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Equal Opportunity Law VET Coordinators Network Meeting Catholic Education Office. © Equal Opportunity Commission. Australian Anti-Discrimination Legislation. Federal Legislation Racial Discrimination Act (1975) Sex Discrimination Act (1984)

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equal opportunity law vet coordinators network meeting catholic education office
Equal Opportunity Law VET Coordinators Network MeetingCatholic Education Office

© Equal Opportunity Commission


Australian Anti-Discrimination Legislation

Federal Legislation

  • Racial Discrimination Act (1975)
  • Sex Discrimination Act (1984)
  • Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act (1986)
  • Disability Discrimination Act (1992)
  • Age Discrimination Act (2004)

Other States/Territories

  • New South Wales: Anti-Discrimination Act (1977)
  • Victoria: Equal Opportunity Act (1977)
  • South Australia: Equal Opportunity Act (1984)
  • Queensland: Anti-Discrimination Act (1991)
  • Australian Capital Territory: Anti-Discrimination Act (1991)
  • Northern Territory: Anti-Discrimination Act (1992)
  • Tasmania: Anti-Discrimination Act (1998)
  • Western Australia: Equal Opportunity Act (1984)

© Equal Opportunity Commission

role of the equal opportunity commission
Role of the Equal Opportunity Commission
  • Inform and educate community about the Equal Opportunity Act (1984)
  • Investigate and conciliate complaints

© Equal Opportunity Commission


2008-09 Outcome of Complaints

© Equal Opportunity Commission


The State Administrative Tribunal

  • Independent body
  • Powers of a Royal Commission
  • Damages not exceeding $40,000 per complaint
  • Hearings public

© Equal Opportunity Commission


Direct Discrimination

  • Treating someone less favourably than another person in the same or materially similar circumstances.
  • Treating someone less favourably than another because of a characteristic which applies or is assumed to apply to a group to which that person belongs.


You don’t get the job because of your skin colour or because of your age

© Equal Opportunity Commission


Indirect Discrimination

Indirect discrimination is where there is a rule or requirement that is the same for everyone, but which has an adverse effect or result on particular groups and which is not reasonable having regard to the circumstances.


  • Family responsibilities
  • An employer requires employees to wear a uniform including a cap

© Equal Opportunity Commission


Grounds Covered

  • Sex
  • Marital Status
  • Pregnancy
  • Race - (including race of a relative or associate)
  • Impairment - (including impairment of a relative or associate)
  • Political or Religious Conviction (or lack of Conviction)
  • Family Responsibility or Family Status (in employment or education)
  • Age - (age of relative or associate in certain areas)
  • Gender History
  • Sexual Orientation

© Equal Opportunity Commission


EO Act Section 67 - Victimisation

Subjecting a person to any detriment or threat of detriment because they have:

  • made a complaint under the Act;
  • provided information or documents to the Commission;
  • attended a conciliation conference;
  • appeared as a witness in Commission proceedings;
  • reasonably asserted their rights under Act.

© Equal Opportunity Commission


2008-09 Complaints by Grounds

© Equal Opportunity Commission


Areas Covered

  • Employment
  • Education
  • Access to places and vehicles
  • Goods, services and facilities
  • Accommodation
  • Membership of a club
  • Application forms
  • Disposal of land

© Equal Opportunity Commission


2008-09 Complaints by Area

© Equal Opportunity Commission



  • Applicants and employees
  • Commission agents
  • Contract workers
  • Partnerships (6 or more)
  • Professional or trade organisations
  • Qualifying bodies
  • Employment agencies

© Equal Opportunity Commission

where it is not unlawful to discriminate
Where it is not unlawful to discriminate
  • Exceptions(eg Education in single sex schools, provision of education or training in religious education institutions)
  • Exemptions (must be applied for through the SAT eg provision of training for females only in self defense)
  • Special Measures (eg limiting attendance to English language classes for native speakers, special courses for aboriginal students)

Workplace Harassment

  • Harassment is a form of discrimination.
  • It consists of offensive, threatening or abusive behaviour.
  • For it to be unlawful however, the harassment has to be one of the grounds specified in legislation.

© Equal Opportunity Commission


Sexual Harassment

The WA Equal Opportunity Act 1984 defines “sexual harassment” as an unwelcome sexual advance, an unwelcome request for sexual favours or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. The Act also requires that a person who is harassed believes that they will be disadvantaged if they reject, refuse or object the advance or request, or is actually disadvantaged because of their rejection, refusal or objection.

Only applies in employment, accommodation or education.

The definition of sexual harassment includes making verbal or written statements of a sexual nature either directly to the person or in their presence.

