that he asked council staff to remove the respondent from the council chamber and that upon being approached by the staff members, the respondent repeatedly referred to the complaint as a "f….ing Jew".
The respondent agreed that he may have made offensive comments against the complainant but he denied making any anti-semitic remarks. The respondent claimed that in his view the complainant has not adequately performed his councillor role as he is only interested in representing Jewish members of the community.
Following several rounds of conciliation discussions by telephone, the parties agreed to resolve the complaint on the basis that the respondent acknowledged that the comments he made hurt and embarrassed the complainant and unreservedly withdrew the comments. Each party also undertook not to disparage or make untrue or defamatory comments about each other to any third party.
The complainant was employed by a large federal government organisation for five years. The complainant claimed that during his employment, he was treated less favourably because he is from Israel , is of the Jewish faith and had work related health problems. The complainant alleged that since 1996, he was subjected to repeated anti-semitic comments, intimidation, isolation, threats of demotion and shift restrictions due to work related health problems. The complainant alleged that the comments he was subjected to included being greeted by a staff member who said "Sieg Heil" and performed a "Nazi" salute, being asked "Why don't you go back to Israel?" and told "I'll send you back to Israel". The complainant claimed that his supervisors, harassment officers, a staff doctor and a union representative all subjected him to less favourable treatment while working at a particular work centre and that management failed to act upon his complaints.
Although the respondent denied the allegations the matter was resolved by conciliation with the respondent organisation agreeing to pay the complainant $9 000 in general damages.
The complainant stated that she was employed as a Play Worker with a community-based family support service and after five years service was appointed to a Team Leader position in August 1999. The complainant alleged that since this time her employer had treated her less favourably because of her race. In particular, the complainant claimed that she was issued with a performance warning based on unfounded allegations and for behaviour which included speaking Chinese to a Chinese-speaking customer. She further alleged that senior officers refused to verify her appointment as Team Leader when co-workers questioned her leadership. The complainant also alleged that she was victimised for lodging internal complaints and that because her complaints were written in a lower standard of English, they were not taken seriously.
The respondent agreed that the allegations made by other staff members against the complainant were unfounded and that the official performance warning was not justified. The respondent also agreed that the complainant had been appointed Team Leader. The respondent stated that, while the complainant may have been treated less favourably by her co-workers, this was because of ‘internal conflicts' rather than the complainant's race.
The complaint was settled by conciliation with the respondent agreeing to issue the complainant with a letter of apology, pay the complainant $15,000 compensation, reimburse costs incurred by the complainant in pursuing the complaint and publish a tribute to the complainant in the organisation's newsletter.
Allegation of racial discrimination in provision of housing
The complainant, who is Aboriginal, claimed that the manager of the public accommodation complex in which she lived had ignored her complaints that a neighbour racially vilified her. The complainant claimed that this neighbour said such things as “die Abo die”, “go home…Abo free zone” “all Abos will die” and “up the whites”. The complainant stated that she was forced to leave the housing complex because of this vilification.
The respondent department denied that the complainant had been discriminated against on the basis of her race and stated that the complainant had complained about annoyance and nuisance, not racial vilification. The respondent claimed that it commenced investigation of the complainant's concerns but the complainant left her accommodation before the investigation could be completed.
The matter was resolved by conciliation with the respondent providing the complainant with four weeks bond, two weeks advance rent, a letter of indemnity for electricity and up to $500 removalist costs, should she require emergency re-housing within the next nine months. The respondent also agreed to backdate the complainant's application for housing from the time she left her accommodation, on the understanding that re-housing would be subject to normal waiting lists.
Alleged racial discrimination and vilification in employment
The complainant was employed as a labourer with an agricultural company. The complainant alleged that during his three months with the company he was treated less favourably and subjected to abuse because of his Aboriginal descent. The complainant alleged that in front of other employees, the boss swore at him, made remarks about his skin colour when a black sheep came into sight, called him ‘eight ball' and held him down and tried to write ‘eight ball' on his head. The complainant also alleged that he was refused shift rotation while this was granted to non-Aboriginal employees. The complainant claimed that he resigned because of the alleged treatment.
The complaint was resolved by conciliation with the respondent company agreeing to pay the complainant $1,500 compensation and re-employ him in a different location.
Allegation of racial vilification at football match
The complainant, who was of African descent, claimed that the respondent racially vilified him during a football match calling him a “f***ing nigger”, a “black monkey” and saying he would “send (him) back to Africa on a boat”.
The respondent denied he made the alleged comments.
The matter was resolved by conciliation with the respondent providing the complainant with a written apology which stated that he “apologises for any wrong doing or distress caused through his verbal attack on the field”.
Complaint of race discrimination by Citizen's Club
The complainant claimed that she was speaking to a friend in her first language, which is not English, while waiting for an appointment at a Senior Citizens Club. The complainant alleged that the Secretary of the Club approached her and said “Be quiet, this is an Australian Club and you ought to speak English. This is the Club rule”. The complainant complained to her local Member of Parliament about this. The complainant stated that when the local member's staff contacted the club, the Secretary advised that “speaking English only” was a rule in the Club's constitution.
While the Club Secretary initially denied the allegations, she subsequently admitted making the alleged remarks. The President of the Club advised the Commission that there has never been a policy that people must speak English while on the Club's premises.
The complaint was resolved by conciliation with the Secretary of the Club providing a written personal apology to the complainant. The Secretary was also counselled by the Club Committee.
Allegation of race discrimination and racial vilification in employment
The complainant who is of Indian origin is an employee of a Commonwealth department. The complainant alleged that since commencing employment in 1997 he had been subjected to discriminatory treatment which included colleagues saying “we don't want blacks on this table” and calling him a “black c***”. The complainant alleged that on one occasion in 1998 three co-workers placed a canvass bag over his head and pulled him around the room saying “we'll put him back on a boat to India ”. The complainant also claims that in 1999 he was removed from his ordinary rostered duties because a co-worker refused to work with him on account of his race and his colour. The complainant stated that he complained to management but no appropriate action was taken. The complainant noted that he had been involved in disciplinary proceedings in 1999 arising out of an incident relating to the vilification which resulted in him being demoted and transferred out of his previous work environment.
The respondent department denied that the complainant had been discriminated against on the basis of his race or colour. The respondent stated that in 1999 the complainant had threatened a fellow employee with a knife and a subsequent investigation had lead to disciplinary action against the complainant. The department also submitted that they were not vicariously liable for any unlawful conduct as they had taken all reasonable steps to prevent such conduct. The named individual respondents denied they had acted as alleged.
The complaint was resolved by conciliation on the following terms: payment of $10,500 general damages; payment of the complainant's legal fees; apologies from the two individual respondents; promotion of the complainant.
Racial vilification in radio broadcast
The complainant who is Aboriginal, lodged a complaint against a local radio station. The complainant alleged that the reading out of an anonymous facsimile titled "Australian Apology to the Aborigines" was racially offensive to her, her family and the Indigenous community generally.
The management of the radio station acknowledged that the content of the facsimile was inappropriate and offensive to Indigenous Australians and that they had made a mistake in reading it on air. The radio station advised that it had taken action against the radio announcer and had aired an apology on four separate occasions. The complainant indicated that she was satisfied with this action taken by the radio station. As part of the resolution of the complaint the respondent also agreed to provide the complainant with a written apology, to train their on-air staff regarding racial vilification and to meet with Indigenous community leaders.
Complaint of race discrimination by retail store
Three complainants who are Aboriginal, alleged that a salesperson refused to sell them a bottle of alcohol and other goods. The complainants claimed that the salesperson said she was complying with an instruction by Police not to serve Aboriginal people due to past trouble involving Aboriginal patrons.
The respondent did not dispute that the complainants had been refused service and also acknowledged that no such instruction had been issued by Police. The respondent claimed there had been a misunderstanding in passing information on to staff about an earlier customer incident.
The complaint was resolved through the conciliation process with the respondent agreeing to provide the complainants with private and public written apologies. Other settlement terms were not disclosed.
Alleged racial vilification in provision of goods and services
The complainant claimed that she stopped at the respondent service station and asked to borrow some tools to fix her car. The complainant claimed she was told the company did not lend tools to the general public. The complainant stated that when she made enquires of another staff member within the office, an argument ensued. The complainant alleged she was called a "black bitch, f... mole", told to go back to her own country and was chased out of the shop.
The respondent denied that the staff member had made any racial comments. The respondent claimed that the complainant had called the staff member a racist name and had caused damage to property within the shop.
The matter was resolved with the complainant and respondent providing apologies to each other.
Complaint of race discrimination by real estate agency
The complainant, who is of Aboriginal descent, alleged that he and his family had been discriminated against because of his race. The complainant stated that his family were renting a house from the respondent real estate agency. The complainant alleged that the proprietor of the real estate agency said, with reference to his partner who is non-Aboriginal, "Do you prefer white women?". The complainant also alleged that the proprietor referred to the complainant's relationship as a "mixed relationship" and in conversations with his partner called him `black' and `coloured man'. The complainant also claimed that the proprietor said she would have to notify the landlord of the complainant's Aboriginality. The complainant alleged that his race was a reason why his family was later evicted from the property.
The proprietor denied that she had made comments regarding the complainant's skin colour, Aboriginality and relationship. The proprietor also denied that the complainant's race was a reason why the lease had not been renewed. The proprietor stated that the property was always only going to be leased for a six month period prior to being offered for sale.
The matter was settled through conciliation for an amount of $1000.
The complainant, who is of German descent, alleged that he was racially vilified by an employee of a communication company who was working outside his home.
The complainant alleged that the respondent made a `Nazi' salute to him after he asked the respondent to move the company vehicle from his driveway.
In conciliation the respondent company advised that it had reprimanded the employee. The respondent company also provided the complainant with a written apology.
Complaint of racial vilification and discrimination in employment
The complainant, who is of Indian descent, alleged that since commencing employment with the respondent state department he had been subjected to racial abuse including racially offensive and threatening mail. The complainant alleged that he suffered harassment through persistent allegations about, and investigations of, impropriety in his work practices. He alleged that in comparison with other staff he had greater difficulty obtaining staff benefits and had been given fewer promotional opportunities. The complainant also alleged that he had been unreasonably prevented from resuming his normal duties after a period of absence from work.
The respondent department did not dispute that some incidents of racial abuse had occurred in the past. However, the respondent claimed that management had appropriately dealt with these incidents at the time. The respondent denied more recent incidents and claimed that any animosity towards the complainant was not because of his colour or race but because he was a new staff member. The respondent denied that the complainant had been treated less favourably than other employees in relation to access to staff benefits and promotional opportunities.
The complaint was settled at a conciliation conference with the department agreeing to pay the complainant $8,000 compensation, issue the complainant with a letter of regret and provide ongoing Equal Employment Opportunity training for staff.
Alleged racial vilification and harassment in employment
The complainant alleged that the sales manager in the small business where he worked displayed aggressive behaviour and made personal threats towards him because of his race. The complainant alleged that the sales manager called him "Slimy Pommie Git" and "English Slimy Prick" and said "You think this is harassment? I'll follow you around and be in your face all the time and make your life hell".
The complainant claimed that he met with the manager of the office to discuss the problem but felt the manager had ignored the racial discrimination issue. The complainant also stated that he complained to the managing director of the company but received no response. The complaint was resolved through conciliation with the company agreeing to pay the complainant his outstanding staff entitlements and to acknowledge the complainant's hurt feelings.
