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Diversity in Sydney

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CIEE wants all our students to feel welcomed, supported, and empowered to succeed while studying abroad. On this page, local CIEE staff have provided details about conditions and cultural attitudes that students with specific identities might encounter at their location.

The information below is just a broad overview so if you have specific questions or concerns not covered here, please email We would be glad to have local staff share their perspectives, talk with you about accommodations, connect you with resources, and/or put you in touch with a program alum who could speak about their experiences navigating a program in this location.

No matter where you choose to study abroad with CIEE, our staff—all of whom receive regular and comprehensive training in diversity, equity, and inclusion—will be on hand throughout your program to provide advice, resources, and support regarding these issues. 

Body Size/Image

Fitness and body image are popular topics among Australians. Working out in gyms is common, especially among young men. Given Sydney’s proximity to the outdoors, activities like hiking, swimming, and surfing are very common. Body positivity is emphasized, so Sydney locals will rarely openly criticize others’ bodies, despite frequent talk of fitness. In part because of access to the outdoors, people in Sydney tend to dress casually. In most places, you will be fine in shorts and a tee-shirt. 



Sydney’s official inclusion (disability) action plans seek to make the city accessible to all. Indeed, central districts are well-equipped with curb cuts, ramps, tactile pavement indicators, Braille street signs, and sound cues at pedestrian crossings. Most major attractions are wheelchair accessible and offer accommodations for hearing- and vision- impaired visitors. Specific needs, such as sign-language interpreters, can often be met if arranged in advance. All new and renovated buildings are required by law to include wheelchair access. Older buildings, however, can pose issues for accessibility. Central Sydney’s transport hub, Circular Quay, is well served by accessible ferries, buses, and trains. However, not all buses and train stations in the system are wheelchair accessible; you will need to check specific timetables and maps. 

Students are encouraged to provide as much information as they can related to their specific disabilities (or related needs) prior to arrival so CIEE staff can assess potential challenges and arrange for appropriate accommodations.


Gender and Gender Identity

Legally, women enjoy equal rights in Australia and are protected from discrimination in public life. However, as in many parts of the world, women do most of the housework and childcare, with working women subject to a ‘second shift’ at home. In addition, although many women work outside the home, few have high-level corporate or political positions. In recent years, gender equality has been improving markedly; as of 2021, though women are still a minority of political leaders, 37.4% of federal parliament members are women. In Sydney, as in many other major cities worldwide, catcalling and low-level street harassment are not uncommon.


X Gender Marker

Australia is a country that recognizes and supports the rights of non-binary and X gender marker individuals. In 2013, the Australian government introduced a third gender option for passports, allowing individuals who do not identify as exclusively male or female to have legal documentation that reflects their gender identity. This makes Australia one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to recognizing non-binary and X gender marker identities.

For non-binary and X gender marker individuals living in or traveling to Sydney, it is important to be aware of their legal rights and protections. In addition to having the option to choose X on their passports, non-binary and X gender marker individuals are also protected under federal and state anti-discrimination laws. These laws prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in areas such as employment, education, and public accommodations.

There are also resources and support available for non-binary and X gender marker individuals in Sydney. Community organizations and advocacy groups provide support, education, and advocacy for non-binary and X gender marker individuals. These organizations can help individuals connect with others who share similar experiences and provide information about accessing healthcare and other services.

By staying informed and connected, non-binary and X gender marker individuals can ensure their full inclusion and participation in society and enjoy the diverse and inclusive community that Sydney has to offer.


Racial and Ethnic Identity

While Australia is committed to diversity and inclusion, it is important to note that, like the United States, systemic racism is prevalent in Australia. Institutional and structural forms of racism disproportionately impact indigenous populations and those from migrant and refugee communities. Additionally, as in the United States, students of color may see a lack of representation and experience microaggressions due to the fact that Australia is predominately white. There are many articles and blog posts regarding race relations in Australia that would be helpful to explore before departure. 

To address both overt and latent racism and discrimination – although rare – CIEE Sydney staff are available to provide support and resources to help all CIEE students enjoy and learn from their study abroad experience, irrespective of – indeed, celebrating – our diverse racial and ethnic identities.  CIEE Sydney is sensitive to the range of these issues and will provide information and support to proactively create an inclusive community.



Sydney is a religiously diverse city, with practitioners of practically every major faith. Christianity is the primary religion, with Roman Catholics and Anglicans the two largest groups. There are also active religious communities of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and other groups.


Sexual Orientation

Sydney is one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, with a vibrant community that attracts LGBTQ+ people from all over Australia and New Zealand. The annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is now the biggest annual tourist-attracting event in Australia. In Central Sydney, public displays of affection between same-sex partners are unlikely to attract attention. At the same time, although it is illegal in Australia to discriminate against a person the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status, LGBTQ+ people still experience discrimination in many parts of everyday life. Indeed, same-sex marriage is not legal, and married transgender people must divorce their spouse before they can officially change their gender. Throughout your program, CIEE staff are on hand to provide advice and support regarding your LGBTQ+ identity, community gatherings, or cultural norms.


Socioeconomic Status

Sydney has a variety of options when it comes to places to eat that can accommodate your budget. Even though Sydney is an expensive city, you can still find cheap places to eat. However, drinking can be expensive and eating out every day will add up quickly, so plan your budget carefully. Sydney also offers a range of cultural activities for free or at a low price.

Programs in Sydney