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Survey Reveals 8 out of 10 Asian-Australians Experience Discrimination

The most common situation where discrimination was reported by Asian-Australians was "at a shop or restaurant," followed by workplaces and educational institutions.
September 23, 2019, 3:35am
Asian businesswoman
Image via MaxPIxel

Australians from an Asian background are the most likely ethnic group to be discriminated against as consumers or employees, according to a recent nationwide survey. Out of the 2000-plus people who participated in the study, 82 percent of Asian-Australian respondents reported experiencing discrimination, followed by 81 percent of Middle Eastern-Australians, and 71 percent of Indigenous Australians.

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The most common situation where discrimination was reported by Asian-Australians was “at a shop or restaurant," followed by workplaces and educational institutions.

“The findings of this survey are a stark illustration of the challenges faced by Asian-Australians in our society—and particularly in the workplace,” said Penny Burtt, Group CEO of Asialink, a centre for creative Asia engagement based at the University of Melbourne. “This study reinforces the need to do more to advance Asian-Australians in our workplaces, particularly given the important role that this community can play in our successful engagement with the Asian region.”

Although the self-reporting method could provide an over or under estimate of reality—since there are people who experience discrimination but don’t report it and some who misreport incidents of alleged discrimination—Researcher Nicholas Biddle, associate director of the Australian National University’s Centre for Social Research and Methods, said “when we look at people's behaviour and people's actions, then it's the self-reports that really matter.

“It's a description of people's experience and if people are experiencing discrimination in the job or in education, then they're more likely to disengage from those types of activities,” he said, according to Fairfax.

The study was conducted ahead of the first Asian-Australian Leadership Summit (AALS)—an initiative of Asialink, consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the Australian National University which was “aimed at putting cultural diversity firmly on the agenda.”

Discrimination and “stereotypes associated with the group” were the most commonly-cited barriers that Asian-Australians felt blocked them from obtaining leadership positions in business and professional roles.

“There’s more work to be done to address these findings," said Professor Gareth Evans, Chancellor of the ANU, who said the barriers create a "bamboo ceiling" for Asian-Australians in the workplace.

“Ensuring cultural diversity in our business, professional, and other organisational leadership needs to become a priority across our community,” he said. “There really is a bamboo ceiling in Australia and change will only come when we address the very real challenges faced by Asian-Australians.”

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