Alleged racial vilification and discrimination by school teacher
Several Aboriginal students alleged that they had been racially vilified by their teacher. The complainant's claimed that during an Aboriginal Studies lesson, the teacher asked the class to provide a list of words which describe Aboriginal people. The complainants claimed that when a student said `dirty' `smelly' the teacher said that these were good words and wrote them on the blackboard. However when someone suggested `beautiful' the teacher did not write this word on the board.
The teacher denied that any offensive words were used apart from `dirty' which he claims was a word suggested by an intellectually disabled student. The teacher claimed that if he had said "that is a good word" it would have been only to acknowledge that the word "dirty" could be linked with perceptions of Aboriginal people. The teacher's employer denied that the teacher's behaviour was inappropriate.
The complaints were settled at conciliation with the employer agreeing to provide private tutoring to the students; community room at the school for Aboriginal families which would be used to provide a meeting place for the principal, teachers and families; each student with a schoolbook and clothing allowance; each student with access to career guide programs; and cultural awareness training for staff.
The employer also agreed to review school policy and practice relating to Aboriginal students and to undertake a review of policies relating to race discrimination.
Alleged racial vilification at holiday resort
The complainant claimed that he was racially vilified during an argument with the owner of a shop within the resort. The complainant stated that he was waiting for assistance with his car which was parked outside the shop. The complainant claimed that an argument eventuated when the shop owner yelled at him to move his vehicle. The complainant alleged that on hearing the complainant speak German to his companions the owner said "f.. off you German bastards".
The complaint was resolved by an apology from the shop owner.
Complaint of racial vilification and assault
Two prisoners lodged complaints of racial discrimination against their custodial officers. The complainants claimed that during an altercation with the officers, derogatory comments were made about their country of origin and they were called ‘black disease'. One complainant also alleged that he was physically assaulted by one of the officers. The respondent confirmed that an altercation had occurred but claimed that an internal investigation had found no evidence to support the allegations.
The matter was resolved through the conciliation process. The complainants had been released from prison when settlement negotiations took place. The respondent agreed to provide the complainants with a written apology and financial compensation of $ $5500 and $9500.
Complaint of discrimination in selection for employment
The complainant alleged he had been discriminated against on the basis of his race and national origin during the selection process for a position as a University lecturer. The complainant stated that he was the only applicant for the position but was not considered for the position because he was of a particular race. The University denied that the selection process was discriminatory but did concede that there had been administrative problems with the process.
The matter was resolved by payment of $7 000 compensation to the complainant.
The complainant claimed that he had been racially vilified when he double parked his vehicle to load some deliveries. The complainant claimed the respondent swore at him, told him to ‘go back to China ' and then got out of his car and punched him. The respondent did not dispute that the assault took place but alleged that he was provoked. The respondent denied that he assaulted the complainant because of his race.
The complaint was resolved through the conciliation process for a written apology and payment of $1 500 to the complainant.
Complaint regarding journal advertisement
The complainant claimed that a medical journal and a pharmaceutical company were inciting racial hatred when the journal published an advertisement for a non-steroidal medication. The photograph accompanying the advertisement was of a Chinese swimmer with the caption ‘at least some things in this world are still steroid free.' The respondent acknowledged that the advertisement could be perceived to be offensive to Chinese people and agreed to provide a written apology in two journals within two months of the date of the agreement.
Complaint of discrimination in employment
The complainant claimed that she was the subject of a racially offensive comment made by the wife of the owner of the shop in which she worked. The complainant claimed that the owner's wife instructed the supervisor to ‘chop that Asian bitch's hours until we get rid of her.' The complainant claims that she resigned because of the pressure placed on her by the owners and was so distressed that she sought counselling. The complainant provided two witness statements in support of her complaint. The respondent denied that the complainant was treated less favorably because of her race and claimed that the complainant resigned because she could not do the work.
The complaint was resolved through the conciliation process. The respondent agreed to provide the complainant with a written apology and financial compensation comprising four weeks wages and reimbursement of counselling expenses.
Complaint of discrimination due to accent
The complainant claimed he was discriminated against on the basis of his national origin when he applied for a job as a telephone customer service officer. The complainant claimed that during the telephone interview the manager said ‘you have an accent and I find it difficult to understand you'. This led to a dispute between the two and the complainant claimed that he was told that he would not be given the job. The manager denied making the comment and did not recall speaking to the complainant.
After further inquiries the matter settled with the respondent providing the complainant with a written apology for any hurt feelings.
Complaint of assault and vilification
The complainant, an Aboriginal woman, claimed that she was racially vilified and assaulted by a security guard. The complainant claimed she was called ‘gin' and beaten around the face. The complainant further claimed that the local police did not pursue her complaint against the security guard on the night of the assault nor later when she attended the station to make a statement.
The complaint was resolved through the conciliation process. The complainant was provided with a statement of regret and $2 000 compensation. It was also agreed that the police would undertake cultural awareness training within six months of the date of the agreement.
Complaint of racial vilification in radio broadcast
The complainant, who is Maori, alleged that a radio announcer, when referring to a sporting team said ‘all those filthy, dirty Maoris'. Shortly after the broadcast, the radio station directed the announcer to provide an on-air apology and terminated the announcer's employment. The complainant was satisfied with the action taken by the radio station.
The complainant stated that she approached the respondent at a set of traffic lights and requested that he make a donation to a charitable organisation for which she was collecting. The complainant alleged that the respondent swore at her, said “you Asians go back to your own country” and assaulted her. The complainant's father-in-law was a witness to the incident. The matter was resolved by conciliation with the respondent agreeing to pay the complainant $1,500 financial compensation and provide a verbal apology.
The complainant alleged that he was referred to as “black” by a co-worker on at least two occasions. He further alleged that, when he advised his supervisor of the comments, little or no action was taken to redress the situation. The complainant also alleged that because he complained he was given fewer work shifts than his co-workers. The respondent's company stated that a full investigation of the complainant's concerns had been undertaken. The company claimed that it was the complainant's lack of availability, not the fact that he complained, which led to him receiving less work.
The complaint was resolved by conciliation. The respondent agreed to make the company's grievance handling procedures more accessible to staff, to provide the complainant with an apology and pay the complainant financial compensation of $3,425. A written apology was also provided by the co-worker who allegedly made the comments.
Purchase of equipment
An Aboriginal organisation alleged that it had been discriminated against by a government department on the grounds of race as the department had rejected the organisation's application to purchase equipment at the non-commercial rate. The department denied that race was a factor in its decision and stated that the complainant organisation's application did not meet the required criteria.
In conciliation, the department agreed to provide the complainant organisation with the equipment at non-commercial rates, subject to certain conditions.
The complainant alleged her neighbour made insulting racially based comments about her in public. The complainant alleged that her neighbour said “You don't belong here. Get back to where you come from”. The neighbour denied saying the alleged words but advised the Commission that she was willing, in the hope of a more harmonious neighbourhood, to apologise for any perceived hurt that the complainant felt as a result of the incident. The complainant accepted the neighbour's apology as settlement of the complaint.
Harassment at work
The complainant alleged that he was subjected to racial abuse by co-workers who called him “coconut head” and “gorilla”. The complainant claimed that after years of such abuse he complained to management. The complainant stated that, following a management investigation, he was subjected to further acts of discrimination and due to the resulting stress was forced to take sick leave. The complainant provided medical evidence of his stress related condition. The respondent stated that there was evidence that the alleged events occurred. However as no individual employee could be identified as being responsible, no action could be taken by the company.
At conciliation the respondent agreed to make arrangements for the complainant to work on a different shift, reinstate the complainant's sick leave and annual leave, provide the complainant with an employment reference, implement discrimination policies, provide Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) training for managers and allow the complainant to take part in EEO training with a view to becoming a harassment officer within the company. The complainant was also paid $10,000 financial compensation for hurt and humiliation.
Termination of employment
The complainant, a white Australian woman, lodged a complaint against her previous employer, an Aboriginal organisation. The complainant alleged that an Aboriginal co-worker made derogatory comments about her racial background. The complainant stated that she made a complaint to management and the co-worker received a written warning. The complainant's employment was later terminated and the complainant alleged that this was because of her race. The respondent organisation denied the allegations and stated that the complainant's contract was not renewed because of her performance and complaints about her by co-workers and clients.
The complaint was resolved by conciliation. The respondent agreed to provide the complainant with a written apology, to pay financial compensation for lost wages ($1,038) and institute workplace grievance procedures.
Offensive comments by customer
The complainant is employed in a customer service position with a financial institution. The complainant alleged that while serving a customer he had difficulty with the transaction and in response the customer said “ I don't want it from you you're not an Australian, you don't know your work, go back to where you came from”. The customer denied making the alleged comment but agreed that there had been a dispute between himself and the complainant. The complainant provided evidence from his co-workers who witnessed the incident.
The complaint was resolved by the respondent providing the complainant with a written apology and financial compensation of $300 for hurt and humiliation.
The complainant worked in the reception area of a company. She alleged that while serving the respondent, the respondent made a derogatory reference to the complainant's Aboriginality, in hearing of other customers. In conciliation, the respondent agreed to provide a public apology.
An Aboriginal complainant alleged that, in sorting out a mix up over travel arrangements, the respondent's employees favoured a non-Aboriginal customer, resulting in the cancellation of the complainant's booking and her having to wait three hours to travel. In conciliation, the respondent acknowledged that the mix up was their fault and acknowledged the complainant's sense of grievance. While denying any discriminatory treatment because of the complainant's Aboriginality, the respondent agreed to pay financial compensation of $11 000.
A complaint of racial discrimination was made by an Aboriginal couple against a Real Estate Agent through whom the couple were renting accommodation. It was claimed and confirmed that a property manager asked the owner of the property whether he minded renting to people who are Aboriginal. The couple claimed that the property manager followed up arrears in payment of rent more energetically than with other tenants and undertook property inspections more frequently.
During the investigation of the complaint, the property manager was counselled in relation to her actions and chose to leave her employment. The manager and owner of the Real Estate Agency agreed to pay the couple $900 compensation for hurt feelings and provided the couple with a written apology. An officer of the Commission ran a half day training session on the Racial Discrimination Act for staff at the Real Estate Agency.
Refusal of service
The complainants, three members of a remote Aboriginal community, alleged that when they attempted to join two white friends for drinks at the poolside of the hotel where the friends were registered guests, they were asked to leave because they were not wearing shoes, even though the friends and several other hotel guests in that area were also not wearing shoes. The complainants believed that they were treated in this way because of their race. When informed of the complaint the hotel manager was very apologetic. He advised that the duty manager, who was the subject of the complaint, no longer worked for the hotel and would definitely not be reemployed because management was aware that he did not relate well with Aboriginal customers. The manager confirmed that the hotel had a non-discriminatory policy and that the way in which the complainants had been treated was totally unacceptable. His apology was accepted by the complainants and the file closed as conciliated.
An employee in the manufacturing sector alleged she had been the subject of racist taunts for several years by her co-workers. She said that she had become isolated in her workplace and thather attempts to stand up for herself had been met with increased hostility. Although she complained to her supervisors, she said they were unable to exert any pressure for changes of behaviour by her co-workers.
Following a conciliation conference, the respondent agreed to pay financial compensation and implement a training program and grievance process to address harassment in the workplace.
