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Discrimination: are you game?

Discrimination: are you game?

WHILE traditional board games like chess, draughts and backgammon all pit black against white, a new pastime recently arrived Down Under is attempting to teach players that colour should never…

WHILE traditional board games like chess, draughts and backgammon all pit black against white, a new pastime recently arrived Down Under is attempting to teach players that colour should never form the basis of workplace conflict.

Aside from inviting participants to come face-to-face with their attitudes towards racial disharmony, The Diversity Game also ensures senior management — including in-house counsel — are given a practical insight into potentially alienating individual markers such as gender, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and disease.

A brain-child of consultant Heather Price, the game was last month ratified for use in local workplaces by Clayton Utz and the National Diversity Think Tank of Australia following a successful eight-year stint in post apartheid South Africa.

Not unlike Trivial Pursuit, it consists of six categories — all of which contain test questions with three multiple-choice questions. The game is ideally played by four teams, who each consider the scenarios that arise according to rolls of the dice. Teams must select their answer via consensus and present reasons justifying their stance.

According to Price, who last week road tested the game in Melbourne with representatives from Blake Dawson Waldron and Mallesons Stephen Jaques, the choices available confused even the experts.

“We’ve intentionally made all the options plausible. They are very difficult to distinguish and are separated by subtle nuances only, which leads to vigorous debate,” she said.

Such repartee is designed to make employees and employers alike actively think about underlying issues behind discriminatory practice, as opposed to being expected to absorb them via a bland seminar.

“For in-house counsel, it’s a form of preventative intervention,” she said. “Some lawyers who played the game commented that it identified scenarios that had played out in their workplace before and cost the company dearly.”

Aside from South Africa, the game has also made its mark in the US. Price said she was swayed to bring it to Australia after noticing a “big gap” between discrimination policy and procedure.

“Australia has a very good legal framework for discrimination, and an educated population that knows their rights,” she said. “It’s also a nation that is becoming more and more diverse and with that comes more potential for discrimination.”

Having adapted the game to Australian conditions for the past six months, Price is well placed to comment on the tome of local case law and statutes. Her conclusions were in part ratified by Joe Catanzariti, a senior workplace relations partner at Clayton Utz, who strongly believes law firms provide a telling snapshot of Australia’s rapidly changing face.

“More law graduates are female, but the attrition rates of women in the law is very high. While clients have become more sophisticated, there are still some out there who would prefer to be advised by men.”

“The workforce is growing older, but there’s still a perception that when you hit 50, you’re pretty much dead.

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