Commissioner for Equal Opportunity e-bulletin

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

November 2016

Human Rights Day Event

Stand Up For Someone's Rights Today

The Commissioner for Equal Opportunity, together with the Youth Affairs Council of WA and the Commissioner for Children and Young People, invite you to participate in an event to celebrate the 2016 International Day of Human Rights on Monday 12 December, from 4pm to 6pm in Perth.

Hear from a panel of young Australians who will share their experiences, followed by a Q&A session to discuss issues of discrimination, inequality and human rights issues affecting youth from a diversity of background and circumstances, including:

  • Migrants and refugees
  • Aboriginal Australians
  • Living with an impairment and/or disability including mental illness
  • LGBTI diversity

Tammy Solonec, Indigenous Rights Manager at Amnesty International Australia will deliver the key note address, and there will also be light refreshments and an opportunity to network and speak with the panellists after the Q&A session.

This free event is aimed at youth and ideal for anyone interested or involved in youth advocacy for human rights issues and equal opportunity. Tickets are limited; reserve your place online through www.trybooking.com/243966 or for more information call 9216 3900.

The presentations and Q&A session will also be live streamed on Facebook on the Commission’s Facebook page @EOCWA


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The EOC Marches with Pride

Staff and friends from the Equal Opportunity Commission marched with pride at the 2016 Pride Parade to show support for the rights and equal opportunity for all.

Pride WA initially grew out of a community movement protesting laws that actively discriminated against lesbian and gay Western Australians.

In 2016, PrideFEST has become a two week long celebration, providing an opportunity for everyone to get involved and have their voices heard. The theme was #LoveWins, drawing attention to the common theme that brings members of the LGBTIQ and wider communities together.

The Equal Opportunity Commission is an ALLY organisation, advancing understanding, inclusion, and support of LGBTI employees in the workplace and clients of the organisation. Information about ALLY training sessions to be delivered in 2017 by the WA Equal Opportunity and Public Sector Commissions will soon be available.


Disability Discrimination Commissioner Consultation

On Tuesday 25 October, Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner Alastair McEwin consulted with the WA Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) to find out more about disability issues affecting Western Australians.

Since his recent appointment half way through the year, Commissioner McEwin has been consulting with groups nationwide for feedback and ideas that he can effectively implement during his term. Nationally the Commissioner is prioritising five key areas for consistency in access to:

  • Employment
  • Education
  • Criminal justice system
  • Affordable housing
  • NDIS; systemic issues and interaction

There is also another issue being addressed together with the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins; the concerning level of violence against women and children with disabilities.

The EOC informed Commissioner McEwin that in WA, discrimination due to an impairment or disability is still recorded as having the highest number of complaints, mostly in employment. However ongoing concerns in WA have been in the areas of education, housing and corrective services, where there is limited or no access to services for people with impairments or disabilities.

Various examples in WA were discussed, such as schools which aren’t equipped to deal with intellectual disabilities, where children on the more severe end of the Autism spectrum are often suspended and then fall through the gaps in their education. In corrective services, a recent complaint saw a prisoner with a disability in a low security prison, without sufficient access to facilities, being moved to a higher security prison.

One example of a local project the EOC spoke to the Commissioner about is ensuring accessibility of restaurant menus. Increasing awareness and facilitating restaurants to use Braille, larger print or place menus online for electronic readers is only a small project, but the group of enthusiastic students leading this project is a wonderful example of self-advocacy.

The consultation drew to a positive conclusion about further liaison and ways in which both Commission’s could work together, such as sharing resources for our training so people are aware they have rights under both the State and Federal Acts.


2015-16 Annual Report

The Commissioner for Equal Opportunity reports each financial year to Parliament on her work in promoting equality of opportunity in Western Australia and providing redress for allegations for discrimination.

As part of the Commission’s core function, the Community Education Programs were attended by 2,295 people over 186 training and education sessions. A high level of satisfaction was recorded from training, with 97.7% of participants stating they would recommend the courses to colleagues. A further 1,693 people attended the Commission’s community activities. Please contact us if you would like to discuss our team coming to speak to your organisation.

