- University Commitment
- People with Disabilities
- University Obligations
- What is Disability Discrimination?
- Seeking Advice and Support
- Documents and Resources
The University is committed to the inclusion of people with a disability as staff and students and aims to eliminate unlawful discrimination. As such the University will continue to develop equal opportunity and equity practices and programs compatible with its overall goals and responsibilities.
The University has specific legal obligations to create an educational and employment environment that is free from unlawful discrimination.
Where necessary, the University must consider making reasonable adjustments to requirements, conditions or practices for individuals with relevant attributes so that they may enjoy equal opportunity. An example of a reasonable adjustment within the University is the provision of flexible working hours for a staff member to accommodate the effect of a disability.
The University has produced a Best Practice Guide Staff with Disabilities: Guidelines for Managers and Supervisors (.pdf) and endorsed the University Mental Health Strategy aimed at implementing actions for promoting mental health amongst members of the University community and supporting those experiencing mental illness or mental health difficulties. The University also has a Social Inclusion Plan (.pdf). The Social Inclusion Plan places priority on facilitating diversity within the University community, celebrating existing diversity and tackling challenges associated with underrepresentation across students, staff and professions.
People with Disabilities
Anyone can experience a disability at some time in their life. Figures provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2003) indicated that 20% of the Australian population has one or more disabilities and that proportion is increasing in conjunction with the aging of the population.
In 2003 there were an estimated 3.9 million people with disability in Australia. Of these, 2.6 million were under 65 years of age (15 per cent of that population). The projected growth from 2006 to 2010 in the working-age population (15-64 years) with a severe or profound limitation is 6.9 per cent or 37,500 people by 2010. (Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs)
According to the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (2007) one in five Australians aged 16 to 85 will have experienced a mental illness in the preceding twelve month period. With a staff population of over 6000, this translates to 1200 University staff in any one year who may potentially be managing significant issues relating to their mental health.
Depression is one of the most common of all mental health problems. One in five people experience depression at some stage of their lives (Beyond Blue).
The University as an employer and education provider has legal obligations not to unlawfully discriminate on the basis of someone's disability or assumed disability and to make reasonable adjustments.
The University Equal Opportunity Policy (MPF1241) accords with the values of the University and aims to ensure that there is no unlawful discrimination or discriminatory harassment and to provide the University community with information about the University's condemnation of unlawful discrimination and discriminatory harassment.
The University aims to ensure that its structures, practices, policies and guidelines are free from unlawful discrimination or discriminatory harassment.
Discrimination and discriminatory harassment (in relation to specific attributes only) and victimisation are prohibited under the Equal Opportunity Act (Vic), and Federal legislation including the Disability Discrimination Act.
What is Disability Discrimination?
The Federal Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992 and the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 2010 make it unlawful to discriminate against a person because of an actual or inferred disability or impairment, whether past, present or in the future, or because of their association with someone who has a disability.
The Equal Opportunity Act (Vic) defines disability as:
- a. total or partial loss of a bodily function
- b. the presence in the body of organisms that may cause disease
- c. total or partial loss of a part of the body
- d. malfunction of a part of the body, including –
- i. a mental or psychological disease or disorder;
- ii. a condition or disorder that results in a person learning more slowly than people who do not have the condition or disorder;
- iii. malformation or disfigurement of a part of the body.
- and includes a disability that may exist in the future (including because of a genetic predisposition to that disability) and, to avoid doubt, behaviour that is a symptom or manifestation of a disability;
The definition of "disability" in the DDA includes:
- Neurological, and
- Learning disabilities, as well as
- Physical disfigurement,
- The presence in the body of disease-causing organisms e.g. HIV or HEP C;
- Genetic predisposition to a disability; and
- Behaviour that is a symptom or manifestation of a disability
This broad definition is meant to ensure that everyone with a disability is protected.
The DDA covers a disability which people:
- Have now,
- Had in the past (for example: a past episode of mental illness),
- May have in the future (e.g.: a family history of a disability which a person may also develop),
- Are believed to have (for example: if people think someone has AIDS).
The DDA also covers people with a disability who may be discriminated against because:
- They are accompanied by an assistant, interpreter or reader,
- They are accompanied by a trained animal, such as a guide or hearing dog, or
- They use equipment or an aid, such as a wheelchair or a hearing aid.
The DDA also protects people who have some form of personal connection with a person with a disability like relatives, friends, carers and co-workers if they are discriminated against because of that connection or relationship. For example, it is unlawful discrimination if:
- A parent is refused a job because the employer assumes he or she will need time off work to look after a child with a disability
- People are refused access to a restaurant because they are with a friend who has a disability
- A carer of a person with a disability is refused accommodation because of his or her association with the person with a disability
- A worker is hassled about working with a person with a disability.
Harassment because of disability, such as insults or humiliating jokes, is unlawful in employment, education and in the provision of goods, services and facilities.
Seeking Advice and Support
The University Fairness and Diversity Unit can provide advice and assistance to staff and managers on reasonable adjustments for staff with a disability. Contact Catherine Gow, Fairness and Diversity Unit on 8344 4860. Disability Liaison (8344 7068) can provide assistance and advice in relation to students.
The Fairness and Diversity Unit has published a set of guidelines Employing People with Disabilities: A Guide for Managers and Supervisors (.pdf) and Staff with Disabilities: Guidelines for Managers and Supervisors (.pdf) which are valuable resources for both staff and their supervisors/managers.
The network of Discrimination Advisers can provide advice and support for staff and students with concerns or complaints in relation to discrimination.
The Federal Government JobAccess is a valuable web and telephone resource for employers and staff and can assist in workplace solutions for staff with disabilities, as well as financial assistance, through the Employment Assistance Fund (EAF) where eligible.
The Employment Assistance Fund (EAF) provides assistance for Employers of people with a disability and workers to modify physical work environments and purchase assistive technology, Auslan interpreting services and other services. People can access assistance provided through the EAF via the JobAccess website at jobaccess.gov.au and on 1800 464 800.
Your local Human Resource Consultant is the employer contact in relation to applications for funding through the EAF.
Your Human Resources Consultant, the University Health Service and the Counselling Service are also useful contact points.
Documents and Resources
- Discrimination - Who can I talk to? (.pdf, .doc)
- Employing People with Disabilities - A Guide for managers and Supervisors (.pdf)
- Staff with Disabilities - Guidelines for Supervisors and Managers (.pdf, .doc)
- Indirect Discrimination - Fair in form: fair in effect? (.pdf)
- Guide for Staff with a mental illness (.pdf)
- Workers with Mental Illness: A Practical Guide for Managers
- Guides for Academics by Students with Disabilities