How to fight age discrimination

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In Australia, we are protected by the Age Discrimination Act, which aims to ensure that people of all ages are treated equally. Despite this law, discrimination on the basis of age is all too common in our society.

Research commissioned by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) shows that many people hold negative perceptions of older people, perceiving them as isolated, lonely, forgetful and resistant to change.

In my role as Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner, I work to overcome these damaging stereotypes and encourage all Australians to recognise the ‘Power of Oldness’, which is to recognise and acknowledge the many strengths of experience. It is also important for people to be aware of their rights. So here are some things you can do to fight discrimination, should you experience it.

1. Know your rights

The Age Discrimination Act 2004 protects you from age discrimination in many areas of life, including:

  • employment
  • education
  • accommodation
  • getting or using services.

This means it is unlawful to treat a person less favourably in these protected areas because of their age.

2. Recognise discrimination

It is important to be able to recognise discrimination when it happens to you. Sometimes it will be obvious – in the form of derogatory comments or jokes. At other times it will be harder to spot, such as being refused a chance to get more training on the basis that you are expected to leave the job in a few years.

A recent survey undertaken by the AHRC showed that one in five people who had experienced age discrimination at work were unaware that the behaviour was unlawful.

3. Talk to someone

Discrimination of any kind is upsetting and can have an impact on your mental health. It is important to seek the help you need if this happens to you. You could talk to a manager, colleague, family member or friend. You could also seek help from a counselling service such as Lifeline (Ph131114).

4. Make a complaint

If you do not feel comfortable raising the issue with your manager, or this does not resolve the issue, you can make a complaint to the AHRC.

5. Understand the Power of Oldness

Older people have a huge amount to contribute to society, and they make this contribution in many ways. Negative stereotypes often lie at the heart of age discrimination, which is why the AHRC is committed to replacing this negativity with positive and realistic attitudes towards both young and older Australians. This ARHC video helps to convey the message.

Contact the AHRC for advice or to make a complaint if you feel you have experienced age discrimination at work.

Ph 1300 656 419 or 02 9284 98888

Email: [email protected]

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Written by susanry


Total Comments: 6
  1. 0

    I know first hand what it’s like to be discriminated against because of one’s age. It’s good to see that there are laws in place to prevent this but how can they ever be enforced?

    After being retrenched at 49, I tried for four years to re-enter the workforce but found it all but impossible. I was never told that I was too old. Instead I heard just about every excuse in the book as to why I was unsuitable for the position I applied for.

    If age discrimination is going to be beaten then there should be some kind of enforcement or incentive to employers to engage older workers in the workforce. Perhaps then they will see the benefits of employing mature workers. Legislation alone will never work.

    I am my own boss now and I know I’m not too old for the job!

    • 0

      Well done Bohanka: becoming your own boss and, creating your own job is actually the best decision. I have done it myself and, at a younger age as finding suitable jobs – even some 30 years ago: was not easy UNLESS you were lliving in big cities (which I did but, then, had different priorities and choices). Moreover, some of us who are able to implement and materialize our ideas and concepts – have the great opportunity to become extremely successful. Finally, being female is no excuse “to make it” and have top positions in the corporate world: a good brain, education, the rules of etiquette and right attitude will take us there. Good luck!

  2. 0

    Have read the above article as well as the other one included in today’s newsletters. Allow me to say that “stereotypes ” is part of the human mentality and “discrimination” exists all over the world – in all cultures and even within the same country. As far as “racism” is usually understood as a segregation by caucasian people: far from the truth. Having mentioned all that – it is important the way we present ourselves as well as our own capabiloities. Times does pass by and there is no guarantee that olders is wiser or more capable. Our Western societies have little regard for their elders (quite a different scenario in Africa, Asia and so on) . Also, Westerners give a lot of importance to yougth and looks. To be in a position of having to get employment after a certain age: is not pleasant and, again – I repeat: you have similar atittudes towards Seniors round the planet. Nevertheless, the Government should consider to create and implement jobs for Seniors . The contribution that experienced, capable and creative older people can make in our society is enourmous and, not to be disregarded. Personally, would consider and suggest to create our own jobs: something very trendy these days and not only for seniors. In times of necessity…..well, survival can make anything happen – in many cases: positive results. Threrefore, let us take the challenge !

  3. 0

    The Australian Government is the largest age discriminator in the country. If you are over 65 and unemployed you are out of luck! Centrelink uses Commonwealth legislation that states you cannot apply for unemployment benefits if you over 65. Apparently, this highly discriminatory legislation is exempt from the Anti Discrimination Act.
    Centrelink has said that a person over 65 has to apply for the pension or other benefit to be eligible any employment. If you are eligible for a benefit they tell you to go away.
    At a recent seniors conference two government ministers spoke to the effect the government wanted older Australians to stay in or seek work and the government has programs in place re-train and help older Australians into meaningful employment.
    After the minister’s talks a senior Centrelink person spoke reiterating to the effect what the ministers said.
    After the seminar I went to the Centrelink stand and asked the person who gave the talk details of the programs and where to get brochures. The Centrelink person explained that a person over 65 had to be receiving a benefit to enter any of the employment programs and if not eligible for a benefit there were no government programs to help.
    When I ask why what he had just told me contradicted what the ministers said. He said to the effect they got it wrong. YES MINISTER!
    It is little wonder why older Australians like myself who want to be productive taxpaying citizens and not a burden on society are cynical.

  4. 0

    I am very fortunate to be still employed at my age & has had to turn job offers due to wanting to cut down from full time to part time work to meet Centrelink’s requirements as I will be 65 in a couple of months. I told Centrelink all I want is a Seniors Card to enable me to get cheaper medication & I do not want any monetary payment. I was told in order to get the card I have to stop working or cut down my hours. I feel this is wrong
    I will still be contributing to the government coffers with my taxes & should be allowed to continue working & be entitled to cheaper medications. I have & am continuing to pay my dues and pensioners (would be) like me should be encouraged NOT discouraged from continuing to be gainfully emploed



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