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Racism at work and play: will we learn our lesson?

30 May 2013

This week has seen the release of a saddening report from the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission which showed that the most common place for people to experience racism in Victoria is at work.

The release of these statistics is timely as recent, controversial incidents in the sporting world have received wide media coverage. The high profile nature of incidents in the AFL may actually have a positive effect as Karen Toohey, Victoria's Equal Opportunity Acting Commissioner told ABC News; she is hopeful cases such as AFL player Adam Goodes standing up against racist comments will encourage more people to come forward.

The further comments made by the Collingwood president on air this week have also brought to light some important points about the issue of racism, namely; it is a very fine line between banter and offensive behaviour and even a person who would not usually make offensive remarks can have a "slip of the tongue."

The combined factors of the Commission's Reporting Racism survey and this high profile media case should be leading employers to look within. The Commission's survey found that thirty two percent of respondents said they had witnessed or experienced racism at work. Further anecdotal evidence showed that the experiences were varied and not limited to one particular area of employment or type of racist behaviour.

Employers and those in management have a duty to act on racist behaviour in their teams but, as the Collingwood boss has shown, they are also responsible for their own behaviour and must lead by example. This means being aware of what is and is not acceptable behaviour.

Drawing the lines between opinion, banter and racism can be difficult; try our 2 minute quiz and test your knowledge.

This animated quiz is part of online EEO, Anti-discrimination, Harassment and Bullying training from which uses thought provoking animations and interactive learning techniques learn more here.

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