Racism at Work


Organisations need to do better

This project is a response to the heightened global conversation about ‘race’ and racism that unfolded in 2020, and the resultant calls for organisations to do better when it comes to confronting and addressing racism.

In this time of racial reckoning, Australian organisations have found themselves wanting and needing to address workplace racism but struggling to do so due to a lack of guidance that spoke to an Australian context.

Accordingly, DCA partnered with sponsors, ARUP, Diageo, IKEA Australia, QBE, and Relationships Australia NSW, to create evidence-based guidelines for Australian organisations to effectively address racism at work, and in doing so, support racial diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

The resulting report, Racism at Work, is an evidence-based organisational framework for anti-racism action to help Australian businesses effectively address racism.

Racism at Work was informed by people who experience racism, guidance from an expert panel, and a survey of 1,547 Australian workers across various sectors.

Download the Infographic (PDF – 115 KB)

Foundational Principles for Understanding Racism

Foundational principles for understanding racism: Recognise first nations peoples' unique position; centre lived experience, realise we racially label each other, recognise our default worldview is white, focus on racial not cultural diversity.

Understanding Racism

To address racism, we need first to understand what it is. But understanding racism can be challenging, particularly for people who do not experience racism, but also because:

  • how racism is expressed and experienced changes over time and from place to place
  • some forms of racism are hard to ‘see’ as they are the ‘normal’ way things are done.

DCA’S Definition of Racism

Racism is when an individual or organisation with race-based societal power discriminates, excludes or disadvantages a racially-based person because of their race, colour, descent, nationality, ethnicity, religion or immigrant status. Racism can be conscious or unconscious, active or passive, obvious or subtle.

Specifically, there is interpersonal racism, which is individuals beliefs, attitudes and actions that discriminate, exclude or disadvantage people from racially marginalised groups.

There is also systemic racism, which is organisations policies, procedures and practices that directly or indirectly discriminate, exclude or disadvantage people from racially marginalised groups.

Race-based societal power is the power some people have in society because of their race – i.e., like in our education, employment, health, and government organisations. People do not have to work to get this power. Instead, people have race-based societal power simply because of their race.

In Australia, our history has favoured white people. Colonisation, genocide of First Nations peoples, and government policies like the White Australia policy have favoured white people. This means that only white people or those who look white have race-based power. This also means that while a person who is not white might have other forms of power (e.g., such as being a politician or being very rich), they still cannot have race-based power.

© Diversity Council Australia, 2022.

Understanding Anti-Racism

Eradicating racism requires more than just passively claiming to be non-racist – it requires anti-racism. This means actively standing up to and challenging racism.

Anti-racism should be at the forefront of organisations efforts to achieve racial inclusion and equity.

An Organisational Framework for Anti-Racism Action

Based on insights gained from this evidence base, we crafted an organisational framework for action which explains what is happening to ‘lock in’ racism in Australian workplaces, and what organisations can do to unlock and help end racism at work. Importantly, these organisational locks and keys recognise that racism in Australia plays out not just at the interpersonal level (between people) but also on the systemic level (in taken-for-granted organisational policies, practices, and systems).

Racism at Work locks and keys: What are the organisation locks (barriers) that keep racism in place in Australian workplace? What are the organisational keys (actions) that can help end racism in Australian workplaces?

Find out more

DCA members can access the Full Report, Racism at Work: How Organisations Can Stand Up To and End Workplace Racism, and the Synopsis Report, by logging into the Members Only area of the DCA website. These include detailed information on:

  • definitions of race, racism, and anti-racism
  • the case for addressing workplace racism in Australia
  • foundational principles for understanding racism
  • six organisational keys that can help eradicate racism in Australian workplaces
  • research method and all research references.

Want to use our research?

Materials in this document are © Diversity Council Australia Limited, 2022 and come under our Terms of Use and Privacy Statement. If you wish to use any content in this report, please contact us at research@dca.org.au to seek consent.

Where you refer to our research publicly, you must correctly attribute it to DCA. We require formal attribution for all written references to our research material. Citing DCA as a source will suffice where the reference is verbal.

Suggested citation:

Diversity Council Australia (P. Anderson, V. Mapedzahama, A. Kaabel, and J. O’Leary) Racism at Work: How organisations can stand up to and end workplace racism, Diversity Council Australia, 2022.

The rest of this content is restricted to DCA members.

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