During the 2015-16 year, the Commission answered 1,745 enquiries and handled 439 new complaints of discrimination. Complaints were dealt with in record time, with 97.5% being finalised in less than six months, and the reminder resolved in less than 12 months.

A notable trend has been an increase in sexual harassment complaints which doubled over the past two years, with 54 complaints in 2015-16 from 26 complaints in 2013-14.

Manager of Commission Services Diana MacTiernan suggests that Western Australians were becoming more aware of what is unacceptable behaviour and more willing to speak out. “I think people more readily recognise that it is wrong and are prepared, a bit more, to say, ‘Stop, I don’t feel comfortable with you doing that at all’,” Ms MacTiernan said.

“But a lot of times people get caught off guard when it occurs and are not quite sure how to react.” Ms MacTiernan said dialogue was key to fighting sexual harassment in the workplace. “Despite your own personal values, you have to prescribe to the values of the organisation. The organisation needs to be very clear about its values and what is expected of staff,” she said.

For the full report go to the 2015-16 Annual Report on the Commission’s website http://www.eoc.wa.gov.au/publications/annual-reports/annual-report


Enquiries

Can I be sacked for a tatt?

The Equal Opportunity Commissioner’s enquiry line is staffed by experienced officers who can provide independent expert information.

An example of a question the Commission’s enquiry line receives is: ‘Is it legal to discriminate against someone because they have tattoos?’

Although physical appearance is not a ground for discrimination under the Western Australian Equal Opportunity Act 1984, if the wearing of a tattoo is mandatory for reasons of religion or race, the prohibition may be unlawful. Similarly, if an employer has different rules for men and women regarding the visibility of tattoos in the workplace, it may be sex discrimination. Each complaint is assessed on its own merits to determine whether it falls within our jurisdiction.

The Commission’s enquiry service is free and confidential. If we are not able to answer your questions, we will make every effort to refer you an appropriate agency or service. The enquiry line is attended Mon - Fri, 9am to 4pm. You can leave us a message out of hours or send your questions by email, fax, letter or via Facebook.


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 the year 2000 about a pregnancy discrimination complaint is summarised below.

A hospitality worker who prepared and served food and drink aboard a boat cruise service, was dismissed after she informed the operator of the cruise service that she was pregnant.

Although it was a busy time of the year and the worker had advised that she wanted to work as many hours as possible up to 6 weeks before her baby was due, the managing director discontinued her shifts holding the view that the complainant was now unreliable and going to leave anyway due to the pregnancy.

The court’s decision stated ‘common sense suggests that there is nothing in the nature of hosting or food and beverage service that is intrinsically or even conceivably harmful to pregnant women.’

The court found that the respondent discriminated against the complainant on the ground of her pregnancy, having been satisfied that the complainent would not have been dismissed had she not been pregnant, and awarded $6,485 compensation for financial losses, and $10,000 damages for hurt and humiliation. [EOT 18 of 2000]

Read the full judgement at http://www.eoc.wa.gov.au/publications/equal-opportunity-tribunal-decisions


Website highlights

2017 Wall Calendar

Aboriginal Calendar 2017

The Equal Opportunity Commission’s 2017 Wall Calendar is now available.

With a bright and modern graphic-art style design, four beautiful paintings from 1991 by Aboriginal artist Jody Broun depict issues of discrimination still experienced throughout the community.

The 2017 Calendar is available in a PDF version to download click here  or contact our office to request a copy be posted out to you.


2017 Training Calendar

The Commission’s Training Calendar from February to June 2017 is now available. Take a look on our website http://www.eoc.wa.gov.au/community-education-training/courses-by-calendar to see which sessions interest you or your organisation, or contact us for more information on 92163900, 1800 198 149 (country callers) 9216 3936 (TTY) or email eoc@eoc.wa.gov.au


Can we help?

Enquiries

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

Education

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

Information

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 eoc@eoc.wa.gov.au



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