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Ash and Tai’s story

Ash and Tai’s guardian describes how the two teens were targeted by security because they are Aboriginal. We explain how the Equal Opportunity Act relates to their situation, and how the Commission can help people who have a similar experience.

"As we were leaving, the security guard deliberately singled Ash and Tai out for a bag search. He wasn’t stopping anyone else, and I just knew that the only reason he stopped them was because they’re Aboriginal."

“Ash and Tai are such great kids – respectful, friendly, enthusiastic – that I’m always taken aback when I see someone treat them unfairly because of the colour of their skin. As their guardian, I can’t let that kind of thing go unchallenged. There was an incident during the last school holidays – we visited a big sports store in the town to get some equipment before they started back at school.

As we were leaving, the security guard deliberately singled Ash and Tai out for a bag search. He wasn’t stopping anyone else, and I just knew that the only reason he stopped them was because they’re Aboriginal. I hate to think about them having to go through that when they’re just trying to live their lives as happy teenagers.

I asked the speak to the store manager and told him what I had observed. He was very professional and happy to talk to me about it, but said that without CCTV footage, there was nothing he could do.

I followed up with the Commission and they helped me understand how the law relates to racial discrimination. The store manager agreed to attend a conciliation session, and we were able to reach an agreement. He agreed to pay Ash and Tai some compensation and provide a written apology. He also agreed to run cultural awareness training for staff to help them recognise any bias they might have. I think it’s a good outcome.”

The incidents portrayed in this story are inspired by real complaints received by the Commission, but all names and other identifying details have been changed.

How does the law apply to Ash and Tai’s situation?

In Victoria, it’s against the law for you to be discriminated against, harassed or bullied because of your race.

Under the Equal Opportunity Act, race includes colour, descent or ancestry, nationality or ethnic background, or any characteristics people might associate with a particular race. The Act applies to many different parts of public life, including accommodation, provision of goods and services, and employment.

You can make a complaint

Get help from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

You can make a complaint to us if you think you have experienced:

If you wish, someone else can make a complaint for you. Find out how the Commission helps people resolve complaints.

We can also give you information about your rights.

Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities also protects the distinct cultural rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria. This means public authorities must not deny Aboriginal people the right to enjoy their identity and culture, use their language or maintain their distinctive spiritual, material and economic relationship with Victoria’s land and waters.

More information

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The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission stands on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung Peoples of the Kulin Nation. We recognise their cultures, histories, diversity and deep connection to this land and pay our respects to their Elders past and present.

Sovereignty has never been ceded – this land always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.