Non-discriminatory language

UNE supports the use of non-discriminatory language in the work of its staff and students. It promotes the use of inclusive language to address and describe all people, regardless of sex, race, ethnicity and physical or intellectual characteristics. Use acceptable, inclusive language for:This graphic shows a person with a speech bubble that says "Please note that APA referencing style is used on this page."

Grammar checkers will not signal the inappropriate use of language in terms of discrimination. You will need to know the language guidelines for using non-discriminatory language, and apply these to your writing.

Gender and/or sexual orientation

You should use inclusive language (gender neutral, non-sexist, non-gender specific) that includes women and treats men and women equally.

Use titles and modes of address consistently for men and for women.
Use Ms in preference to Miss/Mrs, unless this is preferred by the individual being referred to.


Use he, his, him, himself only when referring specifically to males.

AVOID: Each student is responsible for his library loan.

PREFERRED: Each student is responsible for his/her library loan.


Use the words man/woman, girl/boy, gentleman/lady in a parallel way.

AVOID: Ladies and men should …

PREFERRED: Ladies and gentlemen should …

OR: Men and women should …


Use similar terms when describing the same characteristics in women and men.

AVOID: Only ambitious men and aggressive women succeed in the business world.

PREFERRED: Only ambitious men and women succeed in the business world.


Avoid using occupational titles containing the feminine suffixes -ess, -ette, -trix, -ienne.

Rather than authoress, author would generally be preferred.

Rather than headmistress/headmaster, principal would generally be preferred.

Rather than comedienne, comedian would generally be preferred.


Avoid using gender-specific occupational titles.

Rather than tradesmantradesperson would be preferred.

Rather than businessman, executive would be preferred.

Rather than craftsmanartisan would be preferred.


Avoid the generic use of man or of composite words involving the syllable man.

Rather than spokesman, spokesperson would be preferred.

Rather than mankind, humanity would be preferred.

Rather than chairman, chair would be preferred.


Avoid using gendered terms or expressions that may be patronising and/or demeaning.

AVOID: Students should seek assistance from the ladies in the office.

PREFERRED: Students should seek assistance from the staff in the office.


Avoid irrelevant, gratuitous gender descriptions.
the lady editor; the female doctor; the homosexual Minister


Avoid unnecessary reference to the relationship and or parenting status of a person or a group.

AVOID: Jack Smith and his wife

PREFERRED: Jack and Jane Smith

AVOID: the mother-of-five appointed to the position of Minister of Education.

PREFERRED: the woman appointed to the position of Minister of Education.

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Indigenous peoples

Always use capital A for Aboriginals and capitals for Torres Strait Islanders, and the names of the various groups to which individuals belong.
Aboriginal peoples; Australian Aboriginals; Koorie; Goorie; Yolngu


Never use negative, discriminatory or stereotypical terms that would be offensive to the Indigenous peoples of Australia.

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Physical and/or intellectual ability

Avoid unnecessary reference to the physical and or intellectual ability of a person or a group.
A blind musician played the violin at the local concert.


Avoid using terms which equate a person or a group with a disability.
Rather than a blind musician, a musician with a vision impairment would be preferred.


Use terms that recognise that a disability is only one characteristic of the person or group.
Rather than these might be preferred:
a disabled person a person with a disability; people with special needs
deaf people with hearing impairments
blind people with visual impairments
handicapped people with physical disabilities; people with psychiatric disorders


Avoid imprecise terms and euphemisms for a person or a group with a disability.
Schizophrenia is a particular type of psychiatric disorder, not a general term.


Never use the terms victim or sufferer to refer to a person or a group who has or has had an illness, disease or disability.

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Race, ethnicity and/or religion

Use the term Australian for all groups of people who live permanently in Australia. If it is important to specify the descent or ethnicity of a person or group, or to distinguish between people born in Australia and elsewhere, then use a qualifier in conjunction with Australian (as the noun) or use hyphenated forms.
Vietnamese-born Australian; Jewish Australians; Italo-Australian


Avoid unnecessary reference to the ethnic or racial background of a person or a group.
Some Lebanese youths were injured in the accident.


Avoid terms which denigrate a person or a group on the basis of race, ethnicity and/or religion.

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Other examples

Avoid unwarranted assumptions about age.
Rather than these might be preferred:
old people’s home aged care facility
pensioner older people
geriatrics seniors, mature aged


Avoid terms which denigrate a person or a group on the basis of geographical location. Do not use derogatory terms to refer in an unfavourable manner to the places where people live.
Rather than country hickspeople who live in the country would be preferred.

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Legal requirements

‘Australia’s commitment to inclusiveness is embodied in both federal and state laws. They include the federal Racial Discrimination Act 1975, Sex Discrimination Act 1984, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 and Disability Discrimination Act 1992, as well as the various state Acts relating to equal opportunity and anti-discrimination. Under this legislation, it is generally unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of race, colour, national or ethnic origin, gender or physical or mental capabilities.

Linguistic discrimination can take various forms that may marginalise or exclude particular segments of the population—whether unwittingly or not. Stereotypical description of any group of people or member of an identifiable group is probably the most insidious. There is no place in public documents for uninformed, prejudiced or merely insensitive references of this type.’ (Commonwealth of Australia, 2002, p. 55)

Commonwealth of Australia. (2002). Style manual: for authors, editors and writers (6th ed.). Canberra, Australia: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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