The failure of Australian legislation on indirect discrimination to detect the systemic racism which prevents Aboriginal people from fully participating in the workforce

The failure of Australian legislation on indirect discrimination to detect the systemic racism which prevents Aboriginal people from fully participating in the workforce Thesis

Faculty of Law, Centre for Public and Comparative Law

  • Author(s): de Plevitz, Loretta Ruth
  • Published: 2000
  • Publisher: Queensland University of Technology
  • Volume: PhD

Abstract: Government figures put the current indigenous unemployment rate at around 23%, 3 times the unemployment rate for other Australians. This thesis aims to assess whether Australian indirect discrimination legislation can provide a remedy for one of the causes of indigenous unemployment - the systemic discrimination which can result from the mere operation of established procedures of recruitment and hiring. The impact of those practices on indigenous people is examined in the context of an analysis of anti-discrimination legislation and cases from all Australian jurisdictions from the time of the passing of the Racial Discrimination Act by the Commonwealth in 1975 to the present. The thesis finds a number of reasons why the legislation fails to provide equality of opportunity for indigenous people seeking to enter the workforce. In nearly all jurisdictions it is obscurely drafted, used mainly by educated middle class white women, and provides remedies which tend to be compensatory damages rather than change to recruitment policy. White dominance of the legal process has produced legislative and judicial definitions of "race" and "Aboriginality" which focus on biology rather than cultural difference. In the commissions and tribunals complaints of racial discrimination are often rejected on the grounds of being "vexatious" or "frivolous", not reaching the required standard of proof, or not showing a causal connection between race and the conduct complained of. In all jurisdictions the cornerstone of liability is whether a particular employment term, condition or practice is reasonable. The thesis evaluates the approaches taken by appellate courts, including the High Court, and concludes that there is a trend towards an interpretation of reasonableness which favours employer arguments such as economic rationalism, the maintenance of good industrial relations, managerial prerogative to hire and fire, and the protection of majority rights. The thesis recommends that separate, clearly drafted legislation should be passed to address indigenous disadvantage and that indigenous people should be involved in all stages of the process.

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Suggested Citation
de Plevitz, Loretta Ruth , 2000, The failure of Australian legislation on indirect discrimination to detect the systemic racism which prevents Aboriginal people from fully participating in the workforce, Volume:PhD, Thesis, viewed 07 August 2022, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=4505.

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