Accent at work
The complainant alleged he was denied the opportunity to apply for an advertised position because of his accent. The complainant alleged that he rang the employer about the vacancy but was told by the employer he was not suitable because of his accent. A statement confirming the allegation was provided by an employee of a large job placement agency who was told that the complainant was not a suitable applicant for the position because of his accent.
The respondent denied the allegations but provided $5 000 as an ex-gratia payment to the complainant. Both parties watched a video developed by the Commission called Accents Are Everywhere as part of the conciliation process.
The complainant alleged that he was discriminated against in the terms and conditions under which employment was offered because of his race. The complainant was employed by a large international organisation, whose head office was based overseas. The complainant claimed that, because he was a different race from the managers who were appointed from overseas, he was denied the opportunity to attend work functions and denied access to training and promotion. He claimed that staff notices were not written in English and that, as a result, he missed out on information that was necessary for him to perform his duties effectively.
The employer denied that it had discriminated against the employee on the basis of race. It was confirmed that cultural differences between management and employees had led to misunderstandings and general difficulties.
The complainant sought damages for loss of promotional opportunities, stress and humiliation. The complaint was settled for $41 263, a verbal apology and the provision of discounted products produced by the respondent company. The respondent company agreed to implement training programs for staff at all levels to ensure fair policies and practices for employment and promotion.
The complainant was employed as a shop assistant. She claimed that while serving a customer, an ex-employee entered the shop and screamed abuse which was racially offensive. Witness statements from the complainant s co workers and customers in the store supporting her allegations were provided. In settlement of the complaint the respondent agreed to pay $200 compensation for hurt feelings to the complainant. A written apology was also provided.
Chapman, Anna; Mason, Gail --- "Women, Sexual Preference and Discrimination Law: A Case Study of the NSW Jurisdiction"  SydLawRw 21; (1999) 21(4) Sydney Law Review 525
1. introduction, 2. research methodology, 3. grounds and areas of complaint, type of discrimination alleged, a. grounds and areas of complaint, b. type of discrimination, c. summary of grounds, areas and type of discrimination, 4. nature of the conduct subject to complaint, a. lesbian relationships, b. harassment, c. vilification cases, d. summary of the conduct subject to complaint, 5. complainants, a. were complainants acting as individuals, b. occupation of complainants, c. summary of complainants, 6. respondents, a. respondents in homosexuality discrimination complaints, b. respondents in homosexuality vilification complaints, c. repeat respondents, d. summary of respondents, 7. processes of investigation and conciliation, a. investigation, b. notification to respondents, c. response of respondents, d. conciliation conferences, e. legal and other representation, f. time frames, g. summary of investigation and conciliation, 8. outcomes, a. declined cases, b. discrimination complaints that were not declined by the board, c. cases referred to the eot, d. cases not settled and not proceeded with, e. cases settled, f. summary of outcome, 9. conclusions, women, sexual preference and discrimination law: a case study of the nsw jurisdiction.
ANNA CHAPMAN [#] & GAIL MASON [*]
Australian States and territories have in place anti-discrimination statutes which provide a mechanism for lodging complaints alleging discrimination on specified grounds. Most of these statutes now contain provisions relating to sexual preference. New South Wales was first to introduce such protection through an amendment in 1982 to that States Anti-Discrimination Act . This amendment added a new Part to the Act prohibiting direct and indirect discrimination on the ground of homosexuality.  Other jurisdictions followed and apart from Western Australia, all have now incorporated variously worded provisions prohibiting discriminatory treatment related to sexual preference. 
In March 1994 the New South Wales jurisdiction was further bolstered to permit the making of complaints in relation to public acts that vilify a person or group of people on the ground of homosexuality.  In addition, the Act was amended to include an offence of serious homosexual vilification, the key ingredient of which is that the perpetrator threatens, or incites others to threaten, physical harm towards a person or their property on the ground of homosexuality.  Vilification provisions relating to sexuality have not been enacted in other jurisdictions, they remain unique to New South Wales.
The vast majority of discrimination and vilification complaints lodged in Australia under all prescribed grounds are brought to a conclusion through investigation and conciliation. The different statutes in Australia provide for complaints to be lodged with a statutory officer or agency in New South Wales this function is performed by the Anti-Discrimination Board (the Board) which investigates each complaint and in most cases, attempts to resolve the complaint through conciliation. These processes are confidential and only limited information about the passage and outcomes of complaints is on the public record.  It is only if conciliation is thought to be inappropriate or has been tried and failed that a complaint which is accepted by an agency may proceed to a public hearing before a specialist tribunal. In New South Wales, until 1998, this was the Equal Opportunity Tribunal (EOT).  In practice, only a very small proportion of complaints progress to such a hearing (approximately 5 per cent).  The law in action in anti-discrimination jurisdictions takes place largely in a privatised setting of alternative dispute resolution.
There is a dearth of publicly available information about the nature, processes of investigation and conciliation, and outcomes of discrimination and vilification complaints lodged under sexuality grounds, particularly in relation to women complainants. Although there exists a modest body of Australian empirical work on complaints under the grounds of race and sex  and also general accounts relevant to all prescribed grounds,  this work only indirectly touches upon the specifics of complaints lodged under sexual preference grounds. The information that is available (including annual reports and other publications of the various agencies that administer the legislative provisions) raises several important questions about the law in action in this area. It suggests that although more complaints have been lodged annually under the New South Wales homosexuality discrimination provisions than under any other sexual preference ground in an Australian anti-discrimination statute,  the number of discrimination complaints and vilification complaints is relatively few in comparison to reported levels of discrimination and harassment experienced by lesbians and gay men.  Notably, women lodge far fewer of the complaints under sexual preference grounds than do men. Women have lodged approximately 17 per cent of the homosexuality vilification complaints and up to around 33 per cent of the homosexuality discrimination complaints in New South Wales.  The proportion of women complainants is generally lower in other jurisdictions. In addition, few complaints lodged under sexual preference grounds in Australia have proceeded past the confidential processes of conciliation to a full hearing before an antidiscrimination tribunal.  Until 1997, in none of these cases was the complainant a woman.  There is then a real paucity of tribunal decision-making in relation to sexual preference discrimination, particularly as it relates to women. Importantly some annual reports of the ADB indicate that discrimination complaints lodged under the NSW homosexuality provisions have been less likely to proceed to a hearing before the EOT than complaints lodged under most other grounds in the NSW Act. 
This paper builds on existing Australian empirical research by profiling the conciliation of discrimination and vilification complaints lodged by women under the homosexuality ground in the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW). It explores the nature of the conduct subject to complaint under homosexuality provisions and seeks to draw out the patterns evident in these complaints. In this way the paper adds to the literature on the characteristics of discrimination and harassment experienced by lesbians and gay men. In addition, it considers the processes and outcomes of confidential conciliation as they operate in relation to this group of women complainants. Overall, our object is to provide a knowledge base that goes some way toward addressing the lack of information about discrimination, sexual preference, and the law.
The Board opens a file (and allocates a number) in relation to each complaint it receives. Each case file contains correspondence (including the letter of complaint), notes of telephone conversations and other documents relevant to the particular complaint. We examined the Boards files for complaints lodged by women solely under the homosexuality discrimination and vilification provisions and those lodged under these provisions plus some other ground. Confining our research to complaints that had been closed between January 1993 and February 1997 produced a total of 51 files. One of these was clearly not intended to be a complaint but was rather in the nature of a written inquiry. For this reason it has been excluded from analysis.
Quantitative and qualitative data was extracted from the remaining 50 files using a pre-tested data collection schedule designed to summarise the details of the complaint and the processes of investigation and conciliation. All data was extracted in compliance with a confidentiality protocol that maintained the anonymity of all parties. In addition, the Boards Complaint Handling Manual was examined and interviews were conducted with the Manager of the Complaints Resolution Branch and the Manager of the Education Unit. The structure of this paper adopts the headings used to record the relevant data in the case files.
The identification of both the ground or grounds of the complaint and the aspect of life in which the alleged conduct occurred appears to be the result of an informal process involving both the complainant and the Board. Often the complainants letter will quite clearly state the ground and/or area of complaint. In other cases this may not occur. Each complaint handler determines these categorisations from the information in the written complaint and any accompanying notes or documents. This categorisation is then recorded on a data entry sheet attached to each file. The following tables reflect these categorisations of the Board for all 50 complaints closed during the four year time period. 
As this table indicates the vast majority of complaints were lodged under the ground of homosexuality discrimination alone. Included in this category are two complaints in which the complainant claimed that she was discriminated against because of the homosexuality of a person with whom she was associated. In the one complaint that involved homosexuality discrimination in conjunction with another (non-homosexuality) ground, this ground was sex discrimination. This complaint was lodged by a flight attendant who identified the conduct as sex-based and sexuality-based harassment by her supervisor. Initial categorisation decisions made by ADB complaint handlers are often based upon what can be relatively limited information provided at the outset by the complainant. Whilst this practice appears to work effectively in most cases
Table 1: Grounds of Complaint
there were some instances where we, with the hindsight of further documentation within the files, questioned the appropriateness of some of these initial classifications. For example, in one case, two women in a relationship with each other sought to make overseas travel arrangements through a travel agency. An employee of this agency, having been informed in confidence that one of the women was HIV positive, breached this confidence and as a consequence the immigration authorities in the country of destination learnt of her HIV status. She was denied a visa to that country. Both women lodged a complaint. It appears to us that these complaints would have been more appropriately categorised as disability discrimination and discrimination on the basis of association with a person with a disability.
In terms of the area of complaint, Table 2 below indicates that close to half the complaints related to the area of employment. Approximately one third related to the provision of goods and services. These figures are generally reflective of the Boards statistics in relation to all complaints that the Board receives, although it is noted that a higher percentage of the complaints in our study related to goods and services than the Board generally receives.  Some of the cases in our study involved more than one incident or more than one area of complaint. Table 2 reflects the way in which the officer has categorised what he or she perceives to be the main area of complaint.
In addition to the grounds and areas of complaint, we were interested to determine whether the discrimination complaints in our study involved issues and claims of direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, or both. Indirect discrimination provisions are generally thought to be under utilised in Australia. Commentators have suggested that this reflects a range of factors including a lack of understanding and consciousness by the general public of the concept of indirect discrimination, an under-recognition of indirect discrimination by conciliators, and bureaucratic imperatives of agencies which favour focusing on issues of direct discrimination over potentially more complex, and so time-consuming, issues of indirect discrimination. 
Only three case files in our study contained explicit reference to the type of discrimination raised in the allegations two noted direct discrimination and the third, indirect discrimination. Despite there being space on the case file data entry sheet to record whether the complaint is one of direct or indirect discrimination, this was rarely completed by the complaint handler. Although the factual allegations and other material contained in the case files is not sufficient to form any firm view about this matter, it appears to us that claims of indirect discrimination are potentially found in one-quarter of the case files in our study. These related to, for example, practices or policies of respondents, particularly as they impacted on lesbian couple relationships (the presence of which in the case
Table 2: Areas of Complaint
a. This category includes two complaints about the differential impact of legal rules and discretionary government decision-making on same-sex relationships and a complaint about the pictorial portrayal of lesbians in a mainstream magazine. These three cases were all declined by the Board see below
files is discussed below). In their study of complaints of sex discrimination handled in the Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission, the South Australian Commission and the Sydney office of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC), Hunter and Leonard formed the view that potential claims of indirect discrimination could be seen in 18.4 per cent of the complaints in their study.  It is possible that our higher estimation may be attributable to the prevalence of couple relationships in our study. Discrimination against a relationship appears, by its nature, to raise issues about the differential impact of policies and practices on different forms of relationship.
