In 2014-15 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.
This year the Board has embarked on several new initiatives to increase engagement with our stakeholders and awareness about our role. The first of these was an expansion of our consultation program.
The Board already had three community consultation groups – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander; Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual; and Sex and Gender Diversity. In 2014-15 we set up three more – Multicultural; Industry; and State Government. The new groups each met for an initial session this year and we are confident that further meetings in 2015-16 will result in increasing dialogue and developments that will enhance the Board’s relationship with the community.
The second initiative was a move into social media, with the launch of a Facebook page and Twitter account, as well as a page on LinkedIn. This provides an opportunity to communicate in a different way, extend our reach and meet current stakeholder expectations for receiving information. This has already enabled us to develop our networks and we look forward to an even better response as the number of followers increases.
There was also another upgrade to our website in June 2015 when the Department of Justice moved to the Sharepoint content management system (CMS). Communications staff had recently done a major restructure and content review of the site during a previous change of CMS, so this time the migration could be performed with only minor alterations.
The new system will have a unified look for all sections of the Department. The site also has a number of improved features including better searching, drop-down mega-menus, carousels and quick access to popular content. We will continue to improve the site and use our e-newsletter Equal Time, and our social media outlets to direct people towards it.
Our Enquiry Service continues to assist people who can’t find what they are after on our website. This may be because they do not use the internet, or they need a verbal explanation or they have a complex issue that requires a more personal assessment. The Enquiry Service also gives employers and service providers information on anti-discrimination law and options for preventing discrimination and harassment in their organisation, referring them on to our training and consultancy service if they need more in-depth assistance.
Discrimination complaint numbers have remained stable this year, President’s report with 1058 complaints received. As previously, disability discrimination, race discrimination and victimisation were 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 unfair treatment for doing so.
The conciliation team continues to achieve excellent results, with 1,217 complaints finalised in 2014-15. The team took an average of 6.2 months taken to finalise complaints, and 89% were finalised within 12 months. Resolving complaints through conciliation requires sophisticated negotiation skills and the Board is fortunate to have such an experienced team.
In 2014-15 the Board’s Education Service continued its training program for employers and service providers. The team delivered 259 on-site training sessions and ran 16 seminars to reach a total of 4,061 participants. Our training team have an excellent reputation and receive frequent repeat business and continual positive feedback.
This training is done on a fee-for-service basis and provides income to offset the expense involved. The total income for 2014-15, including sale of publications, was $366,658. However there are a number of factors affecting our ability to maintain and increase this figure. Expenditure on training is discretionary and is affected by economic conditions which limit our capacity for marketing and innovation in a very competitive environment.
As well as the ongoing task of managing our new social media presence and website, the Board’s two part-time communications staff have assisted with a number of press releases, produced several issues of our e-newsletter, and worked on other training and information materials as required.
Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team also continued its activities in 2014-15. 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. They also worked towards a memorandum of understanding with the NSW Office of Fair Trading which was signed in September 2015.
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.
My thanks go to all the Board’s staff, particularly to Elizabeth Wing, the Conciliators, Enquiry Officers, Educators and the 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 all consultation councils who provide such valuable input on issues of concern in the community.
Stepan Kerkyasharian AO
Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW
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.