Legal discrimination? No way! Are you sure?

Discrimination is bad right? Well in actual fact, the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 includes some exceptions that mean that certain forms of discrimination are allowed by the law.

You can read about what these exceptions are on the Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission website .

This site also describes what discrimination actually is and what forms it can take.

Discrimination can occur in two forms – “direct” discrimination and “indirect” discrimination. Here is an example to illustrate the difference.

    Scenario: Cheng is 15 years old. He and his family move into a house just across from your school. When Cheng was 10 he had an accident which left him confined to a wheelchair.
  • Example of Direct Discrimination: When Cheng’s parents come to enrol him in the school, they are told that the school has never had a student in a wheelchair before and they had concerns about how staff and students would manage having Cheng in the school. They suggest that they enrol him in another school. This would be an example of direct discrimination against Cheng personally on the basis of his disability. The school’s actions would be illegal.
  • Example of Indirect Discrimination: When Cheng’s parents come to the school, the administration is happy to enrol him. The parents ask if they could have a tour of the school and as they walk around they notice that many of the classrooms are only accessible by using steps, making them inaccessible to Cheng in his wheelchair. The school says that unfortunately that is how the school is designed and they are not prepared to spend money to provide wheelchair ramps when it only effects one student. Cheng’s parents now have no choice but to find another school for their son. Since it would be unreasonable to expect someone in a wheelchair to negotiate steps, the school’s refusal to put in ramps effectively disadvantages Cheng, preventing him from being able to attend lessons. This is an example of indirect discrimination against a people with Cheng’s particular type of disability. The school’s actions would be illegal.

Besides discrimination based upon disability, other types include: nationality, age, breastfeeding, carer status, disability/impairment, employment activity, family responsibilities, gender identity, industrial activity, lawful sexual activity, marital status, parental status, physical features, political belief or activity, pregnancy, race, religious belief or activity, sex, sexual orientation, personal association with someone who has, or is assumed to have, one of these personal characteristics. (Ref: http://www.humanrightscommission.vic.gov.au/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&layout=item&id=985&Itemid=362)

From the above, we can see that sometimes discrimination is very obvious. Other times though, we can actually be guilty of discrimination without even being aware of it. Do you think that you ever do this?

It’s good to think about how we react to news reports. Do we change the way we think about whole groups of people of a particular type just because we heard a bad report about another person of their race or religion or age group or hair colour or the time of the year they were born and so on. Well do you? It is worth reflecting upon because only then can we make sure we remove from ourselves any discriminatory thinking that might be lurking in our minds!

What do you think? How does discrimination start? How does it get into our minds? Post your thoughts.

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40 thoughts on “Legal discrimination? No way! Are you sure?

  1. this is very sad to know that there is a law that says some forms of disrimination are acceptable. Discrimination is not acceptable in any way , shape or form. It is just stupid to think that they can even say that some of it is allowed by law. I shouldnt be allowed , that is just crazy. Discrimination is against the law and al acts of it should be against the aw to. Not some acts that are allowed, thats a big no no.

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  2. how the law can allow some forms of dicsrimination is beyond me. discrimination is discrimination, theres no changing or argueing that. discrimination makes people feel bad about themselves regarding their, age,skin colour,race, gender and religion. the fact that the law is allowing that in the country is ridiculous. heck, crime rates would go up (criminals are doing the crimes because of either peer pressure or to prove a point) and maybe even suicide rates would go up. people would come to feel so bad about themselves that they would just want to end it all. I mean come on,how would you feel if you arent allowed into a building or allowed to participate in an activity because of your race, religion, age or gender? this reminds me of the universitys in Iran not allowing women into some of the courses. thats a form of discrimination.

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  3. Discrimination is everywhere, and we all do it, we may not realise it, but we do. If we hear a stereotype about a certain race, we immediately go along with it and carry it on. This is discrimination and the right way to go about it would be to not agree with the stereotype and not to pass it on. Discrimination gets into our minds because other people put it in there, if someone says something discrimation related, without noticing, we could be continously thinking about it. Discrimination starts with one person creating either a joke or stereotype about a race or any type of discriminatory statement and other people passing it on to their friends, and they pass it on. The joke/statement/stereotype ends up circulating society.