The average complaint in our study was one of homosexuality discrimination and involved the concept of direct discrimination. Yet a sizeable proportion of cases did raise potential issues of indirect discrimination, particularly in relation to lesbian relationships. Complaints were most likely to be lodged in relation to employment, rather than other areas such as accommodation, the provision of goods and services etc.
In this section of the paper we seek to profile what we see as being the nature of the conduct subject to complaint in the 50 case files examined. This includes considering some of the main distinctions between the cases, as well as drawing out the commonalities that link individual complaints. Two pronounced themes are identifiable in the qualitative data we collected. These are the presence of an actual or assumed lesbian relationship and secondly, the prevalence of harassment. Each of these is examined separately. Complaints lodged under the homosexuality vilification provisions also warrant separate exposition.
Prior to exploring these themes a word of caution is warranted. We are mindful that the information upon which we base this section of our paper is drawn from the case files of the Board. Clearly this information has been constructed in light of the requirements of the Act and the documentation contained within these files is partial in several respects. It should not be taken to represent objective information of the full circumstances of each case and nor does it necessarily contain all that might be potentially important in terms of the Acts requirements.
The presence of an actual or presumed same sex couple relationship is a notable feature in the complaints. Indeed 27 out of the 45 complaints alleging discrimination (60 per cent) revealed some presence of a lesbian relationship as a factor in the alleged treatment.  This arose in three main contexts: policy and practice type claims; employment situations; the provisions of goods, services and accommodation.
Thirteen of the 27 discrimination complaints with a connection to a lesbian relationship raise policy and practice type claims (48.1 per cent). We viewed policy and practice type issues as being ones which on their face raised what appeared to be a (formal or informal) policy or practice of the respondent which had potential impact on lesbians as a group. In this sense the complaint had direct implications beyond the particular complainant (and, where relevant, her partner). Although arguably all complaints alleging homosexuality discrimination involve issues of systemic heterosexism extending beyond the individual complainant, it was nonetheless possible to identify a group of case files in which it was apparent from the material available that the conduct complained of was part of a wider practice. In many of these cases it was apparent from the file that the respondent acknowledged the existence of the policy decision or practice, in several cases seeking to justify it by reference to, for example, existing legal rules or business necessity.
These 13 policy and practice type complaints arose in varied circumstances. One related to New South Wales stamp duty law which exempted property transfers between partners in heterosexual relationships whilst subjecting transfers between partners in same-sex relationships to full tax. Two were about the policies of health insurance funds that did not recognise same sex couples for family cover. In another complaint two women and their children were denied a family ticket for a chair-lift ride on the basis that the policy of the service provider did not recognise them as a family. In another case, the proprietor of a guesthouse refused a lesbian couple accommodation at her bed and breakfast explaining to the women that homosexuals are not welcome in her house. Two complaints were lodged by women who were directed by a nightclub proprietor to stop kissing because he had recently decided to change the image of the club and get rid of that sort of reputation (the words used in the letter of complaint).
The number of complaints relating to the ways in which lesbian couple relationships are disadvantaged by formal practices and policies, including legal rules and government policy, is notable and would seem to reflect that there is much discrimination against non-heterosexual intimate relationships.  Much of this was lawful at the time these complaints were lodged and is still lawful today. Same sex couples are not explicitly and directly protected under either sexual preference grounds or marital status grounds in anti-discrimination statutes. It is only in the last three years that a tribunal has recognised that discrimination against a homosexual couple may amount to discrimination on the ground of homosexuality.  In addition, unfavourable treatment of same sex relationships by other legislation, such as the Stamp Duties Act 1920 (NSW), has always been lawful.  The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby has identified 160 pieces of NSW legislation that appear on their face to discriminate against same-sex couples. 
Ten of the 27 discrimination complaints which contained the presence of a lesbian relationship are found in the area of employment (37 per cent). In some of these cases it appeared probable from the case file that the supposed lesbian relationship existed more in the minds of co-workers than in reality. This construction seemed to be built on a view that lesbian co-workers are likely to be having sex with each other and also that lesbians are sexually predatory. So, for example, in one case the complainant describes how a male co-worker had told a community service worker who was visiting the complainants workplace that she ought to watch out for [the complainant], shes one of those lesos. She likes to order you around because it makes her feel butch and she tries to crack on to the work experience girls (the complainants words). The impact of this sort of workplace environment is quite clear it isolates lesbians from women friends and allies at work and at the same time provides a powerful discouragement against being those allies and friends.
Complaints involving lesbian relationships also related to the provision of goods, services and accommodation. For example, one complaint was that a real estate agent had preferred a heterosexual couple over the offer made by two lesbian couples to purchase a house. In a case involving emergency housing, a woman was given notice to vacate after the manager learnt that she had commenced a sexual relationship with another woman resident. The substance of a third case was that a surgeon had refused to perform surgery to further improve the transgender complainants constructed vagina on the basis that she was in a sexual relationship with a woman. The complainant alleged that the specialist had said that given her relationship with a woman, she did not require a Rolls-Royce vagina and further surgery would be a waste of time.
The number of complaints involving an actual or assumed lesbian relationship raises a number of questions. Does this indicate that for the most part lesbians are invisible (particularly in the public realm of workplaces) but become visible when a sexual relationship is identified?  Might it also given that several complaints involve accusations that two women workmates are lovers when they probably are not reflect a particular form of sexualised harassment that lesbians (and some heterosexual women) suffer? Does this reflect a view that lesbians are seen as sexually predatory, or alternatively, that knowledge that a woman is a lesbian leads to others having a heightened awareness of her as a sexual being (and a heightened imagination) a consequence of which is an overemphasis and interest in her sexual activities?
The second main theme we identified in the data was the presence of conduct that we have described as harassing. Although the severity and intensity of the behaviour upon which such complaints were based varied greatly, there was an identifiable body of cases that involved behaviour (verbal, physical or both) that appeared to humiliate, offend or intimidate the complainant.  Of the total 50 vilification and discrimination cases, 23 (46 per cent) involved an incident or incidents experienced by the complainant as harassing in some way. Twenty of these 23 complaints were in the area of employment. This means that 86.9 per cent of employment cases involved behaviour that the complainant appeared to experience as harassing.
Three of these cases included clear incidents of physical violence. One involved physical violence, verbal threats and insults by a stranger outside an inner-city hotel. The complainant withdrew her complaint of homosexuality vilification after a successful criminal prosecution. The second case involving physical violence was coded as homosexuality discrimination. The conduct comprised verbal harassment and physical assault of a high school teacher by students. Case file notes include allegations of constantly being touched up by male students and statements such as how would you like my foot in your face and that gay teachers have been gotten rid of here. There was a strong sense in this case that the complainant was not just distressed by these incidents but feared for her life. She took these threats very seriously as they were made within the context of the previous murders of gay male teachers in Sydney. The complainant was aware that one of the students responsible for the harassment was a close friend of a student who had been convicted of the murder of one of these teachers. Many of these cases involved a series of on-going comments, often made by more than one person, that appeared to instil feelings of discomfort, anxiety or humiliation in the complainant. A typical example might be: Shes a homosexual, it makes me sick to look at her. As a result of hearing conversations about her sexuality one complainant said that she felt physically sick from anger and was unable to finish my shift. In employment cases it was quite common for the complainant to have been working for some time with a group of people who were not aware of her sexuality. Upon the complainant either deliberately informing others of her lesbianism, or her sexuality becoming the topic of speculation and discussion, her relationship with co-workers changed. In one very alarming case the complainant and a gay man in her workplace (who also lodged a separate complaint) were subjected to ongoing harassment on a daily basis over a number of years, including comments such as the sooner all homosexuals die the better for the rest of us. Numerous incidents were recorded by the complainant including: the depositing of pornographic material in her mail, letting the tyres down on her motor bike, urinating in the petrol tank, and in one instance, tampering with the brakes on her bike. Not surprisingly the complainant feared for her safety and had felt it necessary to take steps to protect herself, including moving to a new house and taking out a silent telephone number. This case was eventually referred to the EOT, where it was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds.
In general the comments and behaviours that we characterise as harassment are stigmatising and derogatory, often having the effect of marginalising the complainant. The conduct complained of appears to be rather different from behaviours described in complaints lodged by women under sexual harassment provisions. In her Interim Report on sexual harassment in employment cases in Victoria (cases closed in 1991 and 1992) Jenny Morgan found that more than 85 per cent of cases alleged some form of touching.  In most cases the touching was seen as sexual, for example, on the breasts or buttocks. In our study, apart from the one case of homosexuality discrimination where physical assault was alleged, in no cases characterised as harassment (indeed, in no other cases either) was this kind of touching alleged by the complainant.
As to the gender of the alleged harassers, in eight of the claims the alleged harassers comprised a group of male and female co-workers (40 per cent of the employment complaints involving harassment). In another eight cases the alleged perpetrator was one man acting alone (40 per cent) and in three cases it was a group of men (including clients and male high school students) (15 per cent). In one case the alleged harasser was a woman supervisor acting alone. 
It is also pertinent to note that, similar to Morgans findings, 85 per cent of complainants in complaints involving harassment in employment situations were no longer working in the workplace where the discrimination was said to have taken place.  Although details are somewhat sketchy in some cases, in 17 complaints (77.3 per cent of complaints where the complainant was no longer working in the workplace concerned) the case files indicate that the complainant herself viewed the changes in her employment status as being a direct negative consequence of the conduct in relation to which she lodged her complaint. This contrasts with Hunter and Leonards finding that one-third of the complainants in sex discrimination cases were still employed in the workplace where they allege the discrimination occurred.  The high proportion of complainants in our study who have left the workplace in which they experienced harassment may reflect the sense of discomfort, intimidation or humiliation that harassment can produce. In addition it would appear to reflect the close contact between individuals in workplaces and the (usually) ongoing nature of the relationships involved. People see each other frequently in close quarters on a continuing basis, rather than in a one-off situation as is more likely in the provision of goods and services. This allows potential for harassment to escalate from perhaps an initial incident. It is also harder for individuals to avoid contact with harassers in workplaces. The strong presence of harassment in the complaints we examined makes our cases appear somewhat different from the forms of discriminatory treatment prevalent in cases lodged under the ground of sex discrimination. In their study of sex discrimination complaints Hunter and Leonard found that the treatment complained of in the majority of employment cases was in the areas of arrangements for offering employment, selection, terms and conditions of employment (excluding sexual harassment), denial or limitation of access to benefits or opportunities for promotion, transfer or training, and dismissal. 
Although Hunter and Leonard excluded complaints that had been lodged as sex discrimination but which concerned only sexual harassment,  we make this comparison in order to highlight the apparent difference between the nature of the problem in complaints of sex discrimination lodged by women and the nature of the problem in cases of homosexuality discrimination lodged by women. Of course in situations where the problem appears to be primarily one of sex discrimination a woman is likely to lodge under this ground irrespective of her sexuality. Only eight of the 23 employment cases in our study (34.8 per cent) evidenced the forms of discriminatory treatment that Hunter and Leonard identified under sex discrimination. 
