Prejudice and Discrimination

What is it?

Prejudice and discrimination have many similarities, and are often, but not always linked together.

Prejudice is an unjustified and baseless attitude, irrational opinion, or feeling about a person or group of people solely due to their membership with a group. Many people may not be aware of their own prejudice until they are confronted with it, and others may be very aware and active.

Prejudice often relies on stereotypes and can affect the way we see people unlike ourselves.

The term is mostly used to identify negative ideas, prejudgments, or inaccurate knowledge about a person or group. Those considered prejudiced believe particular individuals and groups are inferior to themselves and often ‘other’ them (‘othering’ means viewing an individual or group as ‘not one of us’). This can be based on things such as race, gender, nationality, ethnicity, sex, body, socio-economic status, gender, religion, sexuality, age or ability; rather than personal experience.

Discrimination is an unjust or negative treatment of a person because they belong to a particular group. It may be subtle, or implicit or overt and explicit. Prejudice can lead to discrimination, but it is not the only cause.

Examples of discrimination include, but not limited to:

  • Sexism – When someone is treated negatively because of their sex, gender, or perceived gender.
  • Ableism – When someone is treated negatively because of a disability that they live with.
  • Racism – When someone is treated negatively because of their colour, ethnicity or national origin
  • Homophobia – When someone is treated negatively because of their sexual orientation.
  • Transphobia – can be defined as the irrational fear and/or hostility towards people who are Transgender, non-binary or genderqueer, including bigender, pangender, genderfluid, or agender, two-spirit, gender non-conforming, and those who don’t fit into male/female binaries.
  • Body shaming – When someone is treated negatively because of their body size. There is constant messaging through advertising and media regarding what a ‘good’ body size should be. Trying to have this ‘ideal body’ is impossible and makes up a very small fraction of what the people of the world actually look like, so is therefore unrealistic. Additionally it needs to be noted that healthy bodies come in many different shapes and sizes.
  • Classism – When someone is treated negatively because of their social standing or how much money they have.
  • Harassment – inappropriate jokes, insults, name-calling or images directed at a person. This can be based on things such as race, gender, nationality, ethnicity, sex, socio-economic status, gender, religion, sexuality, age or ability; rather than personal experience.
  • Unfair treatment – You have experienced a different level of service because of your membership to a particular group; compared to another person of another group.

The impact it has

The negative impact of prejudiced thoughts and/or discriminatory actions can be damaging to both individuals and the community.

If you are the recipient of prejudiced thoughts and/or discrimination, you have been treated unfairly, this is not your fault.

As an individual, experiencing harassment and/or discrimination may have a direct impact on your feelings, sense of value or worth, and challenge your ability to feel like you can be yourself. Remember, that you have an equal right to fair treatment by your University community.

Contact Student Support to talk about your experience and how we may be able to assist you.

As a community, when prejudiced thought or acts of discrimination are present, we are creating an environment where harm is felt, and harm is caused to others. This is in direct opposition to our commitment to a safe and respectful community, and the Code of Conduct.

Prejudiced thought can grow within a community if the individual members do not continually reassess and challenge their own thoughts and attitudes towards others, and acts of discrimination are not disputed.

But inclusion and acceptance can also grow within a community. By respectfully enquiring, listening, and learning we support a welcoming space of inclusivity, diversity, and acceptance.

What we can do about it:

Consider our own attitudes and actions

Prejudice is a result of lack of knowledge and personal experience, combined with ignorance and stereotyping; so let’s address that.

Being aware of any of our own prejudiced thoughts is the first step to addressing them. You may have unconsciously formed these views via such things as hearing comments when you were young; reading biased news or articles; or repeatedly hearing or reading jokes based upon stereotypes.

A good first step is to start to question these ideas, critique them, and find out more about other people through new experiences.


  • Think about the language you use. It may be sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist etc. Terms of phrases like “My lecturer is completely mental”, “That’s retarded”, or “That’s so gay” all reflect and reinforce prejudiced ways of thinking and discriminatory actions. These expressions can be hurtful to those people who have suffered such prejudice and discrimination. If you get it wrong, or make a mistake; reflect, apologise and try to do better at your next opportunity.
  • Learn from people who may be different from you. Step outside your comfort zone and get to know them, listen to their stories, discover their goals. But remember to do so with respect and be conscious of personal boundaries. Not everything is up for discussion or for sharing.
  • Do not disregard other people’s experiences, they may be different to yours, but just as valuable.
  • Be politically aware.
  • Learn about the history of the people and the land on which you live, study or are visiting.

The University experience presents a unique opportunity to meet people from diverse backgrounds, and social groups. The University of Newcastle embraces this diversity and encourages you to engage, celebrate and learn through conversation and activities.

Take notice around you

If you see it. Have you witnessed an incident of prejudice or discrimination?

Get help.

Remember to consider everyone’s safety. Getting help from staff or security may be the best option.

You CAN act. There are a number of ways you could respond. If it is safe to do so, ask the person who is experiencing the behaviour if they are ok, or go to them after the incident letting them know you don’t agree with what happened.

Call the behaviour out!

Let the person showing discriminatory behaviour or prejudiced attitudes know that the behaviour is not ok, or question their language or what they have said.

Report the incident:

Concerns for the immediate safety of anyone at any time should be reported directly to Security Services on 4921 5888. If you live on campus you can also contact Student Living for assistance and support 24/7 on 4913 8888.Always dial 000 (Triple Zero) in an emergency

You can also report to the University after the incident has occurred through the online portal  or contacting Campus Care on4921 8600 or

If you experience it:

We are here for you. Contact Student Support to talk about your experience and how we may be able to assist you.

Or, for support and advice outside of business hours – 5pm-9am weekdays, 24 hours on weekends and public holidays – contact the After-hours Crisis Support Line.

  • Ph: 1300 653 007
  • SMS: 0488 884 165

Free Translating and Interpreting Service

A free interpreting service is available for people who do not speak English.

This service can be used with selected organisations, including Lifeline, the UON Crisis Support Line, UON Counselling and emergency services.

To access this service, call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450 and ask to talk to the organisation you need (e.g., Lifeline on 13 11 14) in the language required. TIS will then call the organisation, and provide translation.

A call to Translating and Interpreting Service is the cost of a local call from landlines (additional charges apply for mobiles).


Surbhi S; Differences between Prejudice and Discrimination, July 2016. Key Differences; Accessed 27/6/19

Good Therapy, Prejudice and Discrimination, 15/10/2018. Accessed 27/6/19

Teen Talk; Diversity and Discrimination; Sexuality Education Resource Centre MB and Klinic Community Health Education. 1/7/19

Australian Institute of Family Studies; May 2017; Glossary of common terms; Accessed 27/6/19

ACON; Nov 2017; A language guide: Trans and Gender Diverse Inclusion; Accessed 27/6/19

Resources For staff and students

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.