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  4. I think everybody can have discriminatory ways of thinking, although most of the time for people it can be subtle. Discrimination can also be favoritism as well, which is another way of showing lack of equality. I think discrimination can build up on a matter of many small incidents, which eventually come to form a solid, unwavering set of values. I think the best way to fight discrimination is exposure to different sorts of people and different sorts of cultures – which, with time, will most likely make people to understand that people are different (and there’s nothing they can do about it.)

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  5. In the first scenario the school has really done the wrong thing, saying that the teachers and students wouldn’t manage without actually knowing is bad. Him being in a wheelchair wouldn’t change the way he learns or how smart he is. In the second scenario the school has a reason that they can back up because spending all that money on one person could be costly. Still they could do something to help him get around the school. I think everybody discriminates people in someway sometimes without even knowing they have done it. It happens all the time but people shouldn’t judge others before actually getting to know them. I think that it should be illegal if it is bad enough and really hurts people.

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  6. I think that everybody has shown some sort of discrimanation in their life at least once. Some times this could be because you have not thought before you said it or you have just taken a joke too far. In scenario 1, the school is telling Cheng’s family straight up about the problem and providing an alternative by going to another school. I do think that discrimination is a bad thing, but making a school spend lots of money just to cater for one student’s needs might be a bit over the top. I think the way that the school tells Cheng’s family he can’t go there is OK because they are just telling him the facts about the staff and students aren’t ready for him. Obviously, if it is against the law, you should definatly accept him, and care for his needs, but if it’s not, it is entirely the schools choice. I know that he doesn’t get a say in whether he is in a wheelchair or not, but in the end it is all up to who runs the school and whether they are willing to pay and adapt to this situation.

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  7. My view on this topic is that many people today make the quick assumption that because of a certain aspect about you that you fit into a certain group. When you walk down the street today you see many different types of people. They all come from many different backgrounds with many different histories. We judge them right away, it’s natural to us to look at a person and assume certain aspects about them by the way they look. Skin, cloths, title everything has a play in what our minds will elude us to think. Yet, why do we avoid a certain type of person by the basis on our own minds? When do we realize that appearances can fool the mind?

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  8. The school has done the wrong thing, they are telling Cheng’s parents that their is a problem with him being in a wheel chair and bassically saying that he should go to another school. I do think it is going abit over-board spending money to buy ramps just for one person.
    Everybody discriminates someone in a way without them even knowing, at first people might think that when they discriminate another person that it wouldn’t hurt them and they might say that their joking, but whether they are joking or not, you don’t discriminate another person.

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  9. Discrimination is everywhere – and in my opinion, you can’t get away from it at all. So many people take a quick glance at someone, and discriminate. Somehow EVERYTHING is considered discrimination. But there are different levels of it. The main hit for me is discrimination against culture. In the past, news has erupted about cultures wearing the head scarves. I think that this shouldn’t be the case; we shouldn’t just jump into discriminating others because of their religious or culture choices. I think the discriminators should jump into their shoes. But ‘legal’ discrimination seems to be pushing it – why should ANY form of discrimination be allowed?

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  10. Discrimination is everywhere now a days. At some, people discriminate each other without notice, it might be that their intention was not to do so. For example Cheng, the school was willing to take him in but they were not willing to spend the money to place the facilities (Wheelchair ramps) to assist him, to enter class rooms. Giving a reason to backup your discrimination such as the school has done to Cheng, is not right. Because discrimination is wrong in total, no matter how good your excuse is, there is always an answer to a problem. As caring and intelligent human beings, it is sure that there is a solution to every problem. Just think, what if the principals son was in Chengs position? Would she/he be willing to spend the money on wheelchair ramps?

