From the Commissioner
This Report sets out the performance of the Equal Opportunity Commission in the 2016-17 financial year, and demonstrates this organisation is a vital and effective part of the local and national work of promoting equal opportunity and human rights.
I present this report with a sense of pride in what we have achieved as a small office with the challenging task of working across a very large State. It reflects on our capacity to work across sectors and to engage with the Western Australian community.
The Commission has, like most other Western Australian public sector agencies, had to readjust its services and functions in response to significant staff and budget reductions. This has created some challenges in meeting the high efficiency and effectiveness targets previously set for the Commission’s statutory obligations of providing a means of redress for allegations of unlawful discrimination, and in providing community education and training on equal opportunity and human rights.
Despite these challenges we continue to achieve timely resolution of complaints of unlawful discrimination, and there is generally a high level of satisfaction from both complainants and respondents to the Commission’s complaint handling processes.
The Commission’s community education team delivers a range of targeted training courses, and responds to requests from the public and private sector to provide customised training. A range of abridged ‘rights based’ courses are made available to schools and community groups. The Commission also continues to develop its digital strategy to disseminate information through an e-bulletin and its Facebook and website.
An important aspect of the Commission’s work has been to develop public and private sector partnerships which include:
- The Youth Affairs Council of WA in promoting equal opportunity and human rights issues
- The university sector – raising awareness about responding to sexual harassment
- The business community – on issues such as menus for people with visual impairments
- Sporting organisations and schools – delivering the Member Protection anti-discrimination program
- The Public Sector Commission (PSC) on the development of an inclusive culture for staff from varying gender and sexual identities
- Membership of CEOs for Gender Equity.
In the 2017-18 financial year the State Government’s reform agenda has resulted in significant restructuring of many agencies, and this may create challenges for example:
- Ensuring positive outcomes for priority groups such as young people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and people with disability
- Managing the impact of evictions on vulnerable families, and especially on the schooling and welfare of at-risk children
- Working with the PSC on lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex (LGBTI) staffing and community access issues.
Another important priority for the Commission in 2017-18 is to determine if the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (the Act), is operating in the most effective way possibly, taking into account trends and developments in equal opportunity law and changes in community attitudes.
I took up a one-year contract as acting Commissioner in December 2016 while Commissioner Allanah Lucas is on secondment with the Public Sector Commission.
I acknowledge the dedication, commitment and hard work of Commission staff, and everyone who has been part of the Equal Opportunity Commission over the last 12 months. My gratitude also extends to the many people across the state in government, the private sector, and community organisations who support and promote human rights principles.