Case study - Anti-Racism Policy

The University of New South Wales is a public research university based in Sydney, NSW. The University’s main campus is located in Kensington, Sydney. The University employs the equivalent of 6693 Full Time Staff.

UNSW’s Anti-Racism Policy was first written in 1996 and primarily served to inform the university community of the institution’s obligations under anti-discrimination legislation.

In 2020, UNSW’s Division of Equity Diversity and Inclusion hosted a broad consultation with students and staff to inform the University’s priorities on preventing and responding to racism, which indicated strong support for more robust policies and procedures. A formal review process to revise and update the document commenced in late 2020.

A Working Group was convened to oversee the review and chaired by a staff member from the Division of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

The majority of members in the review Working Group were staff and students from culturally diverse and First Nations backgrounds, many of whom had lived experience of racism. The Working Group was chaired by a staff member from a culturally diverse background. The few staff who did not identify as such were included to provide essential expertise (e.g., legal advice) or had significant professional experience supporting students from culturally and linguistically diverse, refugee, migrant or First Nations backgrounds.

The Working Group met four times in 2021. Key outputs from the Working Group included stakeholder identification and analysis, policy implementation plans, and the development of a draft updated policy for consultation. The Working Group sought to update the Anti-Racism Policy both to ensure it continued to be consistent with legislation and to expand the Policy to become a more proactive and progressive document. The updated Policy introduced concepts such as microaggressions, bystander action, and vicarious liability, included more comprehensive definitions of key terms, and advocated strong for the inclusion of diverse perspectives in university teaching and learning.

The consultation draft was open to the university community for consultation for a three-week period. During this time, the Working Group received submissions from students, staff, and alumni with suggested revisions, comments, and critique of the draft. The Division of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion also directly invited comments on the draft from key stakeholders and promoted the consultation period through student run news channels. The draft was revised based on the feedback received and endorsed by senior university leadership and the Vice-Chancellor for implementation in September 2021.

Challenges included ensuring consistent student participation in the Working Group and review process. Many of the student representatives were unable to attend regular meetings and contributed to the review process remotely or outside of these formal channels. The Working Group sought to be more agile in communications; sharing information, meeting minutes, and draft documents via email and through Microsoft Teams in order to enable participation and consultation with members who were not able to attend formal meetings.

The existence of an Anti-Racism Policy also attracted some criticism from a small number of student clubs, staff, and alumni, who objected to the need for such a policy and the language contained within. Such feedback was minimal –most submissions received during the consultation period were positive– and all formal submissions received a response from the Division to acknowledge their concerns and thanked them for providing feedback through the consultation process.

After the Policy was launched, the Division of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion supported its implementation with additional communications, including a position statement on anti-racism from senior university leadership.

The Policy has also been integrated into orientation modules for new students from 2022. Plans for monitoring outcomes associated with the Anti-Racism Policy in future include expanding and tracking engagement with anti-racism content in orientation and through ongoing pan-university surveys and evaluation.


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