Welcome Acting Commissioner Dr John Byrne
The Equal Opportunity Commission welcomes Dr John Byrne as Acting Commissioner for Equal Opportunity in Western Australia. His 12 month appointment began on Monday 5 December.
John has come from the Department of Parks and Wildlife where he was Director of Corporate Services. His role included developing and implementing strategies aimed at improving the employment opportunities for Indigenous people. One initiative, a mentored Aboriginal employment and training scheme, was recognised with a Premier’s Award. He has also had a key role in improvements to access to parks and recreation facilities for people with mobility disabilities.
John has a disability. He has been profoundly deaf since he was a child, due to inheriting ostosclerosis, although he had normal hearing until he was eight years old.
He has been an advocate for people with disabilities for many years. He was one of the people in the 1980s who advocated the State’s Equal Opportunity Act 1984 be extended to include disability. He was an inaugural member of the Ministerial Advisory Council for Disability Services in 1991 and served a second term in 1999.
John has been a presenter at conferences and training sessions to develop strategies to improve employment of people with disabilities. He is also credited, on the website of the Australian Human Rights Commission, for the introduction of captioned movies in cinemas throughout Australia and was involved in the introduction of captioning of pay TV and an increase in the captioning of free to air TV.
“Although we have seen improvements in many areas, there are still large gaps and challenges to overcome in order to reach an inclusive community for all,” John said. “I am honoured to take up this role with the Equal Opportunity Commission, and am looking forward to continuing to find ways to increase both formal and substantive equality in Western Australia.”
Working in the community
Human Rights Day Event
The Commissioner for Equal Opportunity Dr John Byrne, together with the Youth Affairs Council of WA and the Commissioner for Children and Young People Colin Pettit, held a youth summit on the 12 December to celebrate the 2016 International Day of Human Rights.
Human Rights Day commemorates the day on which the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948. This year, Human Rights Day called on everyone to stand up for someone’s rights.
This free youth event “Stand Up for Someone's Rights Today” heard from a panel of young Australians who shared 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.
On the panel we heard from Grace Mills from the Youth Disability Advocacy Network (YDAN), Patrick O’Reeri from the East Kimberley Region and Student Intern at the Equal Opportunity Commission, and Dani Wright Toussaint from the Freedom Centre. Panelist Sara Shengeb from the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network (MYAN) was also nominated for the Australian Human Rights Youth Award.
Tammy Solonec, Indigenous Rights Manager at Amnesty International Australia, delivered the key note address. You can download a copy of Tammy's power point presentation from the Commission’s website www.eoc.wa.gov.au
Thanks to Misty Farquhar from the Curtin University Centre for Human Rights Education who MC'd the afternoon, and all those who contributed to making it an engaging and inspiring summit.
The presentation and Q&A sessions were also live streamed on Facebook, You can watch a replay on the Equal Opportunity Commission’s Facebook page @EOCWA
Regional visit to Northam and Merredin
In Mid November, Community Education Officers Steve Goodall and Mike Harte conducted a three day regional visit to Northam and Merredin. Community forums were conducted in both towns as well as a public training workshop at the Northam Recreation Centre. Meetings were held with representatives from Avon Youth and Community Services, Rural Legal Service and the Aboriginal Legal Service and there was also a visit to Wooroloo Regional Prison to meet with senior staff and talk to prisoners.
Steve and Mike are hoping to follow up with another trip to the area in 2017 in order to conduct further education for the community about their rights under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984.
The Equal Opportunity Commission offers free public education for community organisations in both metropolitan and regional areas. For more information contact Steve or Mike on 9216 3900.
Cultural Immersion Training
As part of the Commission’s aspiration for staff to become culturally competent, on Friday 2 December, EOC staff undertook “Cultural Immersion Training” at the Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation in Waterford. Robert and Selina Eggington gave us a warm welcome and during the day, we were able to experience the sights, sounds and tastes of Aboriginal culture.
We also heard important information about the work of Dumbartung as a grassroots Aboriginal organisation. Robert and Selina talked about the long term negative impacts of government policies on the Aboriginal community, and we saw the beautiful memorial room that pays tribute to the families who have been touched by the suicide of a loved one.
This was a very emotional, confronting, but necessary experience for staff, keeping in mind that Aboriginal people face discrimination on a regular basis and therefore make up a significant proportion of our complaints and enquiries.
The experience that we all had at Dumbartung will assist us in our upcoming review of EOC’s RAP plan and in our ongoing service to Aboriginal clients.
What's coming up
The Commission’s Training Calendar from February to June 2017 is now available. You can register for all Commission courses on the Community Education page
February 16 Fair Go For Your Clients - How to address systemic discrimination
February 22 Introduction to Equal Opportunity Law
March 1 Contact Officer Refresher - Equity Grievance Officer
March 7 Sexual Harassment - Know where the line is
March 15 Contact Officer Role
March 28 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.
Equal Opportunity Commission
On behalf of the Commission, I would like to thank you for your interest in the Commission’s work during 2016, and wish you a safe and happy New Year.
Dr John Byrne
Acting Commissioner for Equal Opportunity
Please note: The Equal Opportunity Commission will be closed from 4.30pm 23 December 2016, reopening at 8.30am 3 January 2017.