Empirical material about the incidence of harassing conduct in employment complaints lodged under other grounds of discrimination, such as race and impairment, is limited. In her study of employment complaints lodged under the NSW Act from 1977 to 1987, Thornthwaite found that only 3.2 per cent of all complaints under the Act involved harassment that was not sexual harassment.  More recent information from the Board suggests that approximately one-third of all employment complaints concern work environment and harassment (excluding sexual harassment).  Although comparisons are difficult, these figures are noticeably less than our finding that 87 per cent of employment complaints involved behaviour that appeared to be experienced by the complainant as harassing. The extent to which the situations prompting these complaints may be interpreted as amounting to harassment or sexual harassment is deserving of future analysis, especially in light of recent North American arguments for the reformulation of definitions of sexual harassment. 
As indicated above, five of the complainants claimed homosexuality vilification. Given the small number it is difficult to generalise about these cases. However, it is interesting that three cases involved conduct directed towards the public generally and in two cases the conduct was directed to the complainants specifically.
The former three cases involved written material disseminated in the public sphere. In two of these the material was produced and distributed by Christian organisations. For example, one complaint was lodged in relation to an item published in a local paper. In an attempt to encourage readers to write in for a booklet entitled Our Sick Society, the item included the following text:
The end of each era in history has been characterised by a marked increase in certain behaviours in society. Violence, sexual license, homosexuality, decline in the interest of God, selfishness. ... Violent entertainment is now mainstream, homosexuality is now celebrated overtly ... in the times of Sodom and Gomorrah a brief reading of these events shows the same pattern. Wickedness, violence, and overt homosexuality. 
In the other case the complaint was lodged in relation to a car bumper sticker proclaiming Register poofters not guns, before they kill us all. The two cases of vilification complaints directed towards specific individuals involved either verbal or physical abuse, or both. These complaints were about violence and abuse that took place in a public place. In one case the alleged wrongdoer was a neighbour and the other involved the incident outside an inner Sydney hotel referred to above. In terms of outcome, four of the five vilification complaints were declined.  This is discussed further below in part 8A of this paper.
Most complaints of homosexuality discrimination were characterised by the presence of a lesbian relationship (real or imagined). These cases arose in a range of contexts including most notably respondent policies and practices. Almost half the complaints in our study, and 80 per cent of employment complaints, were marked by harassment. In many cases this conduct was ongoing and experienced by the complainant as marginalising. This behaviour appears to differ from that which is found in complaints of sexual harassment. Vilification cases involved both written material disseminated in the public sphere and verbal and physical abuse directed specifically at the complainant.
Although we were interested to identify the race, ethnicity, age and occupation of complainants this was not always possible. Information about the age, race or ethnicity of complainants was rarely recorded in case file data entry sheets.  Accordingly we only discuss the occupation of complainants. We do examine whether complainants were acting as individuals in bringing the complaint. This latter query is examined first.
We examined the extent to which complaints alleging homosexuality discrimination and vilification were brought by individual women acting alone.  The most obvious way in which a complainant is going it alone is if she clearly lodged the complaint on her own behalf solely and there is no suggestion that her complaint is connected to any other. Hunter and Leonards study of sex discrimination indicates that the vast majority of complaints (90.8 per cent) were lodged by complainants acting alone in the sense described above.  They concluded that the burden of tackling sex discrimination is being borne primarily by individual complainants.  A view expressed in this earlier work, and with which we agree, is that group action may be more likely to result in an outcome delivering systemic change. In our opinion, it may empower complainants to be active participants in the model of dispute resolution contained in the Act by better positioning them to be able to match the skills, financial and positional power of respondents, particularly of the repeat employer respondents we saw. 
The case files mostly do not contain data readily applicable to forming a response to the question of whether complainants in our study were going it alone. Although the Act (in sections 88 and 88(1A)) sets out different permutations of who may lodge a complaint and on whose behalf they may lodge it, this information was not recorded in the case files in any consistent manner.  Moreover it is far from clear that such a categorisation would actually get to the core of the issue here, particularly given the prevalence of complaints involving couples.
What we can say is that no complaints were lodged by a representative body (although in four cases gay and lesbian community groups appeared to have been consulted by the complainant at some stage in the dispute). All complaints identify one complainant only. This would seem to reflect the Boards practice of opening a file, coding and allocating a complaint file number to each written complaint that it receives, in preference to opening a file with two complainants or joining complaints in one case file. This practice of individualising complaints  means that if two women (in an intimate relationship with each other or not) write to the Board complaining in relation to the same incident or incidents then it seems that the Board would record two complaints and open two separate files. From our observation the Board may effectively investigate and conciliate the two complaints together but they are unlikely to formally join them.
Although all case files contained one complainant only, this clearly did not mean that all complainants were indeed on their own. Twelve of the 50 complaints (24 per cent) were directly linked with each other in the sense that they were lodged by women who were in an actual or perceived lesbian relationship and were complaining separately about effectively the same conduct. A further two complaints were lodged in relation to workplace dismissals stemming from the same situation. Due to this prevalence of couple relationships the number of complainants lodging and taking part in the processes as individuals on their own is likely to be much lower than that found by Hunter and Leonard.
The case files for the 23 complaints relating to employment contained information identifying the complainants occupation at the time the allegedly discriminatory conduct took place. As noted above, only one of these complainants was still attending the workplace in question. Seven complainants (some 30 per cent) were employed as receptionists, secretaries and in general clerical functions such as account keeping. The remainder were employed in a variety of occupations including community worker, teacher, waitress, and flight attendant. Noticeably, our group of complainants did not reflect the striking tendency towards the white collar and professional end of the scale found in the Hunter & Leonard study on sex discrimination complaints. Indeed the opposite was found. Only four complainants (17.4 per cent of the employment related cases) would come within the Australian Standard Classification of Occupations category of professional. Our complainants appear to more closely resemble complainants in Morgans study of sexual harassment claims than those in cases of sex discrimination. 
None of the complaints in our study involved group actions. Most of the complainants were acting alone, or with a partner or friend. The information available to us on the age and ethnicity of complainants was too limited to allow any conclusions. In terms of occupational status, the complainants who lodged employment complaints came from a diverse range of occupations. Less than 20 per cent of them were professionals according to the accepted definition of that term.
In this section of the paper we seek to profile the characteristics of the respondents to the complaints we examined. As with the identification of the ground and area of complaint, ascertaining the identity of the respondent or respondents appears to be an informal process involving both the Board and the complainant. In some cases the complainants letter of complaint clearly identified who she was bringing the complaint against. In other cases complainants were imprecise about such matters (or misunderstood or were not aware of the legal rules about who could be liable under the Act) and it was only after further communication between the Board and the complainant that it became clear who the respondent was. In one vilification case that did not proceed very far, a respondent was never identified. In examining the characteristics and nature of the respondents, we have separated the five homosexuality vilification complaints from the homosexuality discrimination complaints. Discrimination complaints are examined first.
Only two cases in our study identified more than one respondent. These two complaints (brought by two women in a relationship) identified the same two corporate respondents. No cases in our study named the individual wrongdoer as respondent in addition to that persons employer or principal. Complaints invariably identified institutions, corporate entities and other forms of business organisation as the respondent.  In contrast, Hunter and Leonard found that in their study of the conciliation of sex discrimination complaints, 20 per cent of their cases involved more than one respondent and that almost 20 per cent of respondents in their study were individuals. 
It seems from our examination of the case files that the Board exerts a strong influence in shaping complaints towards having one respondent alone who is the employer organisation or principal of the person who harassed or otherwise discriminated against the complainant.  We uncovered an important limitation with this approach. In at least six cases it is apparent from the case file material that the complainant wished to hold the individual person to account (in addition to, or even instead of, the organisation). In all six cases conciliation did not bring this about. An example is provided by the complaint, mentioned above, that a ticket seller refused to sell the complainant a family chairlift ride ticket for her, her partner and their children. The ticket seller apparently insisted that a family ticket was only available for a mother, a father and up to four children (as stated in the letter of complaint). It appears that the ensuing discussion that took place between the complainant and the ticket seller attracted the attention of other people waiting in the queue and was the source of embarrassment for the complainant and her family, particularly when the ticket seller joked with another customer about authentic families (the complainants letter).
The complainants letter of complaint specified the respondent was the ticket seller. The Board identified the ticket sellers employer (the company running the chairlift ride) as the sole respondent and the conciliation was conducted between the complainant and the company. The identification of the respondent as being the company alone rather than the company plus the ticket seller was unduly limiting in this case as part of the remedy that the complainant sought was a personal apology from the ticket seller. She clearly wanted the ticket seller to account for his actions through being involved in the resolution of the complaint. This did not occur. Although ultimately the case was resolved with the company reviewing its policy on same sex families, the complainant receiving an apology from the company plus complimentary tickets, this case provides an illustration of the ways in which complaints may be filtered and outcomes shaped by the processes through which the respondent(s) is identified, which, in this particular case, was unfortunate in light of what the complainant sought to achieve out of the process.
Table 3 below records the characteristics of respondents to the 45 complaints of homosexuality discrimination that we examined. As noted, apart from two complaints (brought by two women in a relationship with each other) each complaint identified one respondent only. In each of these two cases, two respondent organisations were identified. The total number of respondents in the 45 discrimination complaints is therefore 47.
Table 3: Respondents to Complaints of Homosexuality Discrimination
In terms of the 23 employment cases, 15 respondents (65.2 per cent) were private sector employers and eight (34.8 per cent) were public sector organisations.  What is notable about the private sector employers is that four of them were nonprofit making organisations (17.4 per cent). These respondents included, for example, an animal welfare society and a Christian based youth resource centre. This figure contrasts sharply with the Boards published statistics relating to employment complaints under all grounds. The Boards 199697 annual report records that only 0.6 per cent of all employment complaints in 199697 involved non-profit making associations. 
The five case files that allege homosexuality vilification contained seven respondents. The respondents to two complaints were individual people (in one case a group of two men and a woman and in the other case the complainants neighbour) and the respondents to two other complaints were Christian organisations. In one complaint the identity of the respondent was never ascertained.
A phenomena of repeat respondents has been identified in anti-discrimination jurisdictions.  In 1993 the Sex Discrimination Commissioner noted that [t]here are four agencies which are regularly involved in the complaint process: the ADF, the Commonwealth Bank, Australia Post and Telecom.  Hunter and Leonard state that their study bears out this conclusion. Their report also notes the existence of other repeat respondents such as State/Territory education departments and a national broadcasting organisation.  In a paper she wrote in the mid 1980s, Carmel Niland (then President of the Anti-Discrimination Board), noted that 175 complaints had been lodged in a 12 month period against Qantas. 
Although five complaints in our study (10 per cent) involved some of the respondents identified above as repeat respondents, and two unrelated complaints involved the same such respondent, our cases are characterised by a different type of repeat respondent. What is notable about the complaints we examined was the number that involved non-profit organisations and more specifically, the fact that seven (14 per cent) involved Christian institutions and/or people acting out of apparent religious motivations.
As noted above, four of the employer respondents were non-profit making organisations. Of these, one was clearly linked to a local Catholic parish and one was unknown. Four further cases (two in the private sector and two in the public sector) involved people whom the complainant identified as being motivated by religious beliefs. One case involved the owner of a restaurant in which the complainant was employed as a part-time waitress. The complainant identified him as a born again Christian who, along with his brother, harassed and intimidated her to the point that she feared for her safety. This involved unwelcome and judgemental questioning about minute details of her daily life. Of the five vilification complaints, two involved publications from Christian organisations.