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  11. in our modern day society, everyone is going around and be discriminate to those that are unlucky, such as the as the scenario states, the school was not willing to pay that little bit extra for some ramps, for cheng. with the schools doing this it took up a lot of time looking around for a school that was either willing to put in ramps, or one that already had them

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  12. in the first scenario the school did the wrong thing by declining him from the school. they say that it would be too hard for the staff just because he is limited to a wheelchair, its not like him being in a wheelchair changes how smart he is it just means he is unable to get up stairs and other things without ramps.
    in the second scenario the school still decline him but they have better reasons. if cheng were to go to the school they would have had to build wheelchair ramps and other things so that he could get into the class rooms but the school was not pre pared to pay for wheelchair ramps and things like that for one student out of the whole school.
    discrimination is a bad thing but it will never be stopped. it should be illegal if it hurts peoples feelings and/ or makes them upset.

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  13. There is so much discrimination around that it will never be stopped ever. As the scenario clearly states the school was not willing to pay that little bit more for the ramps for cheng. With the schools doing this it took some time looking for a school that was willing to put in some ramps or already had them on there campus. Just because he is in a wheel chair doesnt make him any less of a person. The least they could of done is put in a few ramps for the kid.

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  14. in scenrio one the school is discriminating on cheng physical abilities and that is wrong. they are effecting his learning just because he is disabled. in scenario two they are also doing the wrong thing because if the school put in ramps then they could except more physically disabled people. so in both they are commiting wrong. everyone discriminates and it is natruel. i do it all the time and im not embarrsed to say i do. im also pretty certain im discriminated upon but i dont mind cause its human nature.

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    • The trouble with discrimination Kevin is that it separates people. It damages relationships, fuels anger and resentment and can even trigger violence. It is sometimes a component in suicide and can make people isolate themselves from others. It silences people who could otherwise make valuable contributions. It makes people feel bad about themselves and towards others. In talking about “human nature” you have me wondering. Should we accept certain negative behaviours just because they may be common? How can we correct entrenched bad behaviours if we just accept them as “human nature”? I am thinking that perhaps this just sets us up to keep on tolerating discrimination, bullying, theft, lying and other common behaviours? I wonder what others think about this?

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  15. Diacrimination is a bad thing and there should not be a law on it, discrimination is everywhere and all around us, people around you may be discriminating and even you may be discriminating whether you realize it or not. The right thing to do would to not be apart of the discrimination and either not acknowledge it or say to them that it is not the right thing to do.

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  16. discrimination should not be happening as because it is just pure wrong to discriminate someone. even if they have a disablity or they have very low education then ya i think that it is ok to not like discriminate them but to say that they cant get the job and that.

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  17. To know that there are types of discrimination out in our world that is acceptable is appalling. People just need to learn to accept others for who they are. Discrimination is not something to be proud of yet we commit it every day, we may not realise it but it happens. The part that is even more upsetting is that there are countries that are actually allowing people to discriminate others.

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  18. I don’t think it is bad to not let somebody into a school if it is in his best interest. If a school cannot handle a disabled person in a wheelchair, it would be better for them to go to a school that is suited to their needs. The student wouldn’t enjoy their time at the school if there are no facilities to suit them and no staff members that know how to help them.

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    • I agree with Hayden in a way here because it would be better for the student to go to a school where his disability is more accepted because then he would have more access to things like his classes obviously but also the students would most likely be more welcoming to his disability as well as staff. Although this shouldn’t happen at all though. Schools should be able and willing to cater for people with disability’s such as this students.

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  19. Discrimination starts by picking on someone that is different then you are, discrimination is a big thing to some people and in saying that some also don’t know what the difference of discrimination and a joke. Discrimination is what people feel hurt about; imagine you in their shoes, you getting discrimination about your race, religion, age, sex etc. Discrimination leads to higher risks of things such as suicide and depression, just because people are not allowing others to participate in a certain activity or even have the freedom to be able to move around place to place.

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  20. Discrimination is a very serious topic and is unnecessary to be used in the context that people are being singled out for reasons that they can’t help. Some thought should be put towards people that have to do things a different way to everyone else, it is rude and inconsiderate that people are ignoring and not doing anything about it. Also, in the example of Cheng not being able to attend the school because there is no way of him being able to get up stairs without a wheelchair ramp, them telling the family to look at a different school is just ignorant and something should be changed about that.