© Equal Opportunity Commission


Examples of Sexual Harassment

  • Jokes and innuendo
  • Name calling
  • Ridicule
  • Leering
  • Practical jokes
  • Invasive questioning
  • Belittling comments
  • Invasion of personal space
  • Suggestive unwanted Sms messages, emails
  • Physical contact
  • Potential Criminal Offences
  • Indecent exposure
  • Assault

© Equal Opportunity Commission


Why Sexual Harassment is not reported

  • It may go away if ignored
  • Worried about losing their job
  • Wanting to fit in
  • Fear no-one will believe them
  • Feelings of intimidation, embarrassment, shame or helplessness
  • Fear of retaliation
  • Lack of understanding of rights
  • Assumptions that the harasser will not face serious consequences

© Equal Opportunity Commission

sexual harassment in education wa equal opportunity act 1984
Sexual harassment in educationWA Equal Opportunity Act (1984)

It is unlawful for a person who is a member of the staff of an educational institution to harass sexually a person who is a student (or employee) at that education institution or is seeking admission to that educational institution.

(It does not cover the student to student relationship or student to staff interaction)

sexual harassment in education federal
Sexual harassment in education- Federal

1. The federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 states that it is unlawful for a member of the staff of the institution to sexually harass:

  • a student
  • a person seeking to become a student and

2. It is unlawful for an adult student (16 years +)

to sexually harass:

  • An adult student at the institution
  • A member of the staff of the institution

Racial Harassment

The WA Equal Opportunity Act defines “racial harassment” as an act or action either verbal or written that threatens, abuses, insults or taunts a person because of:

  • their race
  • a characteristic that appertains generally to that persons race; or
  • a characteristic imputed to that person;

andthe person harassed believes that they will be disadvantaged if they object to the harassment or are actually disadvantaged.

Only applies in employment, accommodation or education.

© Equal Opportunity Commission


Examples of Racial Harassment

  • Racist graffiti, pictures, posters or written material that is offensive or obscene
  • Offensive or mocking comments about some attribute or characteristic of another person’s race
  • Racist jokes
  • Abusive messages and material on electronic mail or computer networks
  • Insulting or threatening gestures
  • Deliberate exclusion

© Equal Opportunity Commission


SharabhronArdeshirianRobe River Iron Associates

“An Iranian complained that he had endured racial taunts and humiliation for four years whilst working for a north west iron ore company - Robe River Iron Associates.

Fellow workers painted the inside of his boots, hid his clothes, lined his helmet with grease, chewed up bacon and spat it in his sandwiches and mocked him continuously.

Many workers and supervisors witnessed this and found it amusing. He was eventually sacked after he reacted angrily to the taunts”

JUDGEMENT...I have no doubt that the race, colour, or national origin of the complainant was a factor which contributed to the dismissal of the complainant. The respondent should pay to the complainant damages by way of compensation in the sum of $10,000”

© Equal Opportunity Commission


EO Act - Section 161 Vicarious Liability

An employer is vicariously liable for the actions of employees or agents where the actions:-

  • are carried out in connection with their employment or duties; and
  • the actions would be unlawful under the Equal Opportunity Act as if carried out by the employer; and
  • where it cannot be established that the employer has taken all reasonable stepsto prevent such acts occurring.

© Equal Opportunity Commission


Reducing Employer Liability

“Reasonable Steps” could include:-

  • Preparation and regular circulation of written policy prohibiting discrimination and harassment.
  • Ensuring all staff properly trained about discrimination and harassment and its prevention.
  • Establishing effective complaint procedures.
  • Treating all complaints seriously and investigating them promptly.
  • Ensuring appropriate action is taken to address and resolve complaints.
  • Monitoring the workplace environment and culture.

© Equal Opportunity Commission


What is Bullying?

Repeated unreasonable or inappropriate behaviour directed towards a worker, or group of workers, that creates a risk to health and safety.

(Occupational, Safety and Health Legislation)

WorkSafe:Violence, Aggression and Bullying 2006

© Equal Opportunity Commission


Examples of Workplace Bullying

  • Jokes and teasing
  • Behaviour that frightens, humiliates, belittles, degrades
  • Yelling and screaming
  • Interfering with personal effects or equipment
  • Abusive, insulting or offensive language
  • Overloading or not providing enough work
  • Setting tasks beyond skill levels
  • Denying access to information or resources
  • Unfair treatment in accessing entitlements i.e. training or leave

© Equal Opportunity Commission

grievance resolution options
  • Self Management
  • Informal Internal process
  • Formal Internal process
  • External Resolution Options
lodging a complaint
Lodging A Complaint
  • You may lodge a complaint with the EOC on your own behalf or on behalf of yourself and others.
  • Complaint must be in writing, must refer to a ground in the legislation and the area of public life.
  • The complaint needs to demonstrate comparison and detriment.
  • Must comply with statute of limitations (12mths)
  • If the Commissioner determines the complaint falls within the legislation it will be investigated and attempted to be conciliated.
  • Complaints that do not conciliate may be referred to the State Administrative Tribunal.
equal opportunity commission contact details
Equal Opportunity Commission Contact Details


Enquiry Line (9am – 4pm): 9216 3900

Mike Harte

Community Education

9216 3903