Past issues

Equal Opportunity Commissioner's e-bulletin May 2017

by EOC | May 05, 2017

Refusing guide dogs can be impairment discrimination

On International Guide Dog Day (26 April) Guide Dogs NSW/ACT released findings from a survey of 130 Guide Dog handlers in which 60 per cent indicated access issues in restaurants and a third indicated issues with accommodation providers.

“The purpose of a Guide Dog is to give people who are blind or vision impaired a greater sense of independence and freedom. While the public generally do the right thing, our survey shows people with Guide Dogs continue to face many barriers when going about their daily lives, which strips them of their independence,” CEO of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Dr Graeme White said.

Acting Equal Opportunity Commissioner Dr John Byrne said the Commission had received complaints in the past about guide dogs being refused entry by service providers.

“Service providers sometimes express concerns about hygiene issues, but these animals are highly trained assistants.

“Guide dogs allow those with a visual or hearing impairment to go shopping or enjoy a meal out which many people take for granted,” he said.

Dr Byrne said refusing entry to a person with a guide dog was simply bad service.

“Service providers need to be aware of discrimination laws and how they relate to guide dogs in the area of goods and services to avoid having a complaint made against them,” he said.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT have developed a new education kit which will inform staff in the accommodation industry about a Guide Dog’s function, how to behave around a Guide Dog and how to offer help to a Guide Dog handler if it’s needed.

Dr Byrne said education about Guide Dogs and about discrimination laws were important in the area of goods and services.

“When it comes to changing community ideas education is key.

“All service providers should be made aware of discrimination laws as part of their customer service training,” he said.



And the winner is...

Congratulations to Hova al-Khafaji who won the Equal Opportunity Commission’s Mirrabooka Harmony Day competition.

Hova’s response to the question Why do we need laws protecting us from discrimination and harassment? was:

In order to live among each other in peace and harmony, and to prevent prejudice and racism towards different ethnic groups/races.

Thank you to everyone who participated in our competition and came to have a chat with us at our Harmony Day stall. 


Celebrating our reconciliation milestones in May

Every year the Equal Opportunity Commission celebrates Aboriginal reconciliation from Sorry Day on the 26 May until the close of Reconciliation Week on 31 May.

This year will be the second year the Commission has held an information stall at Reconciliation Western Australia’s Sorry Day event to be held on 26 May at Wellington Square in East Perth.

The Commission will also continue to participate in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs Reconciliation Week Banners initiative with one banner each in Broome, Geraldton and Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

This year the beginning of Reconciliation Week on 27 May is significant because it also marks the 50 year anniversary of the 1967 Referendum, which brought amendments to sections 51 and 127 of the Australian Constitution.

Prior to the referendum section 51 stated – The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to... The people of any race, other than the aboriginal people in any State, for whom it is necessary to make special laws.

Section 127 stated - In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives should not be counted.

 Part of the referendum was to vote on the removal of the words ‘other than the aboriginal people in any State...’ in section 51 and the whole of section 127.

This referendum resulted in the highest YES vote ever recorded in a Federal referendum, with 90.77 per cent voting for the changes.

The Commission will celebrate the anniversary by asking staff why they think the referendum is so significant and publishing their responses written on placards with their photographs on its Face book page and website.

Unlawful discrimination Ready Reckoner

Sometimes it can be difficult to know whether the type of discrimination you are experiencing is unlawful under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (the Act).

The Commission can only investigate and conciliate complaints that relate to discrimination based on specific characteristics which make up ‘grounds’ under the Act.

Those grounds then must correspond to specific ‘areas’ of public life.

The Commission has published a Ready Reckoner which gives you a quick reference to what grounds can occur and where.

If you would like to view the Ready Reckoner go to our website at

Disclaimer: The Ready Reckoner is not intended to be legal advice. The Commissioner expressly disclaims any liability in respect to anything done or not done to any person in reliance upon any of the contents of this publication. 


Substantive Equality update

The Equal Opportunity Commission continues to facilitate strategies to combat systemic discrimination in the public sector with its regular substantive equality training courses and forums.

On 16 March 2017 the Commission hosted a Substantive Equality forum for 20 public sector representatives where the Department of Transport and the Department of Health gave presentations about their substantive equality initiatives followed by a discussion session.

Manager Community Education and Training Diana MacTiernan said the forums were a helpful way to share information about what worked when it came to systemic discrimination.

“Substantive equality can sometimes seem a bit esoteric, so when large departments like the Department of Transport and the Department of Health talk about what works for them in a practical sense, it encourages other departments to do the same,” Ms MacTiernan said.

 Ms MacTiernan said the Commission also continued to conduct its Fair go for your clients - addressing systemic discrimination course for those wanting to learn more about systemic discrimination and how to address it their organisations.

“The next Fair go for your clients course is scheduled for 17 May from 9.30am to 1pm at the Commission offices and places are still available.

“To register for this event go to the registration form on the Commission’s website at under Calendar of courses and events in the Community Education and Training section or call (08) 9216 3900,” she said.


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

May 10   Contact Officer Refresher

May 17   Fair Go for Your Clients – Addressing Systemic Discrimination

May 17  Isabelle Lake Memorial Lecture 


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.