Algorithmic discrimination in Australia

Natalie Sheard is researching legal regulation of algorithmic discrimination in Australia with a focus on AI-based recruitment tools

Meet Natalie Sheard, a La Trobe research candidate in the final stages of her PhD.

“I am studying the legal regulation of algorithmic discrimination in Australia with a focus on AI-based recruitment tools,” she says.

This technology uses algorithms to screen candidates in recruitment processes. Examples include CV parsing tools, self-recorded video interviews, gamified assessments and text-based questionnaires.

A practising lawyer, Natalie became interested in this area after moving into a new role at her law firm where she was working at the intersection of law and technology.

“I started to read about algorithmic discrimination and realised this was an under-researched area in Australia. Little is known about how these tools are used and there are few legal safeguards.”

Natalie became particularly concerned about the barriers to access to justice for people suffering algorithmic harm. This led her to embark on a PhD at La Trobe.

“I was attracted to La Trobe Law School because of its law in context focus, strong tradition of socio-legal research and it is aligned with my commitment to social justice,” she says.

As part of her research, Natalie has interviewed recruiters to find out the prevalence, operation and impact of these tools.

“AI-based tools are becoming increasingly common in Australian businesses, with no specific laws to regulate them. There may also be challenges in applying existing anti-discrimination laws,” she says.

The research is gaining recognition with two published journal articles, a piece in The Conversation, and extensive recent coverage by the Guardian.

“I hope to make recommendations as to appropriate law and policy reform to protect individuals, groups and communities,” she says.