25 October 2021
The Asian Australian Lawyers Association (AALA) is aware that a high-profile commercial organisation has recently undertaken and concluded an investigation into incidences of alleged racism that occurred in its workplace.
AALA condemns all forms of racism, whether in the workplace or otherwise, and advocates for the more widespread adoption of policies and practices that discourage such behaviour. AALA extends its sincere support for victims of racism and discrimination, both reported and unreported.
Further, AALA supports accountability and substantive consequences for perpetrators and facilitators of racist behaviours. Greater transparency regarding any such consequences would also be welcomed.
While it is disheartening to see that racism still exists in the modern workplace, it is also encouraging that these issues are being reported and called out in the mainstream media and otherwise.
This discourse confirms that public awareness of issues of diversity and racism is already high. This is an opportune time to seriously look at the issues of cultural diversity and inclusion within workplaces and broader Australian society. The important next step for all of us is to transform what we feel into actions that result in lasting positive change.
What AALA is doing to advocate for change
AALA is continuing its advocacy efforts:
to bring attention to issues of cultural diversity;
to provide training and resources to help culturally diverse lawyers reach the senior ranks of the profession; and
for all of the profession to be both conscious of diversity and culturally intelligent.
Last month, AALA held the second iteration of its flagship National Summit on Cultural Diversity. The Summit provided an opportunity for AALA’s members across the country to meet and contribute to AALA’s advocacy direction.
Two of the key panels for the Summit examined how different professions strive towards diversity and discussed practical steps to achieving diversity and inclusion in organisations. These sessions are all available on AALA's YouTube channel and can be freely accessed here.
We reproduce some of the most important takeaways below:
You cannot fix what you cannot see. Organisations, including Law Societies and Bars, that are serious about creating meaningful change on diversity must collect and leverage data regarding the composition of their workforces and members.
Diversity must be systemic, not tokenistic. Diversity should be the case from junior staff all the way to senior levels and must occur across all levels.
Beyond a moral imperative, diversity is increasingly becoming a business imperative. A diverse organisation can see things from different perspectives and be more effective, as well as ultimately empathising with Australia’s incredibly diverse population.
AALA recognises that the licence for racism is founded in the ongoing occurrence of institutional bias. Much of this has been caused by the historical legislation passed by our parliaments that validated marginalisation and inequitable rights against minority classes.
AALA regularly provides submissions to the Australian Law Reform Commission, the UNSW Law Society social justice publication "Court of Conscience" and other institutional bodies. We will continue to do so to proffer improvements and to raise awareness that ultimate responsibility lies with decision-making and redress at leadership level.
What AALA can do for organisations
AALA has developed a range of training resources on issues relating to cultural diversity which are available to organisations. These resources are aimed at creating positive change within workplace cultures. AALA is also able to facilitate seminars and training sessions for organisations with senior professionals and leading legal experts. If your organisation is interested in arranging such seminars and training sessions, please contact AALA at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lawyers may be eligible to earn CPD points.
What AALA can do for individual members
AALA is a community of culturally diverse lawyers and professionals. Many, if not most, of the senior professionals within AALA will have their own experiences of discrimination.
Members of AALA experiencing racism or discrimination may contact AALA confidentially any time at email@example.com. While AALA does not have any formal procedure and cannot intervene in workplace issues, AALA may be able to assist by referring you to a suitable mentor or directing you to helpful resources.
Download and access the Media Release here: