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Royal Queensland Golf Club facing discrimination claims over ladies’ ban

Vanda Carson, The Courier Mail | December 23, 2016

A NEW sexism war has erupted at Royal Queensland Golf Club over a men’s only competition, with a female member saying she should be allowed to play every day of the week.

Barbara Barnett, a former vice-president of the Ladies Committee, says the club has discriminated against her because women are banned from the course on Wednesdays until 3.15pm, making it impossible to fit in an entire 18 holes.

Mrs Barnett, who has been an associate member of the club for 15 years and was one of eight who upgraded to a “full member” last year, claims it is unlawful for the club to deny her access based on her sex.

Mrs Barnett, who plays off a handicap of 12, has asked the courts to grant her “equal and equivalent access to play 18 holes of competition golf and earn competition points” on all days of the week. She also wants an apology from the club.

The club opposes all of the orders sought by Mrs Barnett and, in a letter to members, club president Brian Richards said the club’s board “believes that our current competition structure is fair, equitable to all members, and fully complies with the relevant legislation”.

“The changes sought under the court action would mean all five-day, six-day and full members would have access to the Wednesday time sheet. After analysis, the Board considers this outcome would be impracticable,” he wrote.

Court documents state that traditionally men at the club had a competition on Wednesdays and women had a compe­tition on Tuesday and Thurs­day mornings. The pattern ­re­mains, with women having ex­clusive access until 11.45am on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Mrs Barnett resigned in April when her request for full women members to play on Wednesdays was rejected, court documents state.

The club elected to change its membership rules due to declining membership. In the five years before the changes in December last year, member numbers dropped 13 per cent to 1704 and the club posted a loss in the 2014 financial year.

Mrs Barnett took her case to court after her complaint filed with the Australian Human Rights Commission in August was terminated on November 24.

She did not return calls seeking comment yesterday.

The case will have its first brief hearing on February 13.