Equity and Diversity - Governing Policy

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Equity and Diversity - Governing Policy


Approval authority
Responsible officer
Vice-Chancellor and President
Designated officer
Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor
First approved
9 December 2014
Last amended
17 June 2016
Effective start date
15 December 2014
Review date
9 December 2019
Related documents
Anti-Discrimination and Freedom from Harassment - Governing Policy
Children on Campus - Managerial Policy
Health, Safety and Wellbeing - Governing Policy
Inclusive and Non-discriminatory Language - Managerial Policy
Parental Leave - Managerial Policy
Performance Management - Managerial Policy
Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying - Managerial Policy
Recruitment, Selection and Appointment (RSA) - Managerial Policy
Responding to Workplace Bullying - Procedures
Staff Code of Conduct - Governing Policy
Staff Discrimination and Harassment Complaint - Procedures
Student Complaints and Appeals - Governing Policy
Student Complaints and Appeals - Procedures
Student Conduct and Discipline - Governing Policy
Students with a Disability - Managerial Policy
Superseded documents
Equity - Governing Policy
Related legislation / standards
Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld)
Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cwlth)
Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cwlth)
Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cwlth)
Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cwlth)
Fair Work Act 2009 (Cwlth)
Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cwlth)
Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Cwlth)

1. Purpose of policy

This policy provides a statement of the commitment by the University of the Sunshine Coast to creating a work and study environment which values the rich diversity of its staff and students, facilitates equitable access and full participation for those from disadvantaged backgrounds or who are under-represented, and in which all members of the University community take personal responsibility for working to eliminate discriminatory practices.

2. Policy scope and application

This policy applies to staff and students of the University in any area and at any time they are undertaking work or study related activities both within Australia and overseas, including during work placement and international conferences. This policy also applies to volunteers, contractors and visitors to the University. It draws its principles from the values and strategic goals stated in the University of the Sunshine Coast Strategic Plan 2011 – 2015, which explicates a clear commitment to equity, fairness and social justice.

3. Definitions

Please refer to the University’s Glossary of Terms for policies and procedures. Terms and definitions identified below are specific to these procedures and are critical to its effectiveness:

Adjustment: a specific measure put in place to enable equitable access or participation in employment or education for people from specific groups or for an individual with an attribute that is listed in a Commonwealth or State legislation and which would preclude them from participating on the same basis as people without such an attribute, e.g. disability, family responsibilities, religious belief. Reasonable adjustment’ is intended to enable the employee or student to participate equitably; it does not provide an advantage to that individual or disadvantage others; employees must be able to meet the inherent requirements of their role, nor will any adjustment be made to a Program or Course that would compromise the academic integrity of that Program or Course.

Attribute: a characteristic which a person has, or may be imputed to have now, previously or in the future. A protected attribute is one listed in relevant Commonwealth or State Legislation, (e.g. parental responsibility, age, gender, sexuality, race etc.) and discrimination or harassment based upon a protected attribute is unlawful.

Discrimination: There are two types of discrimination; Direct and Indirect Discrimination. The Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld) definitions state:

Direct discrimination on the basis of an attribute happens if a person treats, or proposes to treat, a person with an attribute less favourably than another person without the attribute would be treated in circumstances that are the same or not materially different.

Indirect discrimination on the basis of an attribute happens if a person imposes, or proposes to impose, a term (a) with which a person with an attribute does not or is not able to comply; and

(b) with which a higher proportion of people without the attribute comply or are able to comply; and

(c) that is not reasonable.

Merit: Depending upon the purpose for which ‘merit’ is being assessed (e.g. employment, promotion, commendation), consideration will be given to the following elements as relevant and with due regard to the principle of achievement relative to opportunity:

  • qualifications;
  • knowledge, experience and achievements (including pertinent community experience);
  • abilities, aptitudes, skills;
  • characteristics and personal qualities;
  • previous educational or other learning experiences; and where applicable,
  • the manner in which the person carried out the duties or functions of previous positions ; and
  • potential for development.

4. Policy Statement

4.1 Principles

4.1.1 The University of the Sunshine Coast recognises its responsibilities and obligations under various legislative instruments to eliminate discrimination, harassment, bullying and vilification in all aspects of its operations and to create an environment where staff, students and visitors can work and study within a culture based on mutual respect. Such a culture encourages the use of inclusive language and respectful interpersonal interactions.

4.1.2 A range of personal and professional circumstances may affect a person’s capacity to be engaged in full time employment, e.g. career or family responsibilities, ill health or managing a disability. Recognition of merit based upon achievement relative to opportunity will better facilitate positive acknowledgement of productivity and performance. Recognition of these circumstances does not preclude the need to meet the inherent requirements of a role, or an academic program.

4.1.3 The concept of diversity incorporates acknowledgement of the fact that there are groups of people who share common attributes or characteristics while also appreciating the differences between and among groups of people, recognising the unique perspective that every individual possesses and the consequent richness and value that diversity offers to an organisation.

4.1.4 The concept of equity relates to fairness and impartiality. It encompasses an understanding of the fact that certain groups of people have experienced long term and/or systemic disadvantage and this may need to be redressed through ‘positive discrimination’ or making some form of ‘reasonable adjustment’ to enable them to equitably access, participate or compete with others. Accordingly, equity does not mean treating everyone in exactly the same way, which can in fact, lead to inequitable results; for example, expecting everyone to attend a job interview in a room with only stair access would discriminate against people with mobility impairment.

4.1.5 The University will work to develop a ‘diversity capable campus’ where staff and students demonstrate the necessary knowledge, skills and understandings to enable them to enjoy respectful and productive relationships with people from a wide range of backgrounds and where each person is valued for the unique contribution they can make to the university enterprise.

4.1.6 The University recognises that there are groups of people who have experienced significant and historical disadvantage and as a consequence, it undertakes to redress this through taking appropriate measures to ensure equity of access and participation in all aspects of university life for its staff, current and prospective students and other members of the university community.

4.2 Actions

4.2.1 The University will take all reasonable steps to actively promote an environment in which the diversity of its staff, students and wider community members is valued and where people can reach their full potential without fear of being discriminated against or bullied or harassed, either on the basis of an attribute protected under anti-discrimination legislation or some other attribute irrelevant to their role within the University community.

4.2.2 The University will systematically review its policies, procedures and guidelines to ensure they are consistent with and reflect the principles of equity and social justice. It will remove barriers to full participation in employment or education, making reasonable adjustments for its staff, students and visitors as necessary, and undertake consultation with those most affected by its decisions.

4.2.3 The University recognises its particular responsibilities to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia as the First Nations Indigenous people of this country, and in partnership with the local Aboriginal community, will develop plans and programs to increase access to employment and education for Indigenous Australians.

4.2.4 While all members of the University community have a role to play in the implementation of this policy, the Director, Human Resources and Director, Student Services and Engagement are specifically tasked with promotion of this policy and ensuring staff and students respectively, are aware of their rights and obligations and are encouraged to access grievance resolution or complaints procedures in the event they believe there has been a breach of this policy.

4.2.5 The University will regularly review and update its grievance resolution procedures to ensure they reflect leading practice, and will widely promote these to all members of the University community. Training and appropriate support will be provided to managers and supervisors in the administration of these procedures.

4.2.6 The pedagogical principles of universal design will be considered and incorporated as appropriate in order to enhance the quality of the student experience by catering for the diversity of students and the range of learning styles, and by ensuring the teaching and learning experience is inclusive of cultural, social and gender diversity.

4.2.7 The University will develop a process to apply the principle of Achievement Relative to Opportunity with regard to formal recognition of merit, in relevant areas of the University’s operations such as recruitment and promotion.

5. Authorities/Responsibilities

The following authorities are delegated under this policy:

Activity University Officer
Ensuring accountability of senior officers in implementing this policy Vice-Chancellor and President
Monitoring and reporting to Vice-Chancellor and President Equity & Diversity Advisory Committee
Progressing the USC Reconciliation Action Plan Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Student Rights and Responsibilities Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students)
Indigenous employment Disability Services Director, Human Resources Director, Student Services and Engagement
Student grievance resolution policies and procedures Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students)
Staff grievance resolution policies and procedures Director, Human Resources


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