Past issues

Commissioner for Equal Opportunity Ebulletin December 2019

by EOC | Dec 13, 2019

December 2019

From the Commissioner - Human Rights and 16 Days in WA 

The WA State Government initiative ’16 Days in WA’ concluded on International Human Rights Day, on 10 December this year to raise awareness about violence against women over the course of the 16 days.

Studies have shown gender inequality is one of the main contributing factors to violence against women and it is something that needs to be placed on the radar of policy and decision makers here in Western Australia.

According the State Government’s Women’s Report Card, WA still has the worst gender pay gap in the country at 21.8 percent (the national gender pay gap in 14 percent). 

The report card found 13.7 percent of board chair roles in the private sector are held by women and women retire with about half as much superannuation as men.

According to the report card, 56 percent of university graduates are women, but men’s undergraduate median starting salaries were greater than women's in 16 out of 20 fields.

The societal impact of gender inequality is severe. Violence against women can lead to poverty, desperation and despair which often has a huge impact on children who are still mostly cared for by women.

This year the Commission’s International Human Rights Day event titled Barriers inside and outside: human rights issues impacting on incarceration and reintegration for women and children.

Our keynote speaker Debbie Kilroy told the audience women and girls were the fastest growing population within the prison system.

She said a woman’s risk of imprisonment increased when the disadvantage of their sex was combined with other characteristics such as race and impairment.

She spoke about abuse victim Ms Dhu who was arrested by police for unpaid fines.

The coroner found Ms Dhu died in custody from injuries relating to domestic abuse.

“No one should be imprisoned or at risk of imprisonment for fines they cannot pay and would never be able to pay,” Ms Kilroy said.

She said the response to poverty and homelessness was just that – imprisonment.

Western Australia needs to be a state that values its women and girls so they feel safe and protected from violence, and confident they can achieve their highest potential as board members, CEOs or anything they wish to be.

 John Byrne Orange Tie

Acting Commissioner Dr John Byrne

16 Days in WA large



End of Year Closure

The Commission thanks you for your support during 2019 and wishes you all a safe and festive break.

Our office will be closed between 25 December 2019 and 1 January 2020 and we look forward to working with you in the new year.

 The next Ebulletin will be in February 2020, so keep a look out for it in your Inbox then.

paper crane aerial peace on earth larger





Racism in aged care

Recently the Commission was involved in the successful mediation of a race discrimination complaint in the area of employment at the State Administrative Tribunal.

The complainant was a French-speaking woman of African descent with dark skin.

Her first contact with the respondent was during a telephone conversation to arrange an interview for a job position as an aged care worker.

She was invited to attend a face to face interview, which went well. The respondent’s representative informed the complainant at the interview she would be contacted to formally sign a contract and to attend an induction, however following the interview she received an email from the respondent informing her she had been unsuccessful.

When the complainant contacted the respondent to find out the reasons, she was told she was unsuccessful because of her accent. The complainant questioned this, as her accent was not brought up during the telephone conversation or at the interview.

The complainant was then contacted by another representative from the respondent, who informed her accent was not actually the reason for her application being rejected; rather it was that the person originally assessing the applications felt overwhelmed by the volume of applications and the complainant’s accent was the first thing that came to mind when providing a reason for why she had been unsuccessful.

The complainant then lodged a complaint of race discrimination with the Commission. As part of the investigation, the respondent provided a response to the Commissioner which explained the reason for rejecting the complainant’s application was in fact that she was of ‘large stature’ and could overwhelm the clients.

The complainant’s height and weight were such that it would not be considered large or overwhelming.

The matter did not resolve in conciliation at the Commission and was referred under section 93 of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 by the Commissioner with legal representation by the Commission’s Senior Legal Officer Allan Macdonald.

Mr Macdonald said the mediation was successful because it ticked all the boxes.

“It was a strong complaint, there was a respondent who was legally represented, willing to negotiate and even prepared to make a partial admission of liability.

