Commissioner for Equal Opportunity e-bulletin

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July 2018

NAIDOC Week at the Commission

This year the Commission held stalls at the Mirrabooka NAIDOC Week event and at NAIDOC Family day in Ashfield.

Acting WA Commissioner for Equal Opportunity Dr John Byrne said it was another successful NAIDOC Week at the Commission.

“Every year we hold information stalls at community NAIDOC events and it is a wonderful way to not only celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture in WA, but to connect with the WA community,” he said.

Commission enquiry staff were rostered on both stalls to speak to stall visitors about unlawful discrimination and to network with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community about ways to address unlawful discrimination, particularly on the grounds of race and racial harassment.

“Discrimination in goods, services and facilities and employment are the highest areas of public life for the ground of race and important issues for WA’s Aboriginal community,” Dr Byrne said.

He said one of the ways we can help address this issue is by providing awareness to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about their rights.

“Participation in the NAIDOC Week events gives the Commission a valuable opportunity to educate people about their equal opportunity rights in a relaxed and informal way, making them beneficial to both staff and the community,” he said.

John Ashfield web

 Acting Commissioner Dr John Byrne, at the Commission's stall at NAIDOC Family Day in Ashfield



Helping architects build barriers to sex discrimination

Senior Legal Officer, Allan Macdonald and Commission Services Manager Diana MacTiernan spoke to a group of 80 Perth female members of the Australian Institute of Architects for its Work Women Wisdom – Times Up event in Swanbourne recently.

Allan and Diana spoke about sexual harassment and sex discrimination laws, and how they apply to women in the workplace.

“As with many fields, the number of women working in the field of architecture has increased; however, women are still under represented at higher paid senior levels,” Diana said.

She said the event was a great opportunity to sit down with women architects to listen to their issues and discuss their rights in a relaxed forum.

“Rights based awareness raising is key to facilitating change and this group should be congratulated for organising this event to support women’s workplace rights in their industry,” she said.

She encouraged other women’s groups to organise industry-based events with the aim of raising awareness about issues of sex discrimination and sexual harassment.

“We have seen highly effective awareness raising campaigns come out of the entertainment industry with the Me Too and Times Up campaigns, however we know that harassment and discrimination aren’t confined to any one industry.

“Understanding your rights and talking about your issues in a safe environment is the first step to changing workplace policies and practises,” she said.



Know the line

Recent reports about the conduct of a surveyor working at the Rockingham Council draw attention to the fact that even though you are not at work your behaviour could still be considered workplace discrimination or harassment.

Building surveyor Colin Reguero-Puente filed an application for unfair dismissal after being sacked by the City of Rockingham following an investigation into allegations of inappropriate conduct made by other employees.

The Fair Work Commission heard Mr Reguero-Puente frequently sent unwelcome and unsolicited sexually explicit emails and text messages to younger female colleagues, often late at night, and into the early morning and made inappropriate comment at work.

It heard that he sent a female colleague an unsolicited photo of his penis and repeatedly requested she send him a naked photo of herself.

During the same exchange the Fair Work Commission heard he wrote, “don’t worry, I checked the EBA. Not on the clock so doesn’t matter.”

According to evidence given, two days later, he texted her saying, “I re-read the messages and thought – ooops are we good? Prob over stepped the mark. But I must admit I enjoyed it.”

The Fair Work Commission also heard Mr Reguero-Puente said to a female co-worker, “Your arse looks good, but I can’t say that as I have done my sexual harassment course, so I can’t.”

 The Fair Work Commission rejected Mr Reguero-Puente’s application, stating that his dismissal was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable.

Under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 unlawful sexual harassment includes an unwelcome sexual advance or request for sexual favours or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.

The behaviour must be such that the harassed person has reason to believe if they reject the advance, refuse the request or object to the conduct they will be disadvantaged (for example dismissed, demoted or denied benefits) or they are in fact disadvantaged if they object to such behaviour.

Sexual harassment does not need to be repeated or continuous, it can involve a single incident.

One of the areas of public life where sexual harassment is unlawful is employment, which means it is unlawful to sexually harass an employee or an employee of another person or organisation, a co-worker, a potential employee or employer, commission agent or contract worker.

Examples of sexual harassment include:

  • unwelcome physical touching, hugging or kissing
  • intrusive questions about a person’s private life or body
  • sexually explicit pictures, e-mails or text messages
  • displays of offensive posters, calendars, graffiti or computer graphics
  • requests for sexual favours.

While it is important to know what constitutes unlawful workplace sexual harassment, it is also worthwhile to think about the impact your behaviour might have on your colleagues.

If you have doubts about whether your behaviour is inappropriate to your co-workers, then it is best to not do it.



VCAT decides strata bodies do provide services

Recently the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found that property owners corporations provide services within the meaning of the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (the Act).

Anne Black owns and occupies an apartment in a complex in Victoria and during 2015 she developed disabilities that affect her mobility.  She now relies on a wheelchair and scooter for mobility.

 The two owner corporations involved own and maintain parts of the building where Ms Black has her apartment.

Ms Black is a member of both corporations and is entitled to access and use the common areas of the building.

One corporation owns and is responsible for the main entry to the building.  The other owns and is responsible for the doors to the car park, the rubbish disposal area, and the courtyard and garden.

Ms Black claims these doors, and the ramp to the car park door, are not suitable to her disabilities and that various modifications are required so she can use them.

The corporations have not made the modifications and Ms Black has applied to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for remedies under the Act.

She alleged that, as service providers, the corporations had indirectly discriminated against her and failed to make reasonable adjustments for her disability in breach of s45 of the Act.

The corporations and Ms Black were in dispute about the application of the Act as the owner corporations contended they were not providers of services, so they applied to the VCAT to clarify the matter.

In February 2018, VCAT found the corporations did provide services to Ms Black. The corporations then applied to the Supreme Court for a declaration.

The court also ruled in Ms Black’s favour that the term ‘services’ applies to the activities of owners’ corporations and that s. 4 of the Act is open and inclusive, extremely broad and covers any sort of helpful activity.

Although there are differences between the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 2010 and our WA Equal Opportunity Act 1984, this decision does clarify that Strata Bodies provide services, and they include modifying common areas at the request of occupiers with disabilities.

Last year the WA Equal Opportunity Commission conciliated an agreement between a complainant who used a mobility scooter and the complainant’s Body Corporate to create an accessible pathway for the complainant to enter and leave the complex on a scooter.

To read more about the case in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal click on the link:



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.

July 25                 Introducation to equal opportunity law

July 31                 Fair go for your clients - Addressing systemic discrimination 

August 9              Sexual harassment - Know wehre the line is

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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