Discrimination by race and gender has been a major feature of Australian history since European settlement in 1788. The period until the 1970s was characterised by overt discrimination on the grounds of gender and race with discriminatory policies affecting the employment of women, Aborigines and non-European migrants. Agitation for changes grew in the 1960s with lobbying from a variety of groups within the community including burgeoning women's groups, trade unions, and groups pursuing changes on racial issues. Changes in legislation and policies began to be achieved in the late 1960s, with equal pay awards on the basis of gender and race and the removal of some discriminatory employment practices such as the "marriage bar", which prevented married women from retaining permanent employment in public services and areas of private employment. Beginning in 1975, anti-discrimination legislation was introduced on the grounds of race and sex. In the following decade affirmative action legislation required large employers to take a more pro-active stance on examining discrimination against women within their organisation and instituting a program which would assist in the achievement of equal employment opportunity. At the beginning of the twenty-first century in Australia there is public recognition of women's and all ethnic groups' rights to work and not be subjected to discriminatory practices. The outcomes from these policies, however, are not so clear cut. Women and Aborigines (1.5 per cent of the population) earn less than white men and Aborigines have a significantly higher unemployment rate. Women form the majority of temporary and part-time workers. In an increasingly decentralised industrial relations system that emphasises collective bargaining at the workplace, regulations for minimum working standards are being reduced. Thus, despite continuing anti-discrimination and affirmative action policies, the labour market is becoming increasingly insecure for more of the workfoice. Yet security in employment and minimum standards are crucial for the achievement of employment equity. This chapter discusses the evolution of policies designed to achieve equal opportunity in employment. It concentrates on policies that affect women and Aborigines.
Workplace Equality: International Perspectives on Legislation, Policy and Practice p. 47-64
Library of Public Policy and Public Administration 7