Equal Opportunity Commissioner releases Annual Report 2013-2014
The Equal Opportunity Commissioner reports each financial year to Parliament on her work in promoting equality of opportunity in Western Australia and providing redress for allegations of discrimination.
The Commissioner placed emphasis on providing our core services effectively, ensuring the continuation of community information, education and training sessions about equal opportunity as well as identification of discriminatory policies and practices, answering public enquiries, and handling complaints of unlawful discrimination.
Community information and education
During the year a diverse range of events and training was delivered. Highlights included: a new partnership with the Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commission; working with the education sectors and school communities developing the Guidelines for supporting sexual and gender diversity in schools; the CEOs for Gender Equity group working towards a charter, and the Hon. Fred Chaney speaking on the future of reconciliation on International Human Rights Day. Kathy Digwood and students attending an information session are pictured above.
Regular scheduled and customised training on responsibilities to employer and employee organisations was conducted for 1140 participants from 136 private, public and non government organisations.
Regional training and education sessions were conducted across the state in the Kimberley, Pilbara, Mid West, Wheatbelt, Goldfields, South West and Great Southern. Rights based training for targeted communities was delivered to 1582 people in 80 sessions across the state.
Over 2000 enquiries from the public were handled this year. Impairment was the most cited ground with 20.8% of the total, then race 16.4%, age 5.6%, sex 4.5%, bullying 4.5% and sexual harassment 4.3%. The areas most cited were: employment 52%, goods services and facilities 13.3%, accommodation 6.3% and education 3.8%. For the first time age discrimination moved into the top three most commonly cited.
A total of 486 new complaints were received this year. The focus on independent, timely and professional resolution of complaints remains a priority with 100% of complaints being finalised in twelve months and 91% in six months. Impairment was the most frequently cited ground of complaint being 29.2% of the total, followed by race (18.7%), age (7.6%) racial harassment (7.2%), and sex (7.2%). The most common areas of discrimination were employment (63.2%), goods, services and facilities (17.3%), accommodation (8.6%) and education (4.9%). For the first time ever the number of male complainants outnumbered female. Complainants were also older and more likely to speak a language other than English.
What enquiries were about
Breastfeeding in public places
A woman was asked to ‘cover up’ when feeding infant in a cafe.
Age in employment
A woman (52) was sacked because she didn’t ‘fit the image’. All other staff employed were 30 years or under.
Race in employment
An aged care worker was told she was not to work in dementia area as residents ‘don’t like blacks’.
Impairment in education
A student with diabetes and arthritic condition refused special keyboard to do exams despite medical certificate saying it was needed. Race in goods and services
A government department sought information about recording the Aboriginal status of clients.
Religious conviction in employment
A construction company manager requested information about OSH and employees wearing turbans and other traditional dress.
Priorities for the year ahead
- To promote awareness about the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 and improve access to the Equal Opportunity Commission’s services.
- To maintain the strong growth in our regional and remote presence and develop a planned approach to rights-based education for vulnerable communities.
For the full report go to Annual Report 2013-14
Visit by John Bercow
Allanah Lucas Commissioner for Equal Opportunity and The Corporate Executive had a unexpected visit from the Rt Hon. John Bercow the Speaker for the House of Commons UK, who had been on a visit to Canberra and was on his way back to the UK.
The Commission was delighted to have the opportunity to meet and discuss human rights issues affecting both our countries with him.
Mental Health Good Outcome Awards
The Commissioner was pleased to sponsor these awards and particularly the award for the human rights, equity and diversity in mental health won by John van der Giezen. John has 25 years of experience in establishing and implementing Aboriginal mental health programs. He developed an Aboriginal Cultural Competence training package known as: What Was, What is, What now? for practitioners working with Aboriginal Communities. Pictured at the awards are from left: Tonya McCusker, McCusker Charitable Foundation; Allanah Lucas Commissioner for Equal Opportunity; and WA’s first female Governor-designate Kerry Sanderson.
Resource News Flash
Guidelines for Supporting Sexual and Gender Based Bullying in Schools are available at the Safe Schools page on our website or you can request a copy.
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