3 Dec 2018

Calling someone a 'Kiwi' isn't racial discrimination - Tribunal

3:22 pm on 3 December 2018

A New Zealand worker has lost a racial discrimination case against an Adelaide bakery where she was nicknamed Kiwi.


Kiwi Photo: Department of Conservation

The South Australian Employment Tribunal (SAET) found Julie Savage was not discriminated against while working at Vili's Cakes and that "Kiwi" was not an insult.

Ms Savage alleged Vili's managing director Vili Milisits called her Kiwi while she worked as a supervisor at the well-known industrial bakery in 2016, which prompted others to do the same.

She said she suffered racial discrimination because of the "disrespect" caused by using the phrase.

However in Judge Leonie Farrell's findings she "did not allege that she suffered unfavourable treatment in respect of the terms of her employment, lack of progression or segregation".

Vili's argued that the New Zealand Government openly endorsed the term "Kiwi" and that it was used as "a term of endearment and as a means of identifying as a New Zealander".

Judge Farrell agreed, finding that calling a New Zealander a Kiwi "was not of itself offensive".

"'Kiwi' is not an insult," she said.

"It cannot be said to give rise to a detriment as defined by section five of the EO (Equal Opportunity) Act.

"I accept that use of the term 'Kiwi' does not amount to an act of discrimination prohibited by the EO Act."

She dismissed Ms Savage's complaint.

Ms Savage's case was referred to SAET by the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity Niki Vincent.

Ms Vincent has to refer cases under law if a litigant wants to pursue his or her complaint.

While she declined to comment on this particular case, Ms Vincent told ABC Radio Adelaide "there would have to be some disadvantage" for a racial discrimination case to be successful.

"We don't want to go into overkill," she said.

"Calling someone a nickname that is intended as a term of endearment shouldn't in and of itself be a problem.

"But if someone takes particular offence at that nickname and doesn't like it and says they don't like it and asked not to be called that anymore, in a respectful workplace that's what you'd do, you wouldn't call them that anymore."

Mr Milisits, who came to Australia in 1958 as a refugee from Hungary, said the tribunal's decision was "the right outcome".

"It just took 18 months to get the outcome - that's my beef," Mr Milisits told the ABC.

"They have a right to complain - it just takes too long."

He said he had experienced racism when he arrived to Australia and was called a "new Australian bastard" when he was growing up in Adelaide.

He said he now employed "every nationality known to man" at his bakery.

"I don't like being called racist," he said.