Past issues

Equal Opportunity Commissioner's e-bulletin June 2017

by EOC | Jun 05, 2017

AJ Kearns shares his story with Perth for IDAHOT day

AJ Kearns shared the moving story of his transition to an audience of about 160 people for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia at the UWA University Club this year.

In his address he spoke about his experience as a sexuality questioning young woman whose upbringing was not accepting of the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) community, as well as the remarkable story of how he postponed his transition to give birth to his second child.

He said after years of self loathing, substance abuse and then failed gay conversion therapy he finally moved away from his family and started a new life where he met his former partner and started a family with her.

“When I was married, happy, safe and away from my parents I then had space to start my process of self discovery,” he said.

AJ said after he started to dress as a man he understood what it was like to feel whole and once he had set a date for surgery it gave him hope; however he had promised his wife that he would birth their second child, and as there had been medical complications following the birth of their first child, this was something he felt he needed to do.

“I am a man of my word, and man or not, I wanted to hold true to my commitment,” he said.

AJ said he fell pregnant after his first try; however it was a difficult time for him.

“I felt invisible like people couldn’t see me as my true self,” he said.

To make matters worse, the mid wife assigned to AJ during the birth was horribly transphobic.

He said even though the mid wife had been briefed to use the male pronouns she refused to, instead using female pronouns in excessive amounts.

“She used female pronouns so many times I have no idea how she fitted them all in and she showed visible signs of disdain towards me,” he said.

AJ said despite the mid wife’s treatment of him, the birthing experience was wonderful.

“(The labour) was intense, but so beautiful, wonderful and powerful to experience as a man,” he said.

People who attended the event said they felt inspired and moved by his bravery.

One audience member said, “AJ was a powerful speaker, I cried.”

Another said, “It was great to hear AJ’s provided great insight into the struggles that gender diverse people still face in today’s society and how we can help change.”

Acting Commissioner Dr John Byrne said it was wonderful to get such positive feedback about such an important topic.

“There is still a very long way to go when it comes to raising awareness about the gender diverse community in Western Australia and likewise addressing discrimination against them.

“Forums such as the 2017 Isabelle Lake Memorial Lecture give members of the transgender community a voice and allow people a better understanding of the issues transgender people still face on a regular basis.” He said.

Dr Byrne also acknowledged success of the annual lecture was due to the ongoing collaboration with UWA and this year the inclusion of the Public Sector Commission as a sponsor.



A day to say sorry

The Commission participated in the annual Sorry Day event at Wellington Square East Perth.

Aimed at youth, many schools attended the event which included information stalls, as well as cultural activities and performances from 9.30am in the morning to 2pm in the afternoon.

The Commission ran a competition for attendees to write a creative caption for a cartoon depicting a scene of either discrimination or inclusion.

After discussing with Commission staff what discrimination means, students were asked to write the caption in the speech bubble of an Aboriginal boy with a football talking to a boy in a wheelchair.

Alleigha Lester of Safety Bay Senior High School won the $10 prize voucher for Coles/Myer with his entry which read:

Don’t let others get you down! We don’t have to be what they want us to be. Just be yourself.



Reconciliation in the regions

The Commission has sponsored banners for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs Reconciliation Week Street Banners Project in the regions for the first time this year.

As regular participants of the Street Banners Project the Commission has sponsored banners in the Perth CBD, however this year it has a banner in Broome, Geraldton and Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

“It is always harder to provide outreach in the regions of Western Australia, especially on a limited budget, but this is a fantastic way to increase our awareness in areas of the state that are harder to get to on a regular basis,” Acting Western Australian Equal Opportunity Commissioner Dr John Byrne said.

This year the Community Education and Training team has visited the South West, Great Southern, Indian Ocean Territories and plans to go to the Pilbara later this month.

“These banners are a colourful reminder to the people in the regions that the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 is there to protect them and the Commission is here to provide services; we are only a phone call or email away,” Dr Byrne said.



50 years since the 1967 Referendum

The 27 May 2017 was the 50 year anniversary of the 1967 Referendum to include Aboriginal people in the census and allow the Commonwealth to create laws for them.

To mark the anniversary, Commission staff shared their thoughts on this significant part of Australia’s history on the Commission’s Face Book page.



Commission outreach on Christmas and Cocos Islands

The Commission completed its biannual visit to the Indian Ocean Territories of Christmas and Cocos Islands in May this year with 26 outreach sessions to island residents.

Community Education Officer Steve Goodall has been providing outreach on the islands for about 18 years now and every year the sessions are fully attended.

