In 2013-14 the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW continued its enquiry, complaint handling and education activities, which reflect our statutory functions to receive and resolve complaints and to inform people about their rights and responsibilities under antidiscrimination law.
In this digital age, the Board’s communication with the NSW community is increasingly through electronic media. The first step for many people experiencing discrimination is to consult our extensive website. In July 2013 the Board launched a new site, after considerable time spent in the previous 12 months converting the old one to the Department of Justice’s new content management system.
The new site has a significantly improved structure and navigation, revised content, new graphics and a new address which should be easier to find using a search engine. This will provide a much better experience for users and my thanks go to the staff who put a great deal of effort into the conversion.
Other people contact our Enquiry Service, which provides advice to both individuals and employers and service providers by phone, email and in person. Although we still receive thousands of enquiries, numbers have fallen a little this year. This may reflect the improved accessibility of information on the website.
There was a slight increase in the number of complaints we received this year, although overall complaint numbers have remained fairly stable for the last ten years. In 2013-14 we received 1,188 complaints, with disability discrimination, race discrimination and victimisation the most frequent grounds of complaint.
The relatively high number of victimisation complaints, with the vast majority in the area of employment, suggests that employers may need further education about the right of employees to make a complaint without fear of further problems.
The conciliation team continues to achieve excellent results, with 1,104 complaints dealt with in 2013-14. The team took an average of 6.3 months taken to finalise complaints, and 89% were finalised within 12 months. Resolving complaints through conciliation requires sophisticated negotiation skills and the Board is very fortunate to have such an experienced and knowledgeable team.
In 2013-14 the Board’s Education Service continued its training program for employers and service providers. The team delivered 288 on-site training sessions and ran 17 seminars to reach a total of 4,884 participants.
The program brought in a total of $457,269, including publication sales, which is a similar figure to last year. This is an excellent achievement in view of the fact that demand for feePresident’s report based training has weakened since the global financial crisis, and our marketing capacity is very limited. It also reflects the excellent reputation and skill of our training team, which generates frequent repeat business and continual positive feedback.
A significant project this year was our competition for school children, which was run to coincide with Law Week in May 2014. We asked the students to produce a postcard design in the style of an Aboriginal dot painting on the theme of ‘my community’, and received a record number of very high quality entries. With three winners and 15 runners up reflecting NSW’s diverse population, the award presentation was a very lively and successful event, and my thanks to all those who helped to organise it.
As well as the ongoing task of managing our comprehensive website, the Board’s two part-time communications staff have assisted with a number of press releases to respond to issues that arose in the community. We have also produced several issues of a new-style e-newsletter and developed a new series of posters, including two that address the current issue of social media.
Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team also continued its activities in 2013-14. The team worked with other agencies to provide joint information sessions for community workers and leaders, provided training for real estate agents and attended a number of fairs and information days.
After my trip to Bourke in May 2013 to discuss discrimination issues that had been highlighted in enquiries and complaints to the Board, staff made a follow-up visit in April 2014. They met again with local residents and law enforcement agencies to work towards addressing residents’ concerns and foster better understanding about the Board’s work. They also ran several conciliation conferences and took part in Law Week information sessions.
Our two part-time Legal Officers continue to advise the statutory Board members on applications for exemptions from the ADA, as well as dealing with other legal matters. We continue to receive significant numbers of these applications, and some raise complex legal issues, so I am very appreciative of their assistance and expertise.
All this work has been achieved in a context of considerable pressure on the Board’s budget and resources. As previously, due to budget constraints there has been a significant impact on our ability to deliver on our statutory functions to conduct inquiries, review legislation and develop human rights policies and programs.
In the year ahead, the Board will look to raise its profile further and ensure that the services we provide best meet the needs of the community, within our limited budget. I am looking at a variety of communication and engagement methods that may improve awareness about our services and discrimination issues in general within sections of the community that we may not have been reaching previously.
We will also continue to review our workplace education service to ensure we are responding to current client expectations and delivering on our statutory obligations. Thanks to all the Board’s staff, particularly to Elizabeth Wing, and including our Liaison and Support team who facilitate the core work of the Board. Thanks also to the statutory Board members, and to the members of our advisory committees who provide valuable input on issues of concern in the community.
Stepan Kerkyasharian AO
02 Dec 2022
We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the ongoing connection Aboriginal people have to this land and recognise Aboriginal people as the original custodians of this land.