Commissioner for Equal Opportunity e-bulletin

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October 2018

From the Commissioner - Measures to achieve equality

The Commission receives enquiries from prospective employers or prospective employees asking if it is lawful to advertise a job for a certain gender, race, age or for people with an impairment and, depending on the circumstances, the answer is – yes!

The Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (the Act) allows employers to advertise positions for groups that are underrepresented in their respective industries due to past discrimination, and this is sometimes referred to as ‘affirmative action’, ‘positive discrimination’ or ‘special measures’.

Some employers advertise positions for Aboriginal people, for women, for people with impairments and their decision to do so is not unlawful under the Act.

Special measures are not obligatory under the Act. They are voluntary steps employers may wish to take to contribute to eliminating inequality in society.

Not adopting a special measure for a group is also not unlawful under our Act, so it is up to the employer to choose whether they use these provisions.

Many employers now use special measures under the Act to achieve targets they have set so their staff reflect the diverse customer base they wish to serve.

Research shows a diverse staff delivers a better service to a wider range of people because it brings a variety of lived experiences to the work and service the organisation provides.

It also helps the wider community because jobs bring income and income brings prosperity into the community. 

If a person feels they have been discriminated against because of a characteristic they have which is covered by the Act, they are able to lodge a complaint in writing to the Equal Opportunity Commission.

If the complaint fits a ground and area under the Act the Commission is obligated to accept it; however, if further investigation shows the respondent has genuinely applied special measures to achieve equality, the complaint will most likely be dismissed.

To avoid a complaint being made it is best for prospective employers to be transparent about their reasons for using a special measure, so everyone understands why a job is advertised for a person with a specific attribute.

 

Acting Commissioner for Equal Opportunity John Byrne

 Acting Commissioner Dr John Byrne

 


 

2017-18 Annual Report

The Equal Opportunity Commission’s 2017-18 Annual Report has been tabled in Parliament and is available online.

The report details the number of complaints received under the various grounds of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984, which have increased since the previous year.

The ground with the largest increase was sexual harassment which nearly doubled on last year’s number.

Training also increased this financial year, requests for fee for service (paid training) courses increased by over 50 percent to 82 sessions compared to 2017-18 year’s total of 52 sessions.

Rights based training sessions in both the metropolitan and regional areas totalled 100 sessions, compared to 65 sessions in 2016-17, an increase of over 53 percent.

To read more about the 2017-18 financial year at the Commission click here.

Annual Report 2017-18
2017-2018 Equal Opportunity Commission Annual Report

 


 

Aboriginal calendar artwork winner

A winner has been chosen for the Equal Opportunity Commission’s 2019 Aboriginal Calendar artwork competition.

This year the Commission ran the Aboriginal Calendar artwork competition through Banksia Hill Detention Centre.

“The Commission has run the Aboriginal Calendar artwork competition with the Department of Corrective Services in previous years through Bandyup Women’s Prison and West Kimberley Prison with wonderful results,” Acting WA Equal Opportunity Commissioner, Dr John Byrne said.

He said the winner’s artwork was chosen because it was colourful and combined a message of anti-discrimination with an Aboriginal art theme.

“Last financial year the Commission worked with regional prisons providing community education and outreach to prison staff and inmates, so the artwork competition provided an opportunity for the Commission to concentrate on its youth focus and engage young people at Banksia Hill,” he said.

Community Education Officer Steve Goodall held two education classes at Banksia Hill Detention Centre prior to the competition being launched by Communications Officer Sarah Johnston.

“Young people are particularly vulnerable as they may not know that the treatment they receive is unlawful.

“That is why it is so important to provide rights-based training to young people and reinforce it in an engaging way, such as the artwork competition,” Steve said.

The Commissioner will present the prizes at Banksia Hill Detention Centre later in October.

 

Winning artwork for 2019 Aboriginal calendar

Winning artwork for 2019 Aboriginal calendar

 


 

What WA thinks about equal opportunity

 

This year the Commission ran its triennial community survey to gauge the attitudes of the Western Australian community on discrimination, harassment, the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (the Act) and the work of the Commission.

This year’s survey found community awareness of the Commission and the Act had gone up to 82 percent since 2015 when it dropped to 76.5 percent, especially among men.

As in previous years the most common source of awareness of equal opportunity or discrimination topics was through the media, with 35 percent of respondents saying their awareness came from television and radio, 13 percent from print media and 10 percent from social media which increased from 8 percent in 2015.

Interestingly, in 2018 respondents have become more likely to mention specific examples of discrimination rather than specific media organisations that made them aware of discrimination.

In 2018 a relatively high portion of respondents mentioned ‘through AFL/sports’. Perhaps reflecting themes covered in sports such as race discrimination, sexuality and gender now that the AFL women’s league and the success of women’s cricket and soccer has brought issues such as the pay gap into the forefront.

Perception of community concern for equal opportunity and human rights issues among respondents has decreased since the last survey with 36 percent saying the community was only a little concerned about these issues.

Only 44 percent of respondents felt the community was very concerned which is lower than 2015 when 53 percent found the community to be very concerned about equal opportunity and human rights.

Personal concern has also decreased with 49 percent mentioning they felt ‘quite or very concerned’, compared to 60 percent in 2015.

Of those who were concerned, respondents gave the following reasons ‘everyone should be treated equally’ (13 percent), ‘discrimination and human rights violations happen’ (12 percent), ‘gender inequality and workplace wages’ (12 percent) and ‘asylum seekers and immigration issues’ (10 percent).

Of those who weren’t concerned, their main reasons were ‘too much media hype/political correctness about it’ (22 percent), ‘not affected by these issues personally’ (21 percent), ‘Australia has a good record with human rights’ (19 percent) and ‘I don’t think that much about it’ (12 percent).

When asked which groups are most discriminated against 34 percent said women, followed by Aboriginal people at 32 percent, people in ethnic minority backgrounds were nominated by 29 percent, gay, lesbian and transgender persons were also 29 percent and people with a disability were 26 percent.

 

 


 

What’s coming up

The Commission’s Training Calendar from July to December 2018 is now available. You can register for all Commission courses on the Community Education page.

October 10                          Recruitment and Selection – Are you getting it Right?

October 16                          Contact Officer Role 

October 24                          Fair go for your Clients – Addressing Systemic Discrimination

 

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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