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Nina’s story

Nina describes being discriminated against and harassed at work because of her race. We explain how the Equal Opportunity Act relates to her situation, and how the Commission can help people who have a similar experience.

"The owner could be quite racist – sometimes I’d hear him talk about customers and be pretty disgusted. He wasn’t particularly friendly to me, but I just got on with the job."

“I’m proud of my Turkish heritage, and I’ve really only experienced racism a couple of times in my life.

I had this one terrible job in a restaurant. I liked the hours, because I was still studying, but wasn’t a great place to work. The owner could be quite racist – sometimes I’d hear him talk about customers and be pretty disgusted. He wasn’t particularly friendly to me, but I just got on with the job.

One day, he called me into a meeting and accused me of stealing. I denied it and asked what evidence he had. I’m a hard worker and I just wouldn’t do something like that. He told me my shifts would be suspended while he ‘investigated’ further. It wasn’t clear how he intended to do this, but it meant I lost a week’s worth of shifts. I spoke to a couple of the other staff, all Aussies, and none of them had to meet with him like that.

When I did come back, I could tell he’d talked about me to the other staff. I felt like I was on the outer, and a couple of them were overtly hostile. They’d make fun of my accent and say disparaging things about Turkish people, Muslims and migrants.

I ended up quitting the job, but I didn’t want anyone else to go through that. A friend put me in touch with the Commission and they arranged a meeting with the owner of the bar. He was pretty defensive and a bit reluctant to admit fault, but he agreed to pay me a small amount of compensation and provide a written reference for me.”

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 Nina’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.

More information

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