We found the prevalence of religious organisations or apparent religious motivation to be striking. Religious organisations (and people acting out of stated religious beliefs) do not appear at all in the report of Hunter and Leonard on the conciliation of sex discrimination complaints.  Nor do they appear in Board statistics as a type of workplace, or respondent, to complaints.  Our finding about the prevalence of religious organisations and people motivated by apparent religious beliefs in homosexuality discrimination and vilification cases confirms the view that homosexuality is still feared and despised by many people who identify themselves as religious. We note such sentiments in the vehement anti-gay stance of submissions made by some religious groups to recent public inquiries in Australia such as the Senate Committee investigation into sexuality discrimination.  Our findings confirm that some religious teachings and groups pose a barrier of significant proportions to the project of gay and lesbian equality and dignity. Our concern with this is heightened by the current trend of transferring functions previously performed by government agencies, such as employment placement services, to organisations with religious affiliations. Moreover, we note that this shift in service provision is taking place in the context of a revitalised world-wide anti-gay Christian Right. 
There was a clear tendency in the discrimination complaints in our study to identify as the sole respondent the employer organisation of the person who the complainant alleges was discriminatory towards her. No case identified an individual as potentially liable as an accessory. We saw some limitations with this approach. What is most notable about respondents to the complaints in our study is the prevalence of non-profit making organisations and, in particular, religious bodies and the presence of people apparently motivated by religious beliefs.
Similar to other State and Territory anti-discrimination statutes, the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Act provides parameters rather than detail on how the President and the Board should go about fulfilling their complaint handling tasks under the legislation. The Act requires that each complaint that has been lodged be investigated and that where the President forms the view that it may be resolved by conciliation, he (in practice the officers of the Board) must endeavour to do so.  The day to day work of complaint handling is undertaken by some 13 officers employed in the Boards Complaints Resolution Branch.
The New South Wales Act, like other Australian statutes, neither defines nor explains the meaning to be given to the words investigation and conciliation. Australian anti-discrimination literature gives these words a relatively opentextured meaning.  Although Tribunal and Court decisions place some de facto limits on investigation and conciliation, the President and the Board have been largely left to formulate their own processes and procedures for carrying out these functions, which the Board has done most notably through the development of a lengthy and detailed Complaint Handling Manual.
This section of the paper explores different facets of the investigation and conciliation processes conducted by the Board in the 50 homosexuality discrimination and vilification complaints we examined. In particular we seek to profile what the Board actually did under the rubrics of investigation and conciliation, the role of complainants and respondents in these processes and whether conciliation conferences were held. We also examine the time taken to deal with complaints and whether complainants and respondents had legal or other representation.
Most of the complaint files we examined reflected (with some variations) the approach to investigation detailed in the Boards Complaint Handling Manual. A letter of acknowledgment was, in all cases but two, posted to the complainant within a few days to a week of the Board receiving the complaint. This letter frequently advised the complainant of expected delays of several months before the complaint would be allocated to an officer. Following allocation to an officer a detailed statement of allegations was drawn up in consultation with the complainant. For those complaints which proceeded, a pro forma letter was then sent to the respondent enclosing a copy of the allegation and requesting responses to the questions. This was likely to be followed by a series of written and telephone counter-responses with relevant parties. Although this procedure is described in the Manual as investigation it is clear that the Board adopted a primarily passive approach, requiring the complainant to bear the responsibility for gathering evidence to substantiate her allegations.  Several complainants in our study appeared to have difficulty in fulfilling this role. For example in one case the complainant was required to obtain statements from others in her workplace before the complaint would proceed.
Respondents were notified in 20 cases only. This represents 40 per cent of cases overall and 48.8 per cent of the cases that were not formally declined by the Board (or otherwise found to be outside jurisdiction). The 60 per cent of respondents who were never contacted is substantially higher than the 25.4 per cent found in Hunter and Leonards overall sample of sex discrimination cases. 
The reasons why the Board did not contact the respondent in almost half of all the cases that ostensibly proceeded to conciliation are not apparent from the case file material. We discovered however the existence of a negative relationship between how long the complaint sat in the backlog before investigation commenced and the likelihood of the respondent(s) being notified. Respondents who were notified generally heard from the Board fairly quickly. In 15 of the 20 cases where the respondent was notified, investigation had begun within three months after the Board received the letter of complaint. Respondents were notified in only two of the ten cases where investigation took more than four months to commence.
Where contacted, most respondents offered multiple responses designed to address different elements of the complaint. In one of the more complex cases, which was eventually referred to the Tribunal, the respondent denied some facts, disputed the interpretation of others, said the matter had already been adequately dealt with, and also denied that the Board had jurisdiction.  In total, we identified 30 responses from the respondents who were notified (in the 20 cases). The following table identifies these different responses.
Table 4: Response of Respondents 
a. In this case, the complaint lapsed before the respondent provided any response to the allegations.
The most popular response of respondents was to either deny the facts, dispute their interpretation, or both (nine cases). Some respondents denied that they were aware of the complainants sexual preference. Others acknowledged that the conduct complained of had taken place (for example, dismissal) but argued that it had occurred, not because of the complainants sexual preference, but rather, because of, for example, her misconduct such as making too many private telephone calls and putting her feet up on her desk. In relation to a case involving ongoing harassment and intimidation, one respondent acknowledged that the complainant was being harassed by one particular co-worker but viewed this as a personality problem between the two employees (as identified in the respondents letter to the Board) and something that ought to be resolved by the employees in their own time (as opposed to the employers time). None of the complaints involving religious organisations (or people acting out of religious motivations) sought to rely on exemptions in the Anti-Discrimination Act relating to religious practices. The three cases in which respondents raised exemptions or defences in the New South Wales statute related to two complaints where the respondents argued they were justified in revealing the HIV status of one of the complainants. The third case related to accommodation at a guesthouse in which the service provider resided. In this case the respondent argued that she was legally entitled to refuse to provide a room to a lesbian couple who asked for a double bed because the New South Wales Act exempts people who provide accommodation in premises in which they live where the accommodation provided is for no more than six people.  A total of two (10 per cent) out of the 20 respondents notified accepted the complainants version of events and recognised the wrong done.
Conciliation is widely seen as a process involving a complainant and respondent sitting around a table discussing the dispute with the assistance of an officer acting as an impartial third party. Indeed, most of the Australian literature on conciliation in anti-discrimination jurisdictions is about conferences, the power dynamics between parties and the role of the conciliator in ameliorating this.  The Boards Complaint Handling Manual states that although conciliation conferences are not always necessary to resolve a complaint, ... it is desirable to hold them whenever practicable, so that the parties have the opportunity to relate directly to each other about the matter giving rise to the complaint. 
The statistics on the holding of conciliation conferences vary substantially from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and do not provide a strong basis for comparison. Hunter and Leonard found in their study of sex discrimination complaints in Victoria, South Australia and the Sydney office of HREOC that conferences were held in fewer than half the complaints they examined.  A study conducted into conciliation under the Western Australian Equal Opportunity Act found that conferences were conducted in only 19 per cent of complaints.  McNamaras recent study of racial vilification complaints in NSW uncovered that conferences were held in 9 per cent of cases.  Thornthwaites study of complaints in NSW from 1977 to 1987 records that conferences were held in about half the cases.  In our study, after excluding the nine cases that were formally declined or otherwise outside jurisdiction, conciliation conferences were held in only seven cases (17.1 per cent of complaints accepted by the Board). Five of these were employment cases (21.7 per cent of employment cases), one related to the provision of services (surgery that the complainant says she was denied) and one to emergency accommodation. Only one was a compulsory conference. According to the Manual, the Board calls compulsory conferences only as a last resort. 
In terms of outcomes, conciliation conferences appeared to be relatively effective. Apart from two complaints which were referred to the EOT on the complainants request after unsuccessful conferences,  the remaining five complaints that went to a conference all led to resolutions that the complainants appeared to derive some satisfaction from. 
Anti-discrimination jurisdictions are intended to provide less formal and less expensive dispute resolution procedures than exist under the formal justice system. The Board has described the philosophy of conciliation as to allow the parties to a complaint to resolve the issues and settle the complaint in as non-legalistic [a] way as possible. 
A number of commentators have expressed the view that the presence of lawyers is undermining the informalism objective of anti-discrimination jurisdictions. The view is that legalism is encroaching into conciliation processes. It is argued that lawyers tend to bring adversarialism and expense, and that their presence may widen rather than narrow the gap of advantage that respondents generally have over complainants, particularly in the employment context.  Given these views, we were interested to ascertain whether lawyers (and other representatives) were present in the complaints in our study and if they were, on whose behalf they acted and what impact they had on the complaint resolution process.
(i) Complainants Representation
Only 14 complainants (28 per cent) received representation or advice from an outside body or person at any stage during the dispute resolution process. At the point of lodging complaints, only 16 per cent of complainants had either legal representation or were in receipt of advice from a source such as a trade union or a gay and lesbian organisation. At conciliation conferences this percentage increased to its highest point in the dispute resolution process with 42.8 per cent of complainants having representation or some other source of support present at the conciliation conference. 
In 6 cases (12 per cent) advice was provided by a solicitor.  This figure of 12 per cent is not substantially different from the findings of studies into sex discrimination and racial vilification complaints.  In four cases the complainants received on-going legal advice. In our view these complainants fared better than they might otherwise in that having a lawyer appeared to empower them to keep pursuing their complaints. In three of these cases the complainants secured monetary outcomes that were relatively high compared to other monetary settlements obtained by complainants in our study. The fourth case was referred to the Tribunal before a conciliation conference took place; this course was requested by the complainants solicitor.
Trade unions appeared in three employment cases. Two of these cases involved complainants at the same workplace and while the complaints were still waiting to be allocated to an officer at the Board the union negotiated a settlement directly with the employer on behalf of the complainants. The complainants in four cases had the benefit of advice and advocacy from a gay and lesbian organisation such as GALTAS (Gay and Lesbian Teachers and Students) and the Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Project. In one of these cases a member of GALTAS was present during the conciliation conference. Two other complainants had members of their family act on their behalf an adult daughter and a partner.
(ii) Respondents Representation
As discussed above, in only 20 complaints were respondents notified by the Board that a complaint had been made against them. These 20 complaints contained 20 different respondents.  The case files indicate that nine respondents (45 per cent of respondents who were contacted) were in receipt of legal representation or other representation from an outside body at some stage during the dispute resolution process. Seven (35 per cent) of these received legal advice. Two other respondents received advice and representation from employer associations. In addition, in one case the matter was handled wholly by the respondents in-house legal department.
It is clear that respondents were considerably more likely to have legal representation than were complainants.  This gap in the complainants receipt of legal advice does not appear to have been filled by advice from other appropriate sources. Another notable difference between complainants and respondents were the roles taken by complainant solicitors compared to respondent lawyers. Whilst we were generally of the view that the participation of the solicitors who acted for complainants had a positive influence in the investigation and conciliation processes, we were far less enthusiastic in our assessment of respondents legal representation, most notably the adversarial and obstructionist approach adopted by some individual lawyers.
