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October 2016

Supporting safe education environments

Sexual harassment survey in Australian Universities

On the 27 September the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins came to the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) for an update on our work in WA.

This was a timely visit, as the EOC has identified sexual harassment as an increasing trend in complaints in WA, which has now become the third largest ground of complaint.

Kate also updated the EOC about her project being undertaken about sexual assault and sexual harassment of university students.

Australia’s 39 universities have asked the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to conduct an independent survey of university students to gain greater insight into the nature, prevalence and reporting of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

This survey is the first of its kind and will provide clear data and evidence, as well as examine the effectiveness of services and policies that address sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus.

In addition to this survey, the AHRC is seeking submissions from individuals about their experiences and views of sexual harassment and sexual assault at university. To find out more about making a submission please click here.

For further information, please or call: (02) 9284 9600. If you have experienced sexual harassment, you can make a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission WA or the Australian Human Rights Commission.  

If you have experienced sexual assault, please see here for a list of sexual assault services throughout Australia or call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).


Kate Jenkins visit to EOC

Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins visits the EOC, sharing updates about her work including the Sexual Harassment Survey being carried out in Australian Universities. The EOC will work collaboratively with Kate and her team on this project.



CEOs for Gender Equity new website

The CEOs for Gender Equity has a new website brimming with resources, information, news and events about closing the gender gap in WA.

Initiated by the EOC in 2012, CEOs for Gender Equity is now led by 18 of Western Australia’s most influential CEOs from the corporate, not-for-profit and government sectors.   

“We have equal opportunity laws in place at state and federal level, so it is clear that our nation supports equality for both women and men in employment and education. But this is not yet reflected in reality,” explains Allanah Lucas, Commissioner for Equal Opportunity WA.

“What we really need now is a shift in workplace culture to continue building upon such principles. This shift starts at an executive level where people in an organisation look to their leaders for direction and inspiration.”

Allanah makes the analogy that an organisation’s culture is like a tapestry. The coloured threads drawn from different fabrics symbolize the people and the CEOs are like the weavers that create that tapestry for their organisation. Although they may start with a traditional framework, techniques can be applied to create a culture which reflects an effective and meaningful workforce for the community it serves.

“It would be a powerful change to ensure women and girls feel empowered to use their abilities in diverse ways, supported by the leaders of industries and sectors throughout our society. We would not be wasting the talent of half our population! This shift in thinking is needed economically as well as socially. That is why I believe that CEOs are the people that must take the lead on gender equality.”

“The CEOs for Gender Equity promotes the leadership commitment and example that Western Australia requires, to increase female participation in positions of influence and also to decrease the gender pay gap. CEOs in particular need to be strongly representing this objective, and as a public sector CEO I am very proud to be amongst a group of dedicated and active CEOs for Gender Equity from all sectors,” affirmed Allanah.


New website for human rights in schools

The Australian Human Rights Commission has launched an interactive website to give school students a foundation in international human rights.

“Human rights are for everyone, no matter what age. Learning about human rights provides children and young people with important opportunities to develop their moral and ethical understanding of the world,” said National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell.

Through challenging and thought-provoking activities, the website introduces Years 5 and 6 students to the concept of human rights and explores the important relationship between fundamental rights and personal responsibilities.

Students learn about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and have the opportunity to craft their own classroom charter of rights and responsibilities.

The website is designed for use on interactive whiteboards and on smart devices such as smart phones and tablets.

Two accompanying lesson plans assist teachers in guiding their class through the interactive activities. Both lessons contain links to the Australian Curriculum areas of Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) and Health and Physical Education, for Years 5 and 6.

“Learning about fundamental rights and freedoms can equip students with the knowledge and skills to bring about positive change in their lives and communities,” Commissioner Mitchell said.

“Teachers can build greater cohesion, in the classroom and beyond, by encouraging ethical and intercultural understanding, and developing personal and social skills.”

 Save the date!

The Equal Opportunity Commission Human Rights Day Event

Monday 12 December, 4 to 6pm

Details in the next ebulletin

From the Vault

Archive of historical decisions

The Commission recently placed on its website historical decisions of the Equal Opportunity Tribunal (EOT) which are not available elsewhere, but still relevant as case law.

An example of a decision included in this archive from 1997 about a sexual harassment complaint is summarised below.

A waitress in a restaurant, soon after she started working there, was asked out by a kitchen staff member. She declined the invitation on the basis she had a boyfriend and was not interested in him.                        

Not long after the kitchen staff member began referring to the waitress’s body, making sexually suggestive comments, jokes and regularly touching her. After an incident where she was cornered and fondled, she complained to a fellow employee. When one of the owners overheard the complaint, it was suggested that she leave her employment.                                                                                                    

The waitress left the premises believing that her employment had been terminated. The matter was first heard in the Industrial Relations Court, where it was concluded that there was no valid reason for the termination of employment. Compensation of $1,000 for loss of wages and $1,000 for emotional distress was awarded for the manner in which the employment was terminated.

A complaint of sexual harassment was then lodged with the Commissioner of Equal Opportunity. The Commissioner was unable to resolve the dispute as the kitchen staff member denied showing any interest towards the complainant or treating her any differently to the other staff in the restaurant.

The Tribunal found that the complainant was subjected to sexual harassment by the staff member. The business proprietors were held jointly liable as they did not take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harrasment taking place, and their reaction upon a complaint was to dismiss the affected employee. The complainant was awarded $3,000 in damages for distress and humiliation. [EOT 16 of 1997]

Read the full judgement at

Website highlights

Torres Strait Islander Flag

The Torres Strait Islander Flag on the Commission website is used alongside the Aboriginal Flag, to respectfully acknowledge the past and present traditional owners of Western Australia and pay respect to the traditional custodians of this land.

Designed by the late Bernard Namok, the flag is a symbol of unity and identity for Torres Strait Islanders. In 1992 it was the winning entry in a design competition run by the Island Coordinating Council, and in 1995 the flag was given legal recognition by the Federal Government as a ‘Flag of Australia’ under the Flags Act of 1953.

On the flag, the white Dhari, a traditional headdress, is a symbol of the Torres Strait Islander People. The five pointed star represents the five island groups within the Torres Strait. The star is also a symbol for seafaring people as it is used in navigation. The green colour on the flag represents the land, the black represents the Indigenous peoples, the blue represents the sea and the white represents peace.



What's coming up at the Commission

You can register for all Commission courses on the Community Education page

October 18                Sexual Harassment - Know where the line is

October 19                Contact Officer Role

November 3              Fair Go For Your Clients - How to address systemic discrimination

November 15            Introduction to Equal Opportunity Law

November 22 & 23   Equity Grievance Officer Role


Can we help?


The Commissioner’s telephone and online enquiry service provides information on whether your circumstances can be addressed under the Equal Opportunity Act. 


The Commission can deliver free education sessions and workshops for community groups and advocates about rights under the Equal Opportunity Act.


The Commission website has a wealth of information for community members and organisations about their rights and responsibilities under the Act.

Find more information on the Commission's webpage Your rights

Contact us on (08) 9216 3900, 1800 198 149 (country callers) (08) 9216 3936 (TTY) or email

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