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    • While Cheng is a made up example, it is based on a type of discrimination that was once common in Australia. Fortunately Amber, there are now laws in Australia to stop this type of discrimination. Unfortunately though, this type of discrimination is still alive and well among those young people who name-call, tease, bully and otherwise mistreat others who are somehow different to what they think is how someone should act or look. Some adults, who should know better, do this too. It is people like yourself who can really make this change by showing others that you will not tolerate such discrimination. Thanks for contributing your comment! 🙂

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  21. Most people have done it without knowing that they have. Sometimes that can be when you are just joking around with your friends but then there are some of the more serious cases where people are judgmental on another person’s race. the thing is that people don’t know that they are discriminating because they aren’t knowledgeable about the situation. I’m not one to say that law should change but any type of discrimination should be illegal.

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  22. discrimination is wrong, it shouldnt be allowed. but sometimes people make rude remaarks and not realise what they are doing, alot of people need to think before they speak. everybody should be given an education on exactly what discrimination is, because i think that some people are not knowledgeable about it, they just make rude comments. every and any type of discrimation should be illegal.

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  23. Everyone has been discrimative at least once in their life with out knowing it, it could be cultural, sexual and or medical discrimination. Some people joke around with a group of friends about different kind of races but it’s just a joke but some people can take it to hart. In Cheng’s situation it might have been his fault that he’s in a wheelchair, but I can’t beleive they would’nt pay for for ramps it’s not like will be the only person in a wheel chair that want’s to go to that school.

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  24. Most people have done it without knowing that they have. Sometimes that can be when you are just joking around with your friends but then there are some of the more serious cases where people are judgmental on another person’s race or religon or medical condition. Cheng may be in a wheelchair but it doesnt mean he can be discriminated against.

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    • As you have Ayrton, number of people have made the comment that most people have discriminated without realising it. How can this be changed? Is education the answer? More open discussions perhaps?

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  25. I am very saddened as i was reading the story of Cheng. This is just pure evil. This makes me realise just how Lucky we are in Australia to get an education without being rejected because of a disibility we have. It’s not Cheng’s fault that the school is like that and i hope he finds a school that will accept him because everyone needs an education and especially him. I feel sorry for Cheng for him and his parents weather it’s indirect or direct discrmination. It’s really wrong. Good Luck Cheng!

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  26. this is ridiculous, there are different forms of discrimination, bad and not so bad.
    Not so bad being Chelsea’s explanation of not knowing your doing in.
    And bad being everything else.
    discrimination is a terrible terrible thing and should but can’t be stopped.
    There is no way it should be legal, but with it not being legal would that mean going along with what someone else has said or a ‘joke’ would be illegal? Wheres the line for it? it’s all bad, but truth is. We all do it.

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  27. Discrimination should not be legal at all! While I was reading about Cheng, I found it really sad because his parents had to go to different schools just to find one that would accept him for his disability. I don’t understand why the school couldn’t just do everyone a favour and make ramps for Cheng to use. They could get more people like Cheng if they did. It actually is quite sad when you read “We can actually be guilty of discrimination without even being aware of it” because a lot of things that we say, can be taken the wrong way.

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  28. I agree with Steph 100%, Discrimination should not be legal. How on earth does Discrimination count as something legal? i think it should count as illegal, but then I agree with Tasma, there is different degrees of discrimination so how do you say that’s illegal and that’s not due to the severity of the comment or action. The story of Cheng is really sad and absolutely horrible. Also what’s sad how we can be guilty of discrimination without even realising it? Are we just to use to putting each other down and name calling that it’s a second nature?

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  29. sometimes you can do it without even realiseing that you have, and it can really hurt people who have disabilities. we maybe need to think before we act…

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    • This is true Danniel. Thinking before we speak or act means we will think about the effect of what we say or do on ourselves and upon others. Thinking before we speak or act helps us to develop discernment and empathy. This will help us to be more effective communicators with all sorts of people.

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  30. Discrimination is a bad thing and there should not be a law against it, discrimination is everywhere and all around us, people around you are sure to have been discriminating against others and even you may be guilty of it whether you realize it or not. The best thing to do would be, to not join the problem of discrimination and either not acknowledge it, or say to them that it’s just not on.

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