Questions about delay and the time taken to resolve anti-discrimination complaints in Australia occupy the minds of many commentators, parties and agencies alike. In a survey published in June 1997 the NSW Law Reform Commission found that 45 per cent of the complainants (and one-third of respondents)  they surveyed agreed that it had taken too long for the Board to deal with their dispute.  The Board itself has expressed concern over the many problems caused by delay, and notably by delay due to a lack of resources.  These problems include additional stress for complainants and the difficulty respondents may have in responding to allegations relating to incidents that occurred some time in the past. The Board has suggested that delay often means that the conciliation process takes longer than it otherwise would.  We suggest, in addition, that delay may cause some complainants to effectively give up and allow their complaint to lapse. We were interested to ascertain the time taken by the Board to close complaints and also to achieve certain steps in the procedures.
(i) Commencing Investigation and Conciliation
Table 5 below details the amount of time that elapsed between the receipt of the complaint by the Board and the date on which the Board commenced investigation in the sense of taking some steps after an initial letter of acknowledgment had been sent to the complainant. Excluded from this table are nine cases that were declined by the Board and three complaints that appear to have been redbacked.  Table 5 records the time frame for the 38 remaining cases.
Table 5: Time Between Receipt of Complaint and the Commencement of Investigation
This Table shows that in just over half of these complaints (52.6 per cent), the Board commenced investigation processes within three months after receipt of the complaint. In 13 complaints (34.2 per cent) the Board had commenced investigation from between three months to five months after the complaint was received. Notably, in five out of the 38 complaints (13.1 per cent), the Board had still not commenced investigation eight months after the complaint had been received. Two complaints were in the backlog for eight months, two for nine months and one for 10 months. This last complaint involved on-going harassment of the complainant by her supervisor. The complainant challenged her supervisors behaviour through the companys internal grievance procedures but unfortunately these procedures were grossly inadequate and the harassment continued. By the time the complaint was allocated to an officer the complainant had resigned, indicating that she could no longer work in the current environment.
(ii) Closure of Case Files
We were also interested to ascertain how quickly the Board brought complaints to a conclusion. Table 6 below shows the number of months that expired between the date of receipt of the complaint to the date when the file was closed.
Table 6: Time Between Receipt of Complaint and Closure of the
Although none of the empirical literature on the NSW jurisdiction or other Australian jurisdictions is directly comparable to the information presented above, some approximate comparisons are worth making. As part of its Business Plan the Board has set targets for how quickly it finalises complaints. The Board aims to have 20 per cent of allocated complaints finalised in two months, 60 per cent within six months and 85 per cent within 12 months.  The Boards annual reports record that the Board has met most of these targets for the years from 1994 to 1997.  The information we collected (and presented in Table 12) is not directly comparable to the Boards targets as the Business Plan refers to complaints that have been allocated. We formed the view that in several of the cases we examined substantial delays occurred prior to the complaint being allocated.
In our study the 18.4 per cent of complaints that were completed in under six months contrasts with the almost two-thirds found in McNamaras study of racial vilification in New South Wales or the 46 per cent reported by Hunter and Leonard in relation to sex discrimination.  The difference between McNamaras findings and ours might reflect the inclusion of declined cases in McNamaras figures (and not ours). In our study, cases that were declined were generally dealt with quickly.
Most of our complaints (55.3 per cent) were completed in the period from six months to a year after receipt of the complaint, while Hunter and Leonard report a 36 per cent closure rate within the same time period.  We can only attribute this difference to longer delays in the New South Wales jurisdiction than existed under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) from 1989 to 1993. We have no reason to suppose that sex discrimination complaints are intrinsically faster to conciliate than homosexuality discrimination complaints. In terms of cases that went for a longer duration, our findings were similar to both McNamaras and Hunter and Leonards research.  Three complaints in our study (7.9 per cent) took 18 months or longer to close, with one taking two years and three months.
The responsibility for gathering information lay primarily with the complainant (and, where relevant, the respondent). In contrast to what might be expected, respondents were notified in less than half the complaints and conciliation conferences were held in less than 20 per cent of complaints accepted by the Board. Although respondents were substantially more likely than complainants to have received legal advice, the lawyers who advised and acted for the complainants, in our view, had a positive impact on the Boards processes. In just over half the cases in our study the Board had commenced substantive steps in its dispute resolution processes within three months of receiving the complaint. In half the cases the case file was closed within nine months of receipt of the complaint. There were a small number of cases involving pronounced delays for complainants.
The Board records the outcome for all closed cases.  The following table provides a summary of the outcomes for the complaints in our study. Although this table generally adopts the categories used by the Board to record outcome, some of these have been collapsed.  Each of these categories is discussed below.
Table 7: Outcomes in Relation to All Complaints
The most striking feature of these outcomes is the 58 per cent of complaints that were not settled and not proceeded with. This figure compares unfavourably with the 34 per cent of all complaints lodged with the Board under all grounds during the 199697 period that were recorded as Not proceeded with.  In making this comparison it should be kept in mind that solid conclusions are difficult given the small number of cases in our study compared to the 1,762 complaints lodged under all grounds in 199697, and the fact that our study spans four years whilst the Boards figures cover only 12 months. These cases are discussed further below.
Table 7 above indicates that a total of 18 per cent of complaints were either formally declined or otherwise determined to be outside the Boards jurisdiction. Such cases did not proceed to conciliation. Cases found to be outside jurisdiction comprise one lodged in relation to the Stamp Duties Act 1920 (NSW) and one lodged in relation to immigration regulations. Cases were formally declined for the following reasons: lacking in substance (two complaints); conduct covered by an exception under either section 49ZQ(3) or section 56(d) of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW)  (two cases); complainant not a member of the vilified group (one case); further information needed before the Board could proceed (three cases).  In the latter three cases the Board informed the complainant that they could not proceed with the complaint unless the complainant provided further information. In the absence of such information, all three cases were declined.
Of the seven cases formally declined, it is significant that four of these were lodged under vilification provisions. In other words, four of the five cases (80 per cent) lodged under vilification provisions were declined by the Board. The one case lodged under vilification that proceeded to investigation and conciliation was withdrawn by the complainant after a successful criminal prosecution of the perpetrator. This is much higher than the 38 per cent of racial vilification complaints that were declined in McNamaras study.  Again, with the small sample of vilification cases in our study comparisons are difficult. However, it is possible that such a difference could be attributed to the newness of the homosexuality vilification provisions which came into force in 1994. The racial vilification amendments were made in 1989. There may be less knowledge in the lesbian and gay community about the types of behaviours prohibited by the legislation. In particular, there is some suggestion from the case files that complainants anticipated that the public act definition and the requirement for such acts to incite hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule  would be interpreted more broadly by the Board. For instance, in one case the complainant stated that her neighbour shouted several times, in the presence of others in the street, that she was a filthy lesbian. The complainant was seeking a public apology. The complaint was seen by the Board as a private dispute and declined on the basis that it did not meet the standard required under section 49ZT(1) of the Act. This is because the comments could not be seen to incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of the complainant on the grounds of her homosexuality or perceived homosexuality. The internal Board memorandum recommending that the complaint be declined also stated that although the conduct took place in public there was no indication that the respondent knew the complainant to be homosexual or perceived her to be so.
If the cases lodged under vilification are excluded from the analysis, we find that of the remaining 45 discrimination complaints, five (11 per cent) were declined by the Board. Notably, none of these were in the area of employment. This may reflect the greater breadth of the employment provisions.
The discrimination cases and vilification cases are, in many ways, quite different. The distinctions between the two are apparent when looking at the outcome of the complaint and particularly so in relation to the likelihood that the complaint will be accepted by the Board. Accordingly, it is useful to consider the discrimination cases on their own. Further, in order to consider the conciliation processes in relation to outcomes it is necessary to exclude cases declined by the Board (those that are outside jurisdiction and those that are formally declined by the Board). The following table indicates the proportion of discrimination cases settled, not settled, or referred to the Tribunal. That is, the outcome of those discrimination cases actually accepted by the Board.
Table 8: Outcomes in Non-Declined Discrimination Cases
Three cases were referred to the Tribunal. In two cases a conciliation conference had been held but the matter was not able to be settled. In the third case, the matter was referred to the Tribunal after lengthy negotiations with the respondent (and its lawyer), because the complainants requested a preference for it to be dealt with at arms length and it appeared to the officers involved that little may be achieved from a conference. In this case the complainant had received ongoing legal advice from the time of lodgment.
A total of 70 per cent of discrimination complaints accepted by the Board fall into the category of not settled and not proceeded with. Under the Boards internal classification system this category is comprised of three sub-categories: contact lost; formally withdrawn; and other. As similar categorisations have been used in other empirical research in this field we originally attempted to adhere to these sub-categories. However, it became apparent, as the analysis of data progressed, that the distinctions between the first two were not always apparent or meaningful for this group of complaints. For a case to be listed as withdrawn there generally needs to be a clear communication from the complainant that she wishes to do so.
This is most likely to happen by letter or telephone. Cases where this does not happen but where the complainant either does not follow up the initial complaint or loses contact at some point prior to settlement will generally be categorised as lost contact. In some instances a complainant may withdraw for a specified reason, which may be either positive or negative. For example, she may achieve a satisfactory outcome through her own endeavours or through other legal avenues (such as the criminal law), or she may not feel capable of proceeding due to emotional stress. However, case file notes suggest that in many instances the difference between the classification of a case as withdrawn or lost contact may simply be a telephone call. By this we mean that if an officer is successful in making telephone contact with a complainant who then states that she wishes to withdraw the complaint, for whatever reason, it will be listed as withdrawn. However, if the officer does not make contact with the complainant (perhaps for the simple reason that she is not at home when the officer telephones) there is no clear communication of withdrawal and the case will be recorded as contact lost. For this reason, and in our opinion, the category of formally withdrawn does not provide a clear or helpful distinction from the category of contact lost.
Of significance are the 70 per cent of discrimination cases, accepted by the Board, that neither settled nor proceeded very far in the conciliation process. A tentative comparison with the research of Hunter and Leonard indicates that this is a much higher rate of non-settlement than for sex discrimination cases. Whilst Hunter and Leonards categories are not exactly the same as the ones used here, they do provide an approximate point of comparison.  If we add together all categories used by Hunter and Leonard to denote outcomes that were neither settled nor proceeded with we arrive at a cumulative category that is roughly comparable to, and certainly no narrower than our category of not settled and not proceeded with.  Thus an average of 46.8 per cent of sex discrimination cases in these jurisdictions were not settled or did not proceed. This figure is substantially lower than the 70 per cent in our study.
It is of considerable concern that seven out of 10 complaints lodged by women under the homosexuality discrimination grounds were left unresolved. However, it is important to keep in mind the previous point that in some cases the reasons for not proceeding with a case are not always negative and may include cases where the complaint was withdrawn because the complainant received satisfaction either through her own efforts or the efforts of another agency. However, in many cases the complainant simply did not respond to the Boards letters and there is no way of knowing why she chose to let it lapse. The categorical distinctions between formally withdrawn and contact lost appears to be a somewhat arbitrary distinction that may obscure other more meaningful differences between complainants reasons for not proceeding. Such reasons are likely to be very important to the complainant.
Settlement is one way of signifying that the conciliation process has been successful. Indeed, the very distinction between settled and not settled goes to the heart of the purpose of conciliation. A total of nine cases (22 per cent) in our study were clearly settled. This does not compare favourably to the average 42.5 per cent recorded in sex discrimination cases.  Despite the centrality of settlement to conciliation various commentators have raised the question: what does it mean to say that a complaint is settled? 
