DVN Data Story 02 – Is NSW Becoming More Tolerant


I was curious to see if Australia was becoming a more tolerant society and found that the Anti-Discrimination Board NSW publish their statistics online via the NSW Open Data Portal (NSW Open Data Portal – Anti-Discrimination Board NSW n.d.).

The Board administers the anti-discrimination laws and handles complaints under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) (NSW Open Data Portal – Anti-Discrimination Board NSW n.d., p.1), and as such maintains records of complaints that have been lodged by individuals in NSW.

Looking at the reported rates of discrimination in NSW for the period between 2000 and 2014 it is clear to see that the trend is very clearly downward, with a reduction of around 88%. This is a great result particularly given the rise of xenophobic rhetoric that has entered our political landscape with the rise of One Nation and other minor parties (Stein 2015; Burnside 2009; Hassan 2005). However, in 2016 the United Nations special rapporteur claimed that “Australian politicians have given permission for people to act in xenophobic ways” (Davidson 2016, p.1) and as the data is not yet released for those years we cannot see if there has been a recent rise in discrimination.

Line chart from year 99-00 to 13-14. The starting amount for Homosexual and Transgender discrimination is 552 and the last figure is 63. The other line that is picked out is Race and it starts with 1745 and finishes with 230. All of the other lines for Sex, Disability, Care's Responsibility and Victimisation trend down sharply and have reduced by about 88% over the period
Discrimination Trends 2000 – 2014

The one disturbing trend is that even though discrimination against Homosexual and Transgender people has also fallen in line with the other forms of discrimination, it is over-representative of the population size. According to Smith et al. (2003), he estimates that only 2% or the population are Homosexual and yet discrimination against them accounts for 5% of the reported cases that are categorised. What the figures show is that that discrimination against people with a disability is not falling at the same rate as other forms, in fact it is now the highest proportion of categorised cases. The message is getting through about equal opportunities for women, but unfortunately not for the disabled.

Chart shows the % of complaints in relation to each other. over the period year 99-00 to 13-14. Homosexual and Transgender starts at 6% and ends at 6%. The one that has risen is Disability which started at 22% and ends at 30%. It seems to have made most of the gain from Sex which has fallen from 29% to 18%.
Discrimination Trends – Percentage Comparison 2000 – 2014

The good news is that the fight is being won, particularly on gender equality, but work still needs to be done to make it a fairer world for everybody… able-bodied or otherwise.


Burnside, J. 2009, ‘Australians are xenophobic’, Sydney Morning Herald, 5 November, viewed 14 May 2017, <http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/australians-are-xenophobic-20091105-hzix.html>.

Davidson, H. 2016, ‘Australia’s politicians have promoted xenophobia: UN expert’, The Guardian, 18 November, viewed 14 May 2017, <https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/nov/18/australias-immigration-policies-have-promoted-xenophobia-un-expert>.

Hassan, G. 2005, ‘Rising Tide of Xenophobia: Australia’s Shallow Multiculturalism’, Global Research – Centre for Research on Globalization, viewed 14 May 2017, <http://www.globalresearch.ca/rising-tide-of-xenophobia-australia-s-shallow-multiculturalism/1011>.

NSW Open Data Portal – Anti-Discrimination Board NSW n.d., viewed 14 May 2017, <https://data.nsw.gov.au/data/dataset?organization=anti-discrimination-board>.

Smith, A.M.A., Rissel, C.E., Richters, J., Grulich, A.E. & de Visser, R.O. 2003, ‘Sex in Australia: sexual identity, sexual attraction and sexual experience among a representative sample of adults’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 138–45.

Stein, G. 2015, ‘Australia accused of being nationalistic, xenophobic ahead of regional people smuggling talks’, ABC News, viewed 14 May 2017, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-28/australia-accused-of-being-xenophobic-in-migrant-crisis-response/6503844>.

Photo Credit: Jeremiah John McBride

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I am a full-time student in my second year of the MDSI program. I previously worked using Oracle Business Intelligence connected to a Siebel database. I am a Microsoft guy through and through and in a previous life was a MCSE qualified network engineer.

5 thoughts on “DVN Data Story 02 – Is NSW Becoming More Tolerant”

  1. Hi Rory, is the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW data ?

    I could be wrong but the 1999 data looks like is the number of enquiries, whereas 2014 data looks like number complaints… which might explain why the number looks like its dropped so much. Hopefully I am wrong because the optimist in me hopes discrimination has fallen, but the cynic in me says maybe no.

  2. Hi Lilanee,

    Thanks for your comment, you are right about where the data is from. I have updated the post to better reflect the source and provide links etc.
    The data is “Complaints received by ground and area” and I have taken the ground total. There is a issue with some of the numbers but they popped out very obviously when plotted because of the big dip so I went hunting and found the issue.
    The overall trend is very pleasing to see, but I just wish we could have more recent figures.

  3. Nice story Rory, can you make the text larger? There is a legend added in the first figure that I couldn’t read.

    The text in the x axis is nice and simple. Are the datapoints really grouped in pairs of years? that’s a bit confusing.

    Titles could be more prescriptive too rather than descriptive (see comment in your third post (align them to the left).

    Another thing for this case it would be good if you add the source of the data underneath each graph because in one disability discrimination is going down and in the second is going slightly up. This is now understood from the text but not from the graphs alone.

  4. Hi Rory, great post and good story. Maybe for the next analysis you can check for data sets in other parts of Australia to enrich the narrative with more context. Great use of charts and color contrast.


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