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Inclusive Language Guidelines

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Section 1 - Purpose of the Guidelines

(1) The purpose of these Guidelines is to establish guidelines for Inclusive Language. The University promotes an inclusive campus culture that is respectful to staff, students and the wider community.

(2) These Guidelines are intended to assist staff and students in using language that is free from demeaning inferences and negative stereotypes that can make some individuals feel excluded. The examples contained in these Guidelines are by no means complete but assist in raising awareness in how language can discriminate against certain groups in our community.

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Section 2 - Application and Scope


(3) The University actively recruits and attracts students and staff from over 70 countries and from diverse socio-economic and religious backgrounds, diverse sexualities and genders, and a cross section of ages. Respect for diversity is therefore critical to maintaining a harmonious environment within all work, teaching and learning, research and social activities of the University.

(4) These Guidelines supplement the Respect for Diversity Policy.


(5) These Guidelines apply to all UOW students and staff studying and/or working on any Australian campus or representing the University in any location within Australia in any capacity.

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Section 3 - Guideline Principles

(6) The University acknowledges that language can be reflective of community values, knowledge and personal experiences and it is, therefore, an expression of diversity. The use of language can contribute to positive and negative situations that staff and students experience. The use of inclusive language is paramount in being respectful to diversity and being considerate to students and colleagues in general.

(7) These Guidelines are provided to eliminate discriminatory language and create a positive climate of inclusive interactions and relationships. It is noted that discrimination, in many of its manifestations, is unlawful under State and Federal legislation and the University takes these obligations seriously.

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Section 4 - Guidelines for Inclusive Language

Use of Gender Neutral Terms

(8) Inappropriate and insensitive use of gender terms can lead to sexist language. Sexist language is discrimination as it favours one sex over the other. The use of such language can result in some people having a decreased status and role in society and is not acceptable within the University.

Alternatives for using ‘man’ as a generic term
Avoid Man
Alternative/s Human, human being, man and woman, women and men
Avoid The best man for the job
Alternative/s The best person/candidate for the job
Avoid Man of letters
Alternative/s Scholar, academic
Avoid Men of Science
Alternative/s Scientists
Avoid Manpower
Alternative/s Workforce, personnel, staff, human resources
Avoid Man-made
Alternative/s Artificial, constructed, fabricated, handmade
The use of ‘man’ as a verb
Avoid We need someone to man the desk/phones
Alternative/s We need someone to staff the desk/phones
Alternatives to traditional male and female activities
Avoid Sportsmanlike
Alternative/s Fair, sporting
Avoid Housewife
Alternative/s Homemaker, parent, caregiver
Avoid Mothering/Fathering
Alternative/s Parenting
Alternatives to sex specific occupation terms
Avoid Chairman
Alternative/s Chair, chairperson, convenor
Avoid Businessman
Alternative/s Business person
Avoid Groundsman
Alternative/s Grounds person, Gardener
Alternatives to avoiding the pronoun ‘he’ when referring to both sexes
Avoid The student may exercise his right to appeal
The staff member may use her discretion
Her right to a workplace free from discrimination and harassment
Alternative/s The student may exercise their right to appeal
The staff member may use his or her discretion
One’s right to a workplace free from discrimination and harassment
Alternatives to avoid patronising expressions
Avoid The office girls
Alternative/s The administrative/office assistants
Avoid Ladies
Alternative/s Women
Avoid Colloquialisms such as darl, darling, doll, chick, ma’m (madam), love
Alternative/s Use person’s name, refrain from calling them generic condescending term
Alternatives to avoid sex-role stereotyping
Avoid Lecturers have wives to support
Alternative/s Lecturers have partners/families to support

Inclusive Sexuality Terms

(9) Sexuality can be experienced and expressed in various forms. It refers to sexual identities such as heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, and intersexual. A bias exists towards heterosexuality and this means that other sexual identities are often discriminated against both directly and indirectly. This existent bias can narrow possibilities for sexual identities and make people feel inferior.

Inclusive sexuality terms
Avoid Dyke, fag, fairy, poofta
Alternative/s Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex - person and people
Avoid Straight
Alternative/s Heterosexual
Avoid Transsexual
Alternative/s Transgender, intersex

(10) The term “Queer” in the past has been used as a derogatory term and more recently has been adopted as a term to refer to all people who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+). It is therefore an acceptable term. The LGBTIQ+ student group at the University is called the “Queer Collective”.

Race and Ethnicity

(11) Australia’s diverse population consists of individuals from differing cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Language has a dominant role in the expression of all individuals and groups in society. This, in turn, can lead to negative group relations and conflicts due to the misuse and labelling of particular populations. There are various ways in which language can be used to foster an inclusive and respectful environment.

Race and ethnicity
Avoid Using the term ‘Australian’ in ways that exclude migrant minorities
Alternative/s ‘Australian’ should be used to refer to any Australian citizen irrespective of the person’s ethnic or racial background or country of birth
Avoid Asian
Alternative/s If the person is from a country in Asia, it is more respectful to specify the country of birth/origin. For example, a person from Japan.
Avoid Non English Speaking Background (NESB)
Alternative/s Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD)
Use specific terms to describe certain groups such as immigrants, people born overseas, people whose first language is not English, people born to a particular region or country. For example, Australian whose first language is Vietnamese.
Avoid Pom
Alternative/s Person from England
Avoid Kiwi
Alternative/s Person from New Zealand
Avoid Yank
Alternative/s Person from the United States of America

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People

(12) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People are Indigenous Australians. Language is often used negatively in a stereotypical sense to describe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. For instance, the terms ‘blacks’ and ‘Aborigines’ can imply primitiveness and do not emulate the collective group and individual names that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people would prefer.