In our opinion it is sometimes difficult to determine whether a case is settled or not and the case file notes do not necessarily conclude with the complaint officers view on the matter. Accordingly, in classifying cases as settled we followed the definition of settled by conciliation used by Hunter and Leonard: where some kind of result was achieved as a consequence of the agencys efforts, whether before, during or after a conciliation conference, but before referral of the complaint for hearing.  The nature of the settlements in the nine cases categorised in this way are as follows. Settlement may have been achieved in each case through more than one element. 
Table 9: Terms of Settlement
The breakdown of financial compensation recorded in each of the six cases where it was agreed upon is as follows: $2,500; $7,000; $500; $8,000; and $8,000 to be shared between two complainants.
Whilst this form of categorisation provides an important overview and is especially useful for the Board in determining the results of its own processes, there are considerable limitations in the categorisation process represented in Table 8. In some cases, especially where there has been a financial settlement, it is clear that both parties are likely to regard the matter as settled. However, in other cases the matter is not so clear cut. For example, if we give a generous interpretation to the definition of settled (some kind of result was achieved as a consequence of the agencys efforts) we might add to our nine settled cases a further case where the complainant decided to withdraw following discussions with an officer which made it clear that the complaint would not succeed. If the complainant feels satisfied with this result, is the case settled? Might we add to our settled category a case where the complainant withdrew because negotiations through her union were successful, if we know that these negotiations were successful in part because the respondent was aware of, and influenced by, the coexisting complaint lodged with the Board?
The difficulty of determining when a case is settled and when this settlement is due to efforts of the Board is apparent. Part of the problem lies in the fact that categories such as withdrawn whether it is being used as a category on its own or as a sub-category of not settled and not proceeded with and settled are not the result of objective criteria and indeed, may not be the mutually exclusive classifications they first appear to be. This is so, especially in light of the knowledge that cases may be withdrawn for positive reasons. For example, there is reason to believe that at least eight of the total number of cases in this study were withdrawn because the complainant had successfully settled through other channels, including resolving the problem directly herself. Whilst it is not always clear, case file notes indicate that in several of these cases the Board may have assisted the complainant to achieve a result with which she was satisfied.
There are many ways of measuring outcome. For example, assessing the extent to which either the complainant or the respondent, or both, are satisfied with the process may be one such way. Perhaps the most effective way to measure satisfaction is to ask parties directly about this. To this end the New South Wales Law Reform Commission recently conducted a postal survey of 425 complainants and 179 respondents who had been party to an accepted complaint finalised in the year to 30 June 1995.  For our present discussion it is significant that there was a perception among parties that many complaints were not clearly resolved one way or the other. Interestingly, both complainants and respondents reported more wins than losses.  Forty per cent of complainants said that they were satisfied with the final outcome of their complaint to the Board, whilst 66 per cent of respondents reported satisfaction.  The Commission notes that the level of satisfaction among parties, and the noted discrepancy, reflects whether or not the individual party thinks they have succeeded. 
Given the limitations with existing outcome classifications, and without direct access to the views of parties in our study, we decided that it would be worthwhile to re categorise our cases using a somewhat different means of measuring outcome. Moving away from distinctions between active notions of withdrawal or settled and the more passive sense of not settled and not proceeded with we wondered what the outcome would be if we considered the question: did the complainant appear to gain anything positive from the process of lodging the complaint?
In asking this question we were seeking to determine whether the actual lodgment of a complaint brought about anything that could be interpreted as an improvement on the situation than if, for example, the complainant had not lodged the complaint. Although we recognise that such a question would be best considered through the eyes of the complainant, what we offer is our own assessment of whether, based upon the information in the file, there is evidence that the complainant has gained something from lodging the complaint, either in an individual sense or in the broader sense of effecting a change that may benefit others as well. In considering this question we have attempted to move outside the existing legal framework and away from the more conventional systems of determining success. Cases where there was no evidence of a positive outcome have been grouped together. Cases where there was some , even if minimal, evidence of a positive outcome have been recorded as such.
In considering outcome from this angle, it also seemed useful to view cases that were declined, for whatever reason, as cases that the complainant did not pursue due to the Boards advice and to categorise these separately. The distinction between being declined because your complaint is outside jurisdiction and being declined because the behaviour did not meet the required standards under the legislation may be lost on many complainants. We have doubts as to whether there was a positive outcome in any of the three cases referred to the Tribunal, as one was dismissed on the basis that it was outside the Tribunals jurisdiction and the other two were withdrawn prior to hearing. However, in the absence of information as to why the complainants chose to withdraw we have continued to categorise these three cases in the same way. Table 10 presents the findings of this re categorisation.
Table 10: Positive Outcomes
a. This category includes the nine cases that were declined and two that the complainant did not pursue on the advice of the ADB.
These figures suggest that approximately 38 per cent, or a little over one-third, of complainants are likely to have derived something positive from lodging the complaint: a figure which is higher than the 22 per cent of those cases formally recorded as settled. This positive outcome ranged from financial settlements through to an apology by the respondent or an expression of satisfaction by the complainant that the respondent would rectify the problem. We do not believe that cases where the complainant did not pursue the matter can be interpreted to represent a positive outcome and accordingly such cases have been categorised as no evidence of a positive outcome.
As indicated above, a positive outcome may be the result of either direct involvement by the Board, indirect involvement of the Board, or no involvement of the Board. In some cases it is difficult to tell whether the action of the Board, say, for example, phone conversations with the complainant, had a positive flowon effect or not. However, we were interested in looking further at the cases where there is some evidence of a positive outcome and asking the question: does the outcome appear to be due to active Board involvement? To answer this question we have only categorised a case as having a positive outcome due to Board involvement where we observed that the Board played a direct or active role.
Table 11: Positive Outcomes and Active Board Involvement
These figures suggest that while 31.6 per cent of positive outcomes for the complainant were unlikely to be attributable to active or direct involvement of the Board, in 68.4 per cent of positive outcomes the Board is likely to have made a direct contribution to that outcome.  However, in interpreting these categorisations it should be kept in mind that while the Board may not play an active role in the settlement of some disputes, its public existence, especially in terms of the prospect of its involvement in a dispute, may be a significant incentive to settlement. For example, fear of adverse publicity (should the dispute go to the EOT) or of being entangled in the legal process may motivate a party to agree to settlement. Thus even where it may not be possible to observe that the Board played an active role in the achievement of a positive outcome for the complainant, its indirect influence remains difficult to measure or quantify.
The point that we wish to make and reinforcing our earlier point that given the subjectivity of all categorisations of this nature any conclusions must be viewed as tentative is that it seems likely that in 38 per cent of all complaints, and 48.7 per cent of those that were initially pursued, the situation prompting the complaint was positively addressed in some manner through the flow-on effects of the complainants decision to lodge the complaint. Although it is impossible to ever accurately determine the degree to which the mere act of lodging a complaint with the Board may assist the complainant in effecting a positive outcome on her own or through other avenues there is some evidence that a substantial proportion of complaints with some positive outcome may have benefited, directly or indirectly, from the Boards involvement.
Only a small percentage (18 per cent) of the total complaints were settled. Further, a substantial proportion (70 per cent) of non-declined discrimination complaints were neither settled nor proceeded with. However, there is great difficulty in determining precise and meaningful measures of outcome. This generated the need for a further measure of outcome which suggests that in 38 per cent of complaints there is evidence of some positive outcome.
In this paper we have examined a relatively small area of discrimination complaint and conciliation. The specifics of these complaints are important in themselves. As the first investigation of complaints lodged under the sexuality provisions of any anti-discrimination jurisdiction in Australia the empirical data synthesised here provides a knowledge base on characteristics, processes and outcomes.
We now know that complaints of discrimination lodged by women under the homosexuality ground of the NSW Act during this period were more likely to emerge in the field of employment and to involve direct discrimination. They were unlikely to be lodged in conjunction with another ground. Only a few complaints were lodged by women under the vilification provisions. Most complaints of discrimination were characterised by the presence of an assumed lesbian relationship, whether such a relationship existed or not. Such cases were more likely to involve situations of policy and practice that could be characterised by indirect discrimination. Notably, almost one half of complaints in our study, and over 80 per cent of employment complaints, were marked by situations of harassment.
Although all complaints were lodged by individuals, rather than group actions, the individualisation of complaints was intensified by the Boards passive approach to investigation and conciliation which meant that the responsibility for gathering evidence fell to the complainant. In contrast, respondents, when notified, were invariably identified as an organisation or institution rather than an individual person. Respondents were substantially more likely than complainants to have received legal advice. In contributing to the knowledge and assertiveness of complainants, legal and other forms of advice appeared to allow them to fare better in their ability to secure favourable settlements.  The prevalence of nonprofit organisations among respondents, in particular religious bodies and the prevalence of people apparently motivated by religious beliefs, was notable.
Of those complaints accepted by the Board, only a small percentage were either referred to the EOT or appear to have been settled. This left a substantial proportion of relatively unresolved complaints. However, taking into account the difficulties in determining a precise and meaningful outcome for many complaints, an examination of the evidence for this group of complainants receiving some positive outcome provides a more encouraging result.
Now that we are in possession of a knowledge base about complaints lodged by women under the homosexuality ground in the New South Wales jurisdiction it would be a mistake to assume that the significance of this knowledge is confined to the empirical circumstances from which it emerged. When contextualised against the background of existing Australian research into discrimination complaints lodged under other grounds the study takes on a wider significance. This significance lies less in the provision of concrete conclusions about the comparisons that can be made and more in the plethora of issues that such comparisons raise. Just some of the questions the results of our analysis have prompted us to ask are: Are lesbian relationships such a feature of these complaints because lesbianism is more threatening or simply more visible in the context of a relationship? Is the seemingly high prevalence of harassment unique to homosexuality complaints lodged by women or would further focused investigation reveal it to be a feature of complaints lodged by men under the homosexuality ground and complaints under other grounds (in addition to those lodged under sexual harassment provisions)? What legislative or educational implications might appropriately flow from the noticeable presence of religious organisations and strong religious beliefs in these complaints? Does the apparently high proportion of declined vilification complaints reflect a general issue of community uncertainty regarding the breadth of the provisions or is it a more specific problematic related to homosexuality complaints? Is the low proportion of cases settled merely a consequence of a high drop out rate among complainants or is there something peculiar to the substance of the complaints that mitigates against more successful outcomes? Finally, given the uncertainty in determining precise outcomes in many cases might it be fruitful to reconsider the way in which the outcome of a complaint is measured and defined?
This paper has not sought to provide answers to these questions. In profiling this sample of cases it has aimed to fill a gap in current knowledge about the nature of complaints of discrimination and vilification lodged under homosexuality provisions, specifically complaints lodged by women. When we compare these complaints with what we know about complaints lodged under other grounds it is apparent that a number of contrasts as well as consistencies emerge. Only having now conducted this empirical investigation are we in a position to say that although there are similarities between complaints lodged by women under homosexuality provisions and complaints lodged under other grounds, there are, at the same time, some significant differences. Such analogies and distinctions allow us to generate the kinds of questions that are important to ask of anti-discrimination law.
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Our disability discrimination brochure is an excellent introduction to understanding disability discrimination in NSW.
The Australian Human Rights Commission produces a guide to Federal discrimination law . Chapter 5 specifically covers the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.
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Under the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 it is unlawful to do any act involving a distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour
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