“It is a way of connecting the Indian Ocean Territories to the rest of the state by reminding them that they are protected by Western Australian equal opportunity laws and staff at the Commission is here to assist,” he said.

Steve said he ran six equal opportunity course sessions, conducted 18 meetings with community groups and businesses and two private meetings.

“It is such a thriving multicultural community on Christmas and Cocos Islands that there is always so much ground to cover between visits, but it is so satisfying to provide outreach to a community with such diversity,” he said.     



Camp v Director General, Department of Education

The State Administrative Tribunal has recently reached a decision on the matter of Camp v Director General of Department of Education, a matter self referred by Mr Camp after the Commission dismissed his complaint of religious conviction discrimination.

Mr Camp lodged a complaint on behalf of his then six year old daughter against the Director General of the Department of Education alleging that the primary school his daughter goes to holds student assemblies every two weeks where students recite a “creed” using the words “and love of God”.

 He argued even when his daughter and others were told they did not have to say such words, and could substitute them for alternative words, his daughter felt different and excluded from sharing the school values because the rest of the students continued to recite that creed.

Mr Camp said the school had directly and indirectly discriminated against his daughter on the ground of her religious conviction (atheism) in the area of education.

Direct discrimination

He argued the general religious discrimination section in the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (s53(1)) should be read independently from the section that deals with the area of education (s61(2)(b)).

Section 53(1) includes the general elements of direct discrimination, while s61 deals with discrimination in the area of education for those lodging the complaint (s61(1)) and for students (s61(2)).

Mr Camp’s reading of these provisions was problematic because for discrimination to be recognised under the Act, a ground, such as religious conviction, cannot be independent of an area, such as education. 

A complainant should always read the general definition with the area definition and prove elements of both.

The Tribunal found there was no “less favourable treatment” because students had the option to not say the religious words in the creed.

It also found Mr Camp failed to show evidence of any detriment suffered by his daughter.

Indirect Discrimination

Section 53(2) is the general provision for indirect discrimination on the ground of religious conviction under our Act.

For indirect discrimination to occur there needs to be a requirement placed on the complainant.

SAT found there was no requirement or condition placed on Mr Camp’s daughter.

She was not compelled to recite the “offending” words and she was free to substitute them with other words such as “love of life” or “love of family”.

As there was no condition or requirement, there was no need to examine the rest of factors in the indirect discrimination test.

To read the full decision go to the State Administrative Tribunal website.



Australia's human rights bodies tell political leaders Uluru Statement 'cannot be ignored'

Australia’s federal, state and territory human rights bodies have urged political leaders to work across party lines to deliver Constitutional reform for Australia’s First Peoples.

In a joint letter, the Australian Council of Human Rights Authorities (ACHRA) says the Uluru Statement from the Heart (pdf) “cannot be ignored”.

ACHRA represents the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Equal Opportunity Tasmania, the South Australian Equal Opportunity Commission, Western Australia’s Equal Opportunity Commission, the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland, the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Board, the Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commission, and the ACT Human Rights Commission.

The joint letter states:

“On 26 May 2017, over 250 delegates gathered at the First Nations Convention and issued the historic Uluru Statement from the Heart.

“The Uluru Statement comes after decades of research, reports and calls for genuine action on the issue of constitutional reform that have often been overlooked and forgotten. As the gap of disadvantage widens for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the Statement cannot be ignored.

“It was a monumental occasion fifty years ago, when Australia voted overwhelmingly in favour of counting our Indigenous peoples in the census. It is time to build on that.

“Often we fail to take into account the views of our First peoples. Our political systems and institutions remain inadequate at providing them with a voice in the matters that affect their lives, futures and communities.

“The Australian Government commissioned the Referendum Council to gather the views of our First peoples, which it has done, through a series of national dialogues with delegates from across the country. It is time for all our political leaders to listen with open ears, open minds and open hearts so that we can take this next step on our nation's reconciliation journey.

“What the Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for is not a new idea, nor should it be contentious. Rather, a national Indigenous voice included in the Constitution would affirm the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Australia has endorsed.

“The Australian Human Rights Commission and the Anti-Discrimination and Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissions from across Australia encourage all of our political leaders to take heed of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, to work across party lines, and to implement real change, for the benefit of all Australians.

“Providing our First peoples with a national voice that is enshrined in the Constitution is an opportunity – we must listen.”



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

June 23   Equal Opportunity Essentials South Hedland

July 3       NAIDOC Week stall Mirrabooka

July 6      NAIDOC Week Family Day stall Ashfield Reserve 


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.