The Commission has a small team of experienced community education officers who raise awareness about equal opportunity, human rights and legal obligations to promote the objects of the Act. This is done through the adoption of best practice models in:
- Organisational training
- Community education on equal opportunity and human rights
- Working with stakeholder groups on specific projects
- Community development work with groups that have specific needs, such as new and emerging migrant and refugees.
Fee for service training
Training which is provided on a fee for service basis is in two categories: Mixed profile and customised. Mixed profile training is where courses are publicly advertised, and participants may come from a range of organisations. Customised training is where an organisation requests a course exclusively for its staff and the course is adapted to meet the needs of the organisation.
In 2018-19 participants in fee for service and mixed profile training were drawn from public sector organisations, local government, the private sector and community organisations.
There were 82 requests for fee for service training in the 2018-19 year, the same as the previous year.
The Commission continues to review and update training material to ensure course content remains relevant. The Commission is investigating and testing new ways to provide whole-of-organisation training that will prove strategic in developing workplace cultures that are inclusive and free of discriminatory practices.
Examples of organisation sessions include:
- Equal Opportunity Essentials for Managers and Supervisors
- Introduction to Equal Opportunity Law
- Equal Opportunity Law and Workplace Culture
- Harassment and Bullying – Know where the line is
- Positive Workplace Culture
- Equal Opportunity in Recruitment
- Contact Officer Role.
Rights based education
The Commission delivered rights-based sessions throughout the year to community groups, not for profit associations and other bodies, which do not have a budget to pay for training services. Rights based training serves a valuable function in educating minority groups including Aboriginal people, people with disability, migrants, refugees, and others who may not be aware of the protections available under the Act, or their obligations towards others.
The number of rights-based sessions delivered in 2018-19 in Perth and regional WA totalled 72 sessions, compared to 100 sessions in 2017-18, a reduction of 28%. The primary factor influencing this reduction in rights-based sessions include trainers conducting shorter regional outreach trips.
Standard rights-based sessions continued throughout the year and included:
- Equal Opportunity Law - Awareness sessions were conducted with agencies including the Marr Mooditj training, Banksia Hill Detention Centre, North and South Metropolitan TAFEs, Legal Aid Bunbury, Curtin University, Aus Professional Bridge Association
- Equal Opportunity Law – Information Session - sessions were conducted with Aboriginal Legal Service in Northam and Bunbury, Shire of Kellerberrin, Merredin Community Resource Centre, Central TAFE students, Southern Aboriginal Corporation
- Sexual Harassment - Know Where the Line Is – sessions were conducted with University of Western Australia Guild and Colleges.
With the cooperation of the Department of Justice (Corrective Services), the community education team visited a number of prisons in the metropolitan and regional areas, including the Hakea Prison, Albany Regional Prison, and the Banksia Hill Detention Centre.
These prison visits allowed Commission staff to deliver tailored Equal Opportunity Law Awareness sessions with groups within the prisons, such as prisoners, prison officers, prisoner support officers and peer support prisoners. Prisoners were informed of their rights under the legislation and provided with an opportunity to raise issues of concern.
Prison officers were provided with advice on their obligations under the Act, as well as their rights to work in an environment free of harassment and discrimination.
Individual and systemic issues of concern were relayed, subject to prisoner consent, to the prison superintendent or Department of Justice (Corrective Services) in Perth respectively.
Positive gender discrimination up for debate
The community education team Diana MacTiernan and Mike Harte adjudicated a debate between students of Curtin University’s Built Environment faculty on the topic ‘Do strategies for positive discrimination for women create good outcomes?’
Following the debate where students covered topics such as quotas for women, family responsibilities and the gender pay gap, Diana and Mike gave feedback, taking the opportunity to educate the students on discrimination and harassment.
“The students already had a solid understanding of human rights and equal opportunity concepts, and this certainly came through during the debate,” Diana said.
During his feedback to help bust some myths the students held about traditional gender roles, Mike spoke about his experience as primary carer for his children while his wife returned to work full-time.
“It was interesting that none of the students spoke about flexible work strategies for men so women could remain in the workforce full-time,” he said.
He said for many this idea was still not on the radar.
“I think it is important that we weave this into more conversations about gender equity.
“Workplaces need to put strategies in place to encourage men to take on more family responsibilities, and from my experience, I would say most men would be grateful for that opportunity,” he said.
Following the debate the officers conducted an interactive education session to expand students’ knowledge on what types of discrimination and harassment are considered unlawful under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984.
Equal opportunity in sport
In 2018-19 the Commission continued its long-standing partnership with the Department of Sport and Recreation and the West Australian Sports Federation by:
- Facilitation of the National Member Protection Information Officer Course through conducting metropolitan workshops
- Continued sponsorship of the Australian Sports Commission’s Play by the Rules website
- Being a point of contact for sports associations and clubs for enquiries relating to discrimination law
- Presenting to sports clubs where particular issues have arisen
Outreach program in Regional WA
The Commission has a state-wide mandate to reach regional areas and has a three-year plan which aims to cover four regions each year. Two of these trips involve two community education officers travelling to the more distant regions for approximately a week. Regions closer to the metropolitan area may involve a two or three-day round-trip.
Each trip involves a mixture of fee for service and rights-based sessions. In the past year, the Commission has made a number of sessions free when usually a fee would apply.
The Commission is also contracted from time to time by organisations to provide onsite fee for service training in regional and remote areas. This has assisted the Commission to undertake trips additional to the regional plan, and, where possible, to conduct additional training, networking and community development activities in these regions.
A member of the community education team travelled to Albany in March 2019 to conduct free training on Equal Opportunity Essentials aimed at people with a general interest in discrimination issues. A series of meetings were also held with community organisations.
These regional visits provide valuable insights into issues that affect communities in different parts of WA. Issues impacting on the South West included access to accommodation, for ethnically and linguistically diverse and Aboriginal families. A further issue raised in some regional centres was limited or no public transport which restricted access to services, education and employment.
In March 2019 the Commission also attended an annual Harmony Festival in Katanning and participated with a stall to provide information on discrimination, harassment and the complaints handling process.
In May 2019 community education officers visited WA’s Wheatbelt to conduct community consultations and provide education to the communities of Merredin, Northam, Cunderdin and Kellerberrin.
Issues raised in the Wheatbelt included unlawful discrimination in accommodation and employment.
In August 2018 the Commission conducted fee for service training on Positive Workplace Cultures with a public sector organisation in Broome.
Indian Ocean Territories
The Equal Opportunity Commission conducted a biennial community outreach trip to the Indian Ocean Territories (IOT) from 30 November to 7 December 2018. This outreach work is undertaken in accordance with a service delivery arrangement with the Federal Government.
Christmas and Cocos Islands have a unique and diverse community and these outreach trips are important to ensure continued awareness about the Act and avenues of redress for managing acts of unlawful discrimination, and human rights protections.
Two Commission officers conducted 32 training and community outreach sessions while on Christmas and Cocos Islands. The sessions included combined information forums, organisational and community meetings, and handling enquiries from community members. Two Equal Opportunity Law Awareness sessions were conducted, and updated resources were disseminated to the IOT communities.
The Commission utilises a collaborative training model working with other state government organisations. During the visit to the IOT, Commission officers provided training in conjunction with officers from the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, and the Department of Communities.