Discrimination & harassment

Find out what to do if you witness or experience discrimination or harassment.

Discrimination is treating someone unfairly because of a personal characteristic protected by the law. Protected personal characteristics include age, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, political belief, race, religious belief or activity, and sex. 

Harassment is a form of discrimination; it includes behaviour that causes offence, based on a characteristic, including sexual harassment.

Discrimination, harassment and sexual harassment are unlawful in areas of public life and are against the University's policies and procedures.

What to do

Take action to stop the behaviour

  • Tell the person their behaviour is inappropriate.
  • Ask the person to stop the behaviour.
  • Walk away from the person and ignore the behaviour.
  • Ask the person to remove harmful or offensive content online.
  • Block the person online.
  • Do not respond to messages.

Seek advice & support

  • Tell someone you trust about the behaviour, e.g. a friend, family member or a counsellor:
    • talk about how the behaviour has affected you
    • ask for their advice and support about how to respond or deal with the person and their behaviour.
  • Seek help from a professional support service, such as Headspace on 1800 650 890.

Record & report the behaviour

  • Keep a record of what happened and when, as well anything you or others have done to try and stop the behaviour.
  • Keep any evidence, including emails and messages, screenshots of posts or comments.
  • Report online harassment to the social media site, e.g. Facebook or Twitter.
  • Report the behaviour or seek advice, assistance and support from the University:
    • discuss you concerns with teaching staff for support and referrals
    • report an incident to campus Security
    • Safer Community provide advice, assistance and referrals, including appropriate safety arrangements
    • Student Matters provide advice, information and complaint resolution
    • Discrimination, Harassment and Bullying Contact Officers provide information and to discuss your options
    • Counselling provide free and confidential support, contact 9919 5400 for an appointment
    • Advocacy provide independent representation and assistance with University processes, including special consideration.
  • Make a complaint about discrimination and harassment to the Fair Work Ombudsman or Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission on 1300 292 153.
  • If you feel unsafe or threatened, report the behaviour to the Police on 000.

Be a supportive bystander

Bystanders are an important part of the solution to discrimination and harassment.

People make decisions and continue behaviours based on the reactions they get from others. Any one of us is a bystander any time we are interacting with others – we can either promote positive and healthy attitudes and behaviours, or harmful ones.

If you witness discrimination or harassment, and if you feel safe to do so, you can take the following actions:

  • make it clear you will not be involved in the behaviour
  • call the person out on their behaviour
  • don't laugh at the 'joke' or 'comment'
  • confront a friend who continually makes sexist or racist remarks
  • draw attention to the behaviour
  • say something to the person who is expressing the behaviour
  • do not engage in violence or aggression
  • support the person who is being targeted, ask if they are ok and how you can help
  • talk to someone in authority or someone you trust to seek help
  • discuss options for support services with the target
  • report online discrimination and harassment to the website.

Bystander resources

Statistics about discrimination & harassment

 Infographic text on page

Rates and types of discrimination among groups of Australian adults

  • 20% race
  • 50% gender
  • 60% sexual identity
  • 20% age
  • 50% disability

Experience of harassment among Australian adults

  • 15% of Australian adults experience harassment
  • 70% of perpetrators are male, 30% are female

Majority of harassment is online, including by phone, email or social media.

Impact of discrimination & harassment

Targets experience

  • high rates of depression and anxiety
  • poorer work and living opportunities

Discrimination and harassment infographic (large)

Developed by Safer Community, Victoria University

Source: ABS, 2011; AHRC, 2017

Racism. It Stops With Me.


VU is proud to support the national “Racism. It Stops With Me” campaign, led by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

VU is committed to preventing racism by pledging to undertake activities in support of the campaign.

The campaign aims to ensure Australians recognise that racism is unacceptable by:

  • providing tools and resources to take action
  • empowering individuals to prevent and respond effectively to racism.

For more information about the campaign visit Racism. It Stops With Me or follow the campaign on Twitter @ItStopsWithMe.