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Respect. Always!

In 2022, Optometry Australia conducted a survey in which 320 members took part. The results revealed that gender bias, discrimination, harassing and/or aggressive behaviour within optometry exists on many levels.

Optometry Australia calls on all members to join us and say: Respect. Always! These two powerful words proclaim that any form of bias, harassment or aggression will not be tolerated within optometry.

We’ve collated the following information and tools to help members achieve and maintain a respectful workplace.

#BreakTheBias survey

Optometry Australia took up the challenge set by International Women’s Day 2022 to #BreakTheBias in optometry workplaces. We invited six of our members to share their experiences with gender bias in optometry. We then took a deeper dive and conducted a survey in March 2022, attracting responses from 320 members.

The survey results revealed that unfortunately, gender bias, discrimination, harassing and/or aggressive behaviour within optometry exists on many levels. Members reported being subjected to sexist and crude remarks, jokes and gestures, verbal abuse and worryingly, physical abuse.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) cites that between 8% and 38% of health workers suffer physical violence at some point in their careers with many more threatened or exposed to verbal aggression. WHO also says that most violence is perpetrated by patients and visitors.

Likewise, our survey results cited patients and the families of patients as the perpetrators of significant aggressive behaviour in optometry practices. Disappointingly, 28% of members who responded to our survey cited practice owners and managers as key contributors.

Some members also feel uncomfortable when they have to spend time in a darkened consulting room with patients of another gender although thankfully, their workplace ensures that they are not alone in the practice and they can call for assistance if needed.

And while the majority of workplaces have a harassment and bullying policy, some members fear going to work while others are fearful to speak out against this type of behaviour in their workplace.

This type of behaviour in any workplace is unacceptable and Optometry Australia calls on all members to join us and say: Respect. Always! These two powerful words proclaim that any form of bias, harassment or aggression will not be tolerated within optometry.

Read more about the #BreakTheBias survey results here.

Find support

If you are subjected to, or witness bias, harassment or aggression in your workplace, we encourage you to talk to your manager.

Evidence shows that 45% of negative behaviour will cease after being reported either by the person experiencing the unwanted behaviours, or by those witnessing that behaviour. Active bystanders, or witnesses, can also find support in how they too can reduce harassment and ensure that there is no tolerance for it in their workplace.

Alternatively, you can seek assistance from:

Resources and tools

Optometry Australia offers a suite of customised resources and tools (at the base of this page) suitable for all members – workers and employers alike, including:

  • Template policies and guidelines developed by our HR lawyers that practice owners and managers can download, tailor and apply within their workplace.
  • Webinars and tips to help you navigate this complex area.

Optometry Australia’s resource library provides you with information to make your optometry workplace safer, and to reduce the uncertainty about how best to respond.

The library supplements resources already available to all members, such as Optometry Australia’s flexible workplace and career and employment and parental leave guides.

Non-optometry specific resources

For more information related to this topic, you can check out:

Australian Human Rights Commission:

Fairwork Australia:

Workplace Gender Equality Agency
Celebrating LGBTQIA+ human rights at work

Resources library

The resource library below comprises templates, guides and update – designed to help you address various workplace issues in a safe and effective way. It has been developed in conjunction with our legal partner Industry Legal Group (ILG).

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Acknowledgement of Country

In the spirit of reconciliation Optometry Australia acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.