Bullying, Discrimination and Harassment
Bullying, discrimination and harassment are never OK. Whether direct or indirect, intentional or unintentional, these behaviours can occur in person or via remote, digital or cyber means. Find out more about what these behaviours look like, your rights and available support.
Bullying is an ongoing misuse of power in relationships causing physical and/or psychological harm.
Equal Opportunity law protects people from bullying based on personal characteristics such as race, religion or sexuality.
- take many forms, including jokes, teasing, nicknames, emails, pictures, text messages, social isolation or ignoring people, or unfair work practices
- involve many different forms of unreasonable behaviour, which can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert)
- be intentional or unintentional
Sometimes people do not realise that their behaviour can be harmful to others. This does not make it OK.
Cyberbullying can occur in many ways:
- abusive texts and emails
- messages, images or videos including image-based abuse (sometimes incorrectly referred to as 'revenge porn'), where a person distributes or posts false, humiliating or intimate/sexualised videos or photos of you without your consent
- imitating others online by using an alias
- humiliating, harassing or threatening people and/or their family or friends online
- hacking and misusing another person's email accounts
- nasty online gossip and chat.
For more information on how to identify cyber abuse, cyberbullying and image-based abuse, check out the eSafety Commissioner's webpage.
Discrimination may occur when distinctions are made between individuals or groups so as to disadvantage some and advantage others. It can be classified as either direct or indirect.
Direct Discrimination - when someone is treated less favourably than another person or group in a similar situation because of personal characteristics protected by law.
Indirect Discrimination - when an unreasonable requirement, condition or practice is imposed that has, or is likely to have, the effect of disadvantaging people with a personal characteristic protected by law.
Protected Personal Characteristics include:
- a disability, disease or injury, including work-related injury
- parental status or status as a carer
- race, colour, descent, national origin, or ethnic background
- age, whether young or old
- sexual orientation, intersex status or gender identity, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, queer and heterosexual
- industrial activity, including being a member of an industrial organisation such as a trade union or taking part in industrial activity, or deciding not to join a union
- pregnancy and breastfeeding
- marital status, whether married, divorced, unmarried or in a de facto relationship or same sex relationship
- political opinion
- social origin
- medical record
- mental health concern
- an association with someone who has, or is assumed to have, one of these characteristics e.g. being the parent of a child with a disability.
It is also against the law to treat someone unfavourably because you assume they have a personal characteristic or may have it at some time in the future.
Harassment occurs when uninvited or unwelcome behaviour causes someone, or a group of people, to feel intimidated, insulted or humiliated. It can occur in a single incident or a series of incidents. Harassment may also be experienced as a result of witnessing behaviour not directed to that person e.g. overhearing an unacceptable joke. Each person perceives things differently as their values and experiences are unique to them. As such, they may react differently to how someone might expect.
A single incident is enough to constitute harassment – it doesn’t have to be repeated.
Racial Harassment and Vilification
Racial harassment is another form of serious harassment. It describes any unwelcome conduct which can offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate a person because of colour, race, nationality, social or ethnic origin or extraction. It can range from relatively minor abuse to physical violence. It can be discriminatory remarks, jokes, behaviours, images or practices which show racial intolerance against another person.
Racial vilification occurs when someone incites or encourages hatred, serious contempt, revulsion or severe ridicule against another person or group on the grounds of their race and/or religion.
Help for myself
Are you in immediate danger? If you are in immediate danger or seriously injured, please call 000 (or 0 000 from University phones).
Find a place where you feel safe. If an incident has just occurred and a safe place cannot be located, consider contacting Campus Security (03 9479 2222) for assistance on any campus.
Consider contacting Speak Up. We can help you determine your preferred course of action and recommend where to access the best support. (Contacting us does not mean you have to file a formal complaint or engage in a process – it can be strictly around support.) You can remain anonymous, unless we believe there is a genuine threat to a person’s health and safety. Call us on 03 9479 8988, or click Connect with Speak Up below.
If you’re not ready to contact Speak Up, confiding in someone you trust – a friend, family member, co-worker or counsellor – about your experience may help. Do what feels right for you. You can always contact Speak Up later.
I am being cyberbullied - how do I stop it?
Never think it is your fault. The people doing the bullying are responsible for their own behaviour. However, here are few tips to reduce the impact and potentially prevent further bullying:
- Do not respond or retaliate - aggressors may use this against you
- Save the evidence - in case the behaviour escalates
- Tell the person to stop - ask friends or family if you need help doing this
- Reach out for help - especially to close friends and family who can support you
- Report the behaviour - especially if it's escalating. Speak Up are here to help and provide advice and support
- Ask people not to forward on bullying posts - repeatedly viewing offensive material can have ongoing impacts, including putting your mental health at risk
- Use available tech tools - block the aggressor, turn off location services, adjust your privacy settings. For advice on protecting your smartphones, Facebook and Twitter accounts check out the websites for SmartSafe or 1800RESPECT.
Help for someone else
If you’re worried about someone else, there are things you can do to help.
Are they in immediate danger? If they are in immediate danger or seriously injured, please call 000 (or 0 000 from University phones).
Find a place where they feel safe. If an incident has just occurred and a safe place cannot be located, suggest contacting Campus Security (03 9479 2222) for assistance.
Consider contacting Speak Up. We can help you provide reasonable support through recommending options and resources. You will not need to disclose to us the name of the person impacted unless we believe there is a genuine threat to their health and safety. Call us on 03 9479 8988, or click Connect with Speak Up below.
If you’re not ready to contact Speak Up, confiding in someone you trust – a friend, family member, co-worker or counsellor – may help.
Be an active bystander. Not sure how? Our Bystander Action Fact Sheet [PDF 288KB] has tips, supports and referrals to help
If you're a staff member who is concerned about a student, review our resources for responding to and referring concerns on the Speak Up Intranet [Staff login required]
La Trobe University prohibits retaliation against anyone involved in a notification or complaint of unacceptable behaviour.
Victimisation is subjecting or threatening to subject someone to a detriment because they have asserted their rights, made a complaint, helped someone else make a complaint, or refused to do something because it would be discrimination, sexual harassment or victimisation. Victimisation is against the law.
It is also victimisation to threaten someone (such as a witness) who may be involved in investigating a concern or complaint.
Victimisation is a very serious breach of policy and may result in formal discipline against the perpetrator.