Past issues

Commissioner for Equal Opportunity e-bulletin May 2016

by Equal Opportunity Commission | May 02, 2016

Working in the community

Responsibilities at work in Esperance

Teachers and administrators at the Esperance campus of the Goldfields TAFE got together recently to talk toxic workplaces and how to manage them with Commission training officer Stephen Goodall.

At the Equal Opportunity Commission’s training course, Positive Workplace Culture, the participants explored the difference between what behaviour makes a workplace a comfortable place to be or creates tension and dissension.  The time-wasting chatterer, the late-arrivers, the practical joker and those who tell sex-based jokes in the lunch time were examples raised of features of toxic workplaces. 

The key message of the session was that inappropriate behaviour and incivility, if not dealt with, can lead to a workplace environment prone to unlawful behaviours such as discrimination, harassment and bullying.

The participants worked to identify which of these could be managed internally and which were potentially unlawful under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 in WA.

Know your rights

While in Esperance Steve also conducted a forum at Lotteries House with community groups from the disability, Aboriginal and other non-government sectors.  They were keen to find out how best to support and represent their members when they experience discrimination and harassment.

He was also able to meet individually with some community members to provide information about their own concerns.  

If you or your organisation is interested in having a Commission training session, customised to your needs, about Workplace culture or any other aspect of equal opportunity, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Isabelle Lake remembered

Young activist inspires moves towards inclusive workspaces

Champions were identified as key people in organisations moving to address workplace issues for people who have transitioned or are in the process of doing so
Debbie Mills, responding to a question about how to develop policy, said that champions were vital in talking with the majority of staff who probably were not familiar with the needs and issues raised.

Facilitated by Dr Duc Dau, the panellists fielded a wide range of questions about the experiences, both personal and organisational of creating inclusive workspaces. This is particularly important for State public sector workers for whom there is no legal protection for people in the process of transitioning.

The panellists answered audience questions about recruitment, coming out, pronouns, promotion of inclusive practices, case studies, examples of discrimination, how to support trans co-workers, the special situation of teachers, how much information was needed for reporting without being intrusive, and types of changes made in workplaces.

The annual Isabelle Lake Memorial Lecture pays tribute to a young transwoman, whose work was directed to easing the path of people experiencing issues facing them, in their transition, just as she had done.

We’ve got you covered

Tatts, pink hair, long hair and singlets

.A young woman called the Commission to say that her employer was insisting that she lose her multi-hued hair and cover her tasteful butterfly tattoo. The ‘pink stripe and ink’ said the boss, was not appropriate for their customers.

‘You can’t come in here wearing that singlet,’ the door person of the venue said. ‘It doesn’t comply with our dress code.”

‘Your hair cannot touch your collar,” the school principal told a year 10 boy, ‘it is outside school policy”.’

These are all scenarios which have been presented to our enquiry officers. But are they actually discrimination?

The answer: possibly.

The Western Australian Equal Opportunity Act makes it unlawful to discriminate or treat someone unfairly because of one of the grounds, or protected attributes in the Act.

In any of the three examples above, the requirement may be unlawful if, and only if, the hair colour and tatts, dress code or hair length does not apply equally to all in the same situation. If the multi-coloured hair ban extended only to female workers, or the long hair school requirement only to boys, then it could be sex discrimination.

In addition, a different dress code may be lawful, if the required dress is reasonable and in accordance with general community standards.  For example it has been found that a singlet-type top for women is acceptable, but not necessarily for a man as it is generally an undergarment.

In Western Australia, appearance, for example tattoos, clothes or hair-do on their own are not characteristics which are protected by the Act.

If you want to know about your situation, call our Enquiry Line on 92163900 between 9 am and 4 pm Monday to Friday.

You can lodge a complaint if you think you were deterred from applying for a job, or your application was rejected because of a condition stated in the ad.

See our website for Guidelines for advertisers or Contact us (see details below) for a free copy, and to find out more or lodge a complaint

See our website to find out about Your rights or Contact us to find out more.

Case of the month

A policy is not enough

A recent case in the Northern Territory once again reaffirmed that while an employer may have an appropriate policy in place to address discrimination, if that policy is not communicated adequately and staff not sufficiently aware of the policy, the defence it may provided can be limited. Read about the decision here. 
Ms Frances Newchurch v Centreprise Resource Group Pty Ltd, Mr Graham Ride and Ms Sarah Ride

Website highlights

Making a complaint

Our website is being continually updated to provide a range of resources and information about equal opportunity in Western Australia.

This month we are highlighting the section about Making a complaint.  This page provides information about who can make a complaint, what happens to it, the 12 month limitation on complaints and how you can lodge an allegation of discriminatory behaviour.

There are also a number of options – you can submit a complaint online, download, print and post or email a form, or contact us to post you a complaint form.

We also have a large print version of the Complaint Form if this is needed. If you have any questions about lodging a complaint, please call the Commission’s Enquiry service or email us. Find out how at Contact Us

Included here is detailed information about unlawful discrimination, as well as a section for business and organisations who are keen to ensure that their employment and service provision complies with the Act.

Playing by the Rules

Play by the Rules is an innovative, comprehensive guide to everything about playing and administering sport.  The WA Commissioner for Equal Opportunity contributes to the development of this tool which covers information for players, administrators, coaches and parents on how to prevent discrimination and deal with it when it happens.  

There are free online courses, interactive scenarios, articles and resources – all free for your club or association.

Check out the Play by the Rules website and subscribe to the Play by the Rules magazine.
What's coming up at the Commission

Register for all Commission courses on the Community Education page

  • May 11            Equal opportunity essentials for managers and supervisors

  • May 18            Fair go for your clients workshop

  • May 24            Contact officer role – what’s it all about

  • May 26            Reconciliation Week - find the Equal Opportunity Commission banner in the mall


  • June 8             An introduction to equal opportunity law

  • June 14-15    Equity Grievance officer role

  • June 21           Sexual harassment - Know where the line is

  • July 3-10         NAIDOC - visit the Commission stalls at the Mirrabooka NAIDOC day and Ashfiled NAIDOC Family Day

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 92163900, 1800 198 149 (country callers) 9216 3936 (TTY) or email

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For more information please contact us or call the EOC Public Affairs Officer on (08) 92163911 or for WA country callers 1800 198 149. 
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