Commissioner for Equal Opportunity e-bulletin

For all the latest news on what is happening at the Commission read our latest e-bulletin.

March 2019

From the Commissioner - Understanding discrimination against trans youth

Recently a six year old who attended a Catholic school as a boy last year has returned to the same school this year identifying as a girl.

Reports stated other parents were concerned they were not informed of this by school staff and it left classmates shocked and confused.

The media has previously stated two to three children a week are being referred to WA's clinic for transgender young people.

Young people identifying as a different gender to the one they were assigned at birth, and subsequently transitioning to their gender of choice is becoming more common.

The confidence to be able to identify as a different gender to that assigned at birth, may be due to increased awareness and understanding of gender diversity and its complexities.

There is now a substantial amount of research on gender transition in young people and strategies put in place by medical staff and families to assist transitioning young people through this often difficult journey.

Transitioning young people and young people who identify as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth are some of society’s most vulnerable. Not only are they susceptible to bullying from other students and discrimination from the wider community, many lack the necessary support from their own parents.

Tragically, suicide rates among transitioning young people are high.

Young people who identify as another gender and transition gender in a supportive environment, are able to learn and later contribute to society in a meaningful way. If they are not supported and are discriminated against that potential can be lost.

School staff and the school community play an important part in supporting young trans people and helping them reach their full potential.

Schools can make changes such as providing single user toilets that can be accessed by any gender.

At home toilets are gender neutral, so extending this idea to a school or workplace should not be a big deal.  

Some of the single user toilets at the Equal Opportunity Commission are gender neutral, and that has not caused an issue for our customers or staff.

Another way schools can support young trans people is gender neutral uniform options. Again, in wider society, women and men can acceptably wear pants or shorts.

It is now acceptable that males can have long hair and women can have short hair, things such as this should not cause concern for the school community, and should be considered when forming policies in case those policies are indirectly discriminatory to certain groups.

Adopting gender neutral policies wherever possible not only make it easier on transitioning students but the entire school community.

However, if a male child identifying as female wishes to wear a dress, it should be their choice.

Embracing diversity is always better for a school community than shock and confusion.

The Equal Opportunity Commission cohosts the annual Isabelle Lake Memorial Lecture event with the University of Western Australia to raise public awareness about trans issues.

You can find out more this event in the next edition of our Ebulletin.

Acting Commissioner for Equal Opportunity John Byrne

 Acting Commissioner Dr John Byrne



Men only club to allow women members

Paul Hogan, a member of the exclusive male only club Tattersall’s in Brisbane, recently challenged members’ vote to allow women to join the club in the Supreme Court.

However Judge Glenn Martin dismissed the civil case, allowing more than 100 membership applications from women to be processed.

Mr Hogan did not believe the ballot to amend the Rules of Tattersall’s Club (the Rules) to allow women to join was done according to the Rules and therefore was ineffective.

He questioned whether having members write their membership number on the back of the ballot envelopes, instead of providing envelopes with preprinted numbers to identify their eligibility to vote, was consistent with the Club Rules.

Mr Hogan believed that numbered envelopes should be provided as members might forget to inscribe their number or write it in an ilegible way.

Judge Martin said writing member numbers on the envelopes was a minor departure from the procedures set out in the Rules, and the practical effect remained the same. 

He said process adopted was substancially consistent with the process for elections by postal ballot set out in the Rules and found that the Court should not intervene in a case of this nature.

To read more about the decision click here.



2019 speed mentoring event

The Commission ran its speed mentoring event for International Women’s Day for the third year on 8 March this year.

The 2019 event had a change of venue to previous years, with mentors and mentees coming together in the Commission’s Seminar Room on Level 2, 141 St Georges Terrace.

This year mentors included WA Industrial Relations Commissioner Toni Walkington, Co-editor of STM Nicolette Casella and Senior Reporter at The West Australian Kim Macdonald.

Acting Commissioner Dr John Byrne said the event had grown in popularity among schools, with four schools attending this year.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for young women starting out their careers to get advice from women who have valuable experience in a range of disciplines,” he said.

Dr Byrne said many of the mentors had participated in previous years and enjoyed their interactions with the mentees.

Manager Commission Services Diana MacTiernan mentored for the second time this year and said she was impressed with the thoughtful questions many of the girls asked.

“They are all thinking seriously about the different challenges they might face going into the workforce and genuinely want the tools to address them in the best possible way which is really admirable,” she said.

International Women's Day Pic 2019

Mentors and mentees at the Commission's speed mentoring event for International Women's Day



The Commission is coming to Albany

The Equal Opportunity Commission will be in Albany on 18 and 19 March this year holding free training courses.

On 18 March Manager Commission Services Diana MacTiernan will hold the Equal Opportunity Essentials class from 9.30am until 12.30pm and on 19 March she will hold the Substantive Equality – What’s new  class from 9.30am until 11am.

Please register your interest at to obtain the central venue details.

Ms MacTiernan said it was not only a great opportunity for people living in Albany to learn about their rights and responsibilities under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 during the course, but to speak to her about equal opportunity and human rights issues impacting them.

“There is always time throughout the session to discuss equal opportunity issues that might impact attendees individually or, if the matter is private, after the class.

“We find different regions often have specific issues that affect that community, so it is a valuable opportunity for both us and the community to get to know what those issues are,” she said.

For more information on the classes and how to register for the free classes click here.




What's coming up

The Commission’s Training Calendar from January to July 2019 is now available. You can register for all Commission courses on the Community Education page.

18 March               FREE EVENT! Equal Opportunity Essentials – Albany

19 March               FREE EVENT! Substantive Equality What’s new? – Albany

19 March               Sexual Harassment – Know where the line is

20 March               Contact Officer Role

26 March               Introduction to Equal Opportunity Law

Please contact us on 9216 3900 if you are interested in organisation specific training or for a rights-based session for your clients or community members.

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