(13) It is imperative to show respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by ensuring that the terms ‘Indigenous’ and ‘Aboriginals’ are always capitalised, and they should never be abbreviated

(14) Many Aboriginal groups identify themselves through their own language using local terms, for example, the term Koori is used in parts of south eastern Australia. Such terms should be utilised in order to establish and maintain positive relations and networks with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People
Avoid Full-blood Aboriginals, half caste, part Aboriginal
Alternative/s People who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
Aboriginal man/woman, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people/person
Avoid Aborigine
Alternative/s Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people/person, First Nations people, Indigenous Australians, Australian Indigenous, Australian Aboriginal, Aboriginal Australian
Avoid ATSI
Alternative/s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (use full spelling)


(15) Language regarding disability or ability has often been used to emphasise the disability rather than the person and their unique qualities. The use of such language can lead to people with a disability being labelled as suffering or as victims. Ultimately, it is vital to focus on the individual and not the disability to sustain inclusive diverse relations with people.

Avoid Handicapped person
Alternative/s Person with a physical disability
Avoid Disabled, retarded
Alternative/s People with an intellectual disability
Avoid Deaf
Alternative/s Person with a hearing disability
Avoid Spastic
Alternative/s Person with cerebral palsy
Avoid Cripple
Alternative/s Person with mobility impairment
Avoid Confined to a wheelchair/wheelchair bound
Alternative/s Uses a wheelchair/wheelchair user

(16) Style manuals for authors, editors and publishers are available for different disciplines and can provide a valuable resource for inclusive language in particular disciplines. For example, The American Psychological Association Style and the Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers published by the Australian Government Publishing Services Press.

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Section 5 - Roles and Responsibilities

(17) All staff have a responsibility for their personal use of language, and as a student or staff member how their language is used in a research, and teaching and learning context.

(18) Refer to the Respect for Diversity Policy if there is a deliberate and blatant misuse of language that is offensive or discriminatory.

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Section 6 - Definitions

Word/Term Definition (with examples if required)
Bisexual A person who is attracted to people, regardless of their gender and/or sex.
Disability The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) defines disability as:
  1. total or partial loss of the person’s bodily or mental functions;
  2. total or partial loss of a part of the body;
  3. the presence in the body of organisms causing disease or illness;
  4. the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of the person’s body;
  5. a disorder or malfunction that results in the person learning differently from a person without the disorder or malfunction;
  6. a disorder, illness or disease that affects a person’s thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgment, or that results in disturbed behaviour;
  7. and includes disability that:
    1. presently exists;
    2. previously existed but no longer exists;
    3. may exist in the future;
    4. is imputed to a person (meaning it is thought or implied that the person has disability but does not).
Discrimination The Fair Work Ombudsman defines discrimination as when someone is not treated fairly or given the same opportunities because of their race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age, gender identity, gender expression, intersex status, marital or relationship status, family or carer’s responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction, social origin disability or physical or mental disability, which includes:
 - physical, intellectual, psychiatric, sensory, neurological or learning disabilities; physical disfigurement; disorders, illness or diseases that affect thought processes, perceptions of reality, emotions or judgement, or results in disturbed behaviours; presence in body of organisms causing disease or illness (e.g. HIV virus).
Diversity The Australian Government defines diversity as recognising employees from a wide range of backgrounds.
For example, this can include having employees of different ages, genders, ethnicity, backgrounds, physical ability, sexual orientation, marital status, physical qualities, life experience, political and religious beliefs, work experience or educational background.
Family The Australian Bureau of Statistics defines family as: A group of two or more people that are related by blood, marriage (registered or de facto), adoption, step or fostering, and who usually live together in the same household. This includes all families such as newlyweds without children, same-sex partners, couples with dependants, single mothers or fathers with children, and siblings living together.
Gay Men attracted emotionally, romantically, and/or sexually to men.
Heterosexuality Refers to a sexual feeling or behaviour directed toward a person or persons of the opposite sex.
Inclusive Language Refers to language that does not demean, insult, exclude, stereotype, or trivialise people on the basis of their disability, race, gender and sexuality. It means avoiding terminology that may be offensive or portray any group in a stereotypical way.
Indigenous People Refers to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people.
Intersex A person whose chromosomal, gonadal or anatomical sex is not exclusively ‘male’ or ‘female’.
Language For the purpose of these Guidelines the term language is used to refer to both written and verbal communication.
Lesbian A woman who is emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to other women.
LGBTIQ+ Acronym for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and/or queer. The + incorporates a broader acceptance of all gender expressions/identities and sexualities.  
Parent/Carer Parent means the person in a parental relationship with the child including a legal guardian regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Carer means a person in immediate control of a child's welfare regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Partner/Spouse The Australian Taxation Office defines partner/spouse as a person who is a spouse, de facto or same sex partner;
Your spouse includes another person of the same or opposite sex who:
you were in a relationship with that was registered under a prescribed state or territory law
although not legally married to you, lived with you on a genuine domestic basis in a relationship as a couple.
Sexist language Refers to discrimination as it favours one sex over the other.
Sexuality Refers to sexual identities such as heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender and intersexual.
Trans People experience an incongruence between their birth gender and the gender to which they feel they belong, and/or have a gender identity that is inconsistent with societal expectations of their sex. The terms transgender and transsexual are often used interchangeably, but these terms have a complex and controversial history. Recently, the term trans has emerged as an alternative to these terms.