The Commission participated in a panel discussion on equal opportunity laws relating to LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) students and teachers organised by the Safe Schools Coalition and held at the Presbyterian Ladies College.
The discussion was a question and answer format between the five panellists and an audience of about 100 teachers, parents and students.
Western Australia was described as comparing poorly to other states and territories when it came to equal opportunity laws for gender diverse people in schools, and according to one speaker, “would receive a D minus when it comes to equal opportunity laws for trans and gender diverse people in schools”.
While the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 was one of the first to include gender history in 2000, its limitation is it only applies to people who have received a gender recognition certificate, while in other states, territories and the Commonwealth transgender people did not have to provide a certificate when lodging a complaint of unlawful discrimination. WA’s equal opportunity laws were described as placing people who are transitioning in the state’s school system at a huge disadvantage.
In WA students did have the protection of the Federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (SDA), but the logistics of taking a complaint federally made it difficult for some people in WA. While WA public sector workers, including teachers, had no protection when they were transitioning because the SDA specifically excluded them.
In response to the limited protection available in WA the Commission has been a key player in the development of the Guidelines for supporting sexual and gender diversity in schools (the Guidelines). The Guidelines, published in 2014, were developed after consultation with the LGBTI community, found bullying towards gender and sexually diverse students in schools was the single biggest issue, and many schools and other stakeholders were not confident in strategies and resources available to manage these issues.