Policy Redesign Project

All policies and procedures are being reviewed as part of this project. This document is pending review, but remains in effect until the review is carried out.

Equal Opportunity Policy

Establishment:Council, 1991
Last Amended: Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), 3 December 2012
Nature of Amendment: Transfer of Authority previously held by Director, Academic and Student Services
Date Last Reviewed: May 2007
Responsible Officer:Director, Human Resources

Table of Contents

1. Policy Statement

2. The Equal Opportunity Principles

3. Scope

4. Definitions

5. Responsibilities

6. Grievances

7.  Associated Policies and Programs

8. Legislation

9.  Appendix A

This Policy is consistent with Commonwealth and State legislation, and Flinders University Strategic Plan.


1.  Policy Statement

Flinders University values and celebrates the social and cultural diversity that is reflected in its community, is committed to achieving equality of opportunity in education and employment and to promoting an environment where students and staff are able to study and work effectively, without fear of unlawful discrimination, harassment or bullying.


2.  The Equal Opportunity Principles

The broad principles of equal opportunity are "social justice" and "diversity". Social justice refers to the four elements of equity, access, participation, and basic rights. Diversity refers to the three elements of social, cultural and linguistic diversity.

The broad principles are identified under five main headings as follows:

  • that action is taken to redress disadvantage caused by unequal access to education and employment (equity)
  • that access to conditions and benefits of employment for all staff, and access to education for all students, is fair and equitable (access)
  • that staff and students (individuals and/or groups) are directly involved in decisions affecting their work and study (participation)
  • that the basic rights of equal access to jobs, education and freedom from discrimination are protected. This includes receiving information about these rights and providing complaint mechanisms for redressing grievances (basic rights), and
  • that the social, cultural, and linguistic diversity of the University community is recognised, valued and respected (diversity).

The University recognises that equal opportunity does not mean treating everyone the same. The commitment to equal opportunity provides the stimulus for the University to establish policies, programs and other mechanisms designed to ensure that equal opportunity is provided to all staff and students and that members of disadvantaged groups can gain equal access to opportunities for education and employment.


3.  Scope

This Policy applies to staff and students engaged in activities reasonably connected with their role at the University, including field trips, field work, conferences and social activities. Such activities may extend beyond the University campus.

This Policy does not automatically cover members of the University community undertaking work placements in other organisations. In the event that harassment / discrimination occurs under these circumstances the University will act as far as possible to protect the complainant, and will work jointly with the other organisation to investigate the complaint and take such precautions as are possible to prevent further incidents.


4.  Definitions


Unlawful discrimination is any practice which is designated as unlawful by state or federal legislation or University policy, and which has the purpose or effect of disadvantaging individuals on the basis of their status or beliefs* or on the basis of characteristics* generally attributed to that status or belief. (*See Appendix A)

There are two forms of discrimination:

Direct discrimination occurs when people are treated less favourably because they belong to a particular group or category of people, for example, people with a disability or people of a particular ethnicity. It also includes treating someone unfairly because of a stereotype about a particular group or category of people to which they belong.

Indirect (or systemic) discrimination exists when there is a requirement (a rule, policy, practice or procedure) that is the same for everyone, but which has an unequal or disproportionate effect or result on a particular group or groups. Unless this type of requirement is reasonable in all the circumstances it is likely to be indirect discrimination.


Unlawful harassment means any form of behaviour that takes place in circumstances in which a reasonable person, having regard to all circumstances, should have anticipated that the person, or group of people, who is (are) subject to the harassment would be offended, humiliated or intimidated. The behaviour in question must be perceived to relate to one or more of the grounds of discrimination as listed in Appendix A.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is any unwanted, unwelcome or uninvited behaviour of a sexual nature that makes a person feel humiliated, intimidated or offended.


Victimisation means treating someone unfairly because they have acted on the rights given them by this Policy, or because they have supported someone else who acted upon those rights.


Bullying defines persistent or ongoing behaviours directed towards an individual or group that a reasonable person, having regard to the circumstances, would find offensive, intimidating, humiliating or threatening and that potentially or actually affects health and wellbeing.


5.  Responsibilities

All Members of the University Community

All members of the University community have a responsibility to work individually and collectively to achieve a work and study environment in which equality of opportunity is fostered. This will assist the University to achieve equal opportunity in employment and education.


The Vice-Chancellor is the University's designated Equal Opportunity Coordinator and is responsible for ensuring that the University operates in compliance with the legislation and with the terms of this Policy. The Vice-Chancellor is assisted by the senior executive team comprising the Deputy Vice-Chancellors, Executive Deans, the Pro Vice-Chancellor (IS) and the Vice-Presidents.


6.  Grievances

Any complaints about breaches of this Policy will be dealt with seriously, confidentially and in a timely manner.

Student grievances are managed in accordance with the University's Equal Opportunity Grievance Procedures for Complaints of Unlawful Discrimination and Harassment 

Staff grievances are managed in accordance with Staff Grievances

The identified grievance procedures provide the University with the opportunity to address incidents of unlawful discrimination and harassment within the organisation and as such form part of an overall strategy for meeting its obligations to provide a study and work environment free of unlawful discrimination and harassment.

Any person has the right at any time to refer a grievance to a relevant external agency. External agencies may include the Police, SA Equal Opportunity Commission, Australian Human Rights Commission, Ombudsman or relevant staff and student unions or associations.

Assistance may be sought from Director, Human Resources Division or Manager Equal Opportunity and Diversity (staff), Manager, Student Policy and Projects or Student Equal Opportunity Advisor (students), as appropriate.

7.  Associated Policies, Statements and Programs related to this Policy

  • Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Statement
  • Guidelines for Language Use (Language Use/Communication brochure)
  • Policy Against Racism
  • Policy on Students with Disabilities
  • Policy on Gender Representation on Committees
  • Sexual Harassment Policy
  • Staff/student Relationships Management Plan
  • Workplace Program (Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace)
  • Cultural Diversity and Inclusive Practice Statement
  • Disability Action Plan
  • Student Equity Plan
  • University Indigenous Education Strategies
  • No Bullying at Flinders Statement
  • Employment Strategy for Indigenous Australians (ESIA)


8.  Legislation

The following legislation relates to this Policy:


  • Racial Discrimination Act 1975
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1984
  • Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1992
  • Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999
  • Age Discrimination Act 2004
  • Fair Work Act 2009

South Australian

  • Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA)
  • Racial Vilification Act 1996 (SA)
  • Civil Liability Act 1936 (SA) (the racial victimisation (provision)
  • Occupational Health Safety & Welfare Act 1986 (SA)

9.  APPENDIX A To Equal Opportunity Policy

The status, beliefs or characteristics on which it is unlawful to discriminate (as identified in the various pieces of legislation mentioned at Clause 8) and which are referred to as ‘grounds’ include:

  • sex or gender
  • sexuality or gender identity
  • pregnancy
  • breastfeeding
  • marital or domestic partnership status
  • caring responsibilities
  • identity of spouse or domestic partner
  • disability
  • race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin
  • age
  • political opinion
  • religious conviction or religious dress
  • personal association with a person who is identified by any of the listed attributes
  • social origin
  • medical record
  • criminal record
  • trade union activity
  • on any other ground which the Council shall after due consideration determine to be a basis of discriminatory practice
  • any combination of the above