Preventing age-related discrimination

This is intended as a guide only and is not legal advice. Seek advice for specific issues. Information sheet May 2007

What is age discrimination?

Commonwealth and the ACT make direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of age unlawful, subject to specific exemptions. Age discrimination or 'ageism' occurs when a person is treated unfairly and is disadvantaged because of their age. Age discrimination also occurs when a person is treated unfairly because of the age of a member of their family, friend or work colleague.

Why do we have age discrimination laws?

The Age Discrimination Act (Cwlth.) is a relatively new piece of legislation. It aims at eliminating discrimination against persons on the ground of age and ensuring that everyone has the same rights to equality before the law regardless of their age. It also allows for appropriate benefits and other assistance to be given to people of a certain age, particularly younger and older persons. It specifically aims at removing barriers to older people participating in society, particularly in the workforce, and changing negative stereotypes about older people.

What is ageism?

Ageism is the expression of attitudes, or behaviours, based on stereotypes of individuals on the basis of their age. For example:

  • He is too old to be able to learn new skills'.
  • She needs to be older to lead a research unit, because they won't report to someone younger than them'
  • He is a bit too young to have that level of responsibility'
  • She must be near retirement, she's over 50, so she would want to slow down and look after the grandkids'
  • He's coming back to do his Masters a bit late in life, isn't he? He's in his 60's'
  • And complete these statements: 'Baby boomers think .... '; 'Gen Y won't do .....'; 'Gen X's act....'

Instead of assessing a person on their merit against the criteria stereotyping people according to their age limits the selection of the best person for the job or course. It is called age discrimination.

What behaviours are age discrimination?

Age discrimination can involve non-verbal and verbal remarks of an age based nature such as:

  • jokes or comments denigrating a group because of their age
  • displays of ageist graphic material including posters, pinups, cartoons, graffiti or messages left on notice boards, desks or common areas or on computer screens
  • age-based insults, taunts, teasing or name-calling
  • offensive phone calls or letters
  • threatening violence against an individual or group because of their age
  • people wearing ageist symbols (such as badges) or clothing with ageist slogans in public
  • offensive e-mail messages or computer screen savers.

ANU grievance procedures can be used on any issues of age discrimination.

What do we do at ANU against age discrimination?

We act towards the inclusion and respect of all people in our community. We have policies supporting our commitment to equal opportunity to the access of education and employment irrespective of age. In employment this means employment offers and the terms and conditions and access to promotion and training are not based on irrelevant age-related criteria, except in accordance with approved exemptions. Similarly in education, this means students' applications and terms and conditions of acceptance or denial and their access to benefits are not based on irrelevant age-related criteria, except in accordance with approved exemptions.

Where can I find out more information?

ANU Equal Opportunity Policy Policy on the Prevention of discrimination, harassment and bullying 'All about age discrimination' brochure HREOC Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cwlth) and Discrimination Act 1991 (ACT) Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) Phone: 1300 369 711; or ACT Human Rights Commission Phone: (02) 6205 2222.

For advice contact the diversity and inclusions unit.

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