“Importantly, there was a level of empathy between parties often absent in discrimination disputes, and the mediation process was also adapted to suit these particular parties,” he said.

Mr Macdonald said it was a strong example of how the complaint process could not only resolve an issue between parties but provide an even longer lasting impact of educating parties about discrimination and equality.

“Sometimes the conciliation and mediation processes allow people to place themselves in another person’s shoes and when this happens it can encourage people to change policies and procedures, they would never have thought needed changing,” he said.



Pride Parade

As in previous years, Commission staff, family and friends participated in the Perth Pride Parade to show its support for WA’s lgbti community.

Acting Commissioner John Byrne said the event, held on 30 November this year, was a well-supported and positive event.

“The state should be very proud of its support of the WA lgbti community and the Commission was once again delighted to take part in it,” he said.

Dr Byrne said there had been a slight increase in sexual orientation complaints at the Commission over the last few years, which he attributed to public discussions about same sex marriage; however he acknowledged complaints received were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to sexual orientation discrimination.

“Despite the success of the same sex marriage vote among Australians and the level of support we have seen at state level for the Pride Parade, we know discrimination against the lgbti community still exists.

“The Commission would like to see amendments made to our Equal Opportunity Act 1984, to address parts of the Act that do not cover those transitioning gender, which is a particularly vulnerable time for trans people,” he said.


Commission staff and friends at the pride parade

Commission staff, family and friends at the parade



Regional Awareness and Accessiblity Program (RAAP) in the Goldfields

Equal Opportunity Commission Community Education Officer Stephen Goodall accompanied staff from the WA Ombudsman, Health and Disability Services Complaints Office and Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office to provide outreach to the Goldfields.

From 2 to 5 December Mr Goodall attended the Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison, community information forums, community complaint clinics, attended a stall outside a shopping centre in Kalgoorlie and facilitated an Aboriginal awareness forum in Leonora.

Mr Goodall said the combined government department program was very well received.

“Community members who engaged with the staff commented that it was tremendous to see Government representatives at both State and Federal levels in the region connecting with community in such a beneficial way,” he said.

He said the community took the opportunity of having representatives of all four organisations in a one stop shop to make enquiries, speak about their issues and lodge potential complaints.

“It makes such a difference having a strong regional presence as it can sometimes be quite onerous for members of the regional communities to access services in the metropolitan area.” he said.

“Given the response from the Goldfields community to the RAAP initiative it would be worth strong consideration by the various government agencies to replicate the program in other regions around the state of Western Australia,” Mr Goodall advocated.

Steve yarning with community
Stephen Goodall providing outreach in Kalgoorlie



Addressing barriers for women and children in prison

CEO of Sisters Inside Debbie Kilroy delivered a thought provoking and powerful address on the topic Barriers Inside and Out: human rights issues impacting on incarceration and reintegration for women and children for the Commission’s International Human Rights Day event at the Atrium Theatrette in Perth.

Ms Kilroy spoke to the audience about the injustice in the justice system that so often severely punished the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Ms Kilroy was critical of governments and decision makers in failing to make the connection between imprisonment and the vulnerability of women and girls.

“Women and girls are marginalised because of the violence they experience, the health issues they have because of that violence, because of disabilities, because of intergenerational poverty, because of the colonisation and ongoing colonising project of this country, because of homelessness and social exclusion,” she said.

She said 98 percent of women in our prisons had experienced violence and 89 percent had experienced sexual violence.

She said prison was often the dumping ground or default response for how to address, and what to do with victims. 

John and Debbie at Human Rights Day

Acting Commissioner Dr John Byrne with Debbie Kilroy at the event




What's coming up

The Commission’s Training Calendar from January to June 2019 is now available. You can register for all Commission courses on the Community Education page.

25 December 2019-1 January 2020              End of year office closure, reopens on 2 January     

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.