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Race Discrimination Still All Too Common

Race discrimination still all too common

Race discrimination is still all too common in Australian workplaces, and in the provision of goods and services and accommodation.

We asked Miles Heffernan, Litigation Director at Fair Work Claims, to answer some questions about race discrimination.

What is race discrimination?

Race discrimination is when someone is treated less favourably than someone else in the same situation because of their race or ethnic origin.

In the workplace, it can mean that someone is denied a promotion, or not hired for a job, or is fired because of their race.

Where can race discrimination happen?

Race discrimination can happen almost anywhere – not just in the workplace.

It can also happen in the provision of goods and services, for example, if an Indigenous couple is denied service at a restaurant, in favour of another couple, when there are clearly tables available.

It can also happen in accommodation, so for example, if a young Indian couple are denied a rental property in favour of a Caucasian couple, that could also be a case of race discrimination.

Does race discrimination still happen?

Unfortunately yes, it does, and it’s more common than you might think.

Recently, an aboriginal man was refused a job to play Santa by a talent agency in Adelaide.

The agency had even gone so far as to advertise for only Caucasian men to apply for the positions to play Santa.

Simply posting an ad like that online, as this agency did, is unlawful, and is clearly race discrimination.

To read more about the case, click here.

Have you worked on any race discrimination cases?

We sure have.  In fact, last year, we fought one of the most well-publicised cases of race discrimination of the year.

It involved a worker at a car hire company on the Queensland Fraser coast.

The man was of Maori descent and when he asked his boss for a sunshade and sunscreen, he was told, “Nah mate, you don’t need it because you’re black.”

But the worst was yet to come.

A couple of his workmates thought it would be funny to leave a can of sunscreen for him in one of the cars he was cleaning with yellow tape wrapped around it with the words, “Black guy repellent” written on it, and “caution! only use on blacks”.

He left work the day that it happened, and never returned.

We took that case to the Anti Discrimination of Queensland and was headed for the Federal Court when the company involved agreed to pay the man a hefty settlement – one of the biggest we’ve ever negotiated.

The case proved that if employers allow race discrimination to happen in their workplaces, they will end up writing a huge cheque for compensation.

To read more about the case, click here.

What can someone do if they have experienced race discrimination?

Race discrimination can have a devastating effect on someone’s mental health and well being, so I always say, make sure you talk to someone and have some support.

If you can’t talk to a friend or a loved one, you can always chat to your GP who can put you in touch with some support services.

But after that, I would recommend that someone who has experienced race discrimination to get in contact with a firm like ours.

Many people who suffer discrimination based on their race or ethnic origin don’t know their rights, and that’s where we can help.

We know the law backwards, and we can advise people of their best options moving forward.

Not only can we take immediate action to have the behaviour stopped, we can represent people in various courts and commissions, and can lodge claims for appropriate compensation.

Race discrimination is awful, and it’s ugly, and nobody should have to put up with it – it’s something we feel passionately about.

We fight for justice for workers from the moment they engage our services, and we don’ t give up until we have achieved the outcome they want.

Anyone who is being subjected to this sort of conduct should know, there is help available.


If you have suffered discrimination based on your race or ethnic origin, you may be entitled to compensation.

Please call our friendly team at Fair Work Claims today on

1300 853 837

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Fair Work Claims is a private consultancy and advocacy firm with no affiliation to any government agency, commission or tribunal.

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