Equal Opportunity Commission Annual Report 2019-20

Annual report
The Annual Report provides an overview of the Equal Opportunity Commission's operations, achievements and its compliance with policy and legislation.

From the commissioner

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into focus the inequalities which exist in our society and has reminded us we all depend on each other. It has also highlighted the important role equal opportunity and human rights has in protecting rights and providing everyone with the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

In the past year we have witnessed unprecedented levels of unemployment and disruption to businesses, as well as significant health and welfare risks faced by older people, people with disability and those with underlying health issues and front-line workers.

These developments are a reminder of the importance of discrimination laws to ensure there is appropriate protection from prejudice and bias that affects the most vulnerable people in our workplaces, sporting clubs, hospitals, prisons, schools, and other public places.

This is particularly relevant in WA, where the WA Equal Opportunity Act has remained largely unchanged since 1984. As mentioned in my forward to last year’s report, the Attorney General initiated a review of the Act, to be conducted by the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia. The review is currently under development.

I look forward to an opportunity to advocate strengthening the WA Act in order to increase accountability of employers, service providers and governments to prevent discrimination and harassment. One of the significant issues in the current WA legislation is the power imbalance between complainants and respondents and the requirement that the complainant must provide evidence to prove the discrimination occurred. In matters where the complainant has provided some, but not conclusive evidence, some responsibility should be placed on respondents to show that the events complained of did not constitute discrimination.

This change would benefit people with disability, older people, and minority groups including Aboriginal people, especially when unlawful discrimination is alleged when seeking employment.
The Commission actively continues its community education, training, and policy development role with employers, service providers, and public authorities. The Commission aims to do this in a collaborative and innovative way to help create cultures and systems that are inclusive, respectful, and safe. An important initiative in this regard is the Commission’s involvement with a draft public sector workforce diversification strategy and related action plans.

In 2020 the Commission moved from offices in Westralia Square, which it has occupied for over 25 years, to Albert Facey House, a more central location opposite the Perth Railway Station. The new offices include a purpose-built conciliation suite and provide an opportunity to share facilities and seek synergies in service provision with other accountability agencies co- located at Albert Facey House.

Finally, I would like to thank all staff for their patience, professionalism and commitment to the delivery of high-quality services during what has been a very challenging year.

2019-20 Snapshot

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Provision of information and advice

  • 143,651 website page views
  • 2,215 people attended training and education sessions
  • 4,160 people received e-bulletins
  • sexual harassment and workplace culture - the most popular training course
  • 165 training and education sessions held
  • 44.2% training and education sessions were conducted in the regions

Avenue of redress for unlawful discrimination

  • 1,318 enquiries from the public answered
  • 410 complaints received
  • 81.7% of complaints submitted online or by email
  • most common complaints - impairment, race, victimisation and sexual harassment
  • 75.6% complaints finalised in under six months
  • 96.2% complaints finalised in under 12 months

Operational structure

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Our vision

A society respectful of human rights and free from discrimination and prejudice.

Our mission

To lead in the elimination of discrimination and build a community that reflects and promotes equality of opportunity and human rights.

Responsible Minister

The Hon John R Quigley LLB JP MLA, Attorney General.

Enabling legislation

The Office of the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity was established in 1985 under Part VII, Division I of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 as amended, and under the provisions of the Public Sector Management Act 1984.
The Commissioner for Equal Opportunity is appointed by the Governor and is the accountable officer under the Financial Management Act 2006.
The Act promotes equality of opportunity in Western Australia and provides remedies in respect of discrimination on the grounds and areas specified.

Administered legislation

The Commissioner for Equal Opportunity also undertakes investigations and conciliation of complaints under specified parts of the following Acts:

  • Public Interest Disclosure Act 2003 - Part 3 section 15(4)
  • Spent Convictions Act 1988 – Part 4.

Other key legislation impacting on the Equal Opportunity Commission’s activities:

State

  • Auditor General Act 2006
  • Financial Management Act 2006
  • Freedom of Information Act 1992
  • Gender Reassignment Act 2000
  • Government Employees Superannuation Act 1987
  • Industrial Relations Act 1979
  • Minimum Conditions of Employment Act 1993
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984
  • Public Interest Disclosure Act 2003
  • Public Sector Management Act 1994
  • Salaries and Allowances Act 1975
  • State Administrative Tribunal Act 2004
  • State Records Act 2000
  • State Supply Commission Act 1991
  • Workers Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981

Commonwealth

  • Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986
  • Racial Discrimination Act 1975
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1984
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1992
  • Age Discrimination Act 2004
  • Fair Work Act 2009

Organisational structure

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Corporate executive

John Byrne

Commissioner for Equal Opportunity

John commenced in the role in 2016 and was previously a Director with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions. He was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2020.

Diana MacTiernan

Manager Commission Services

Diana has a background in industrial relations working for unions, employers and an independent body. She has worked across the Commission since joining it in 2007 and now manages Commission Services.

Allan Macdonald

Manager Office of the Commissioner

Allan has been the Commission’s Senior Legal Officer since 2002, and now manages the Office of the Commissioner.

Zarin Milambo

Manager Commission Support

Zarin Milambo has managed corporate services for over 15 years and has expertise in public administration and compliance including finance, IT, human resources, procurement, and recordkeeping.

Organisational chart

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Commissioner for Equal Opportunity

Office of the Commissioner

Provides legal advice and assistance to the Commissioner and staff, complainants referred by the Commissioner to the State Administrative Tribunal (Tribunal), the Minister and government agencies, as required.
Assists the Commissioner in the development and oversight of policy, information management systems, submissions, reports, community engagement, general reporting, compliance functions, community awareness and acceptance of the Act.

Develops and disseminates public information in the form of publications, media releases, e- bulletins, social media, and the Commission’s website and organises public events to promote the objects of the Act.

Commission Services

Investigates and aims to conciliate allegations of unlawful discrimination (complaints) in compliance with the Act.

Delivers rights and responsibility training and education to private, non-government and government organisations, as well as community engagement to build awareness of the Act and acceptance of its objects.

Commission Support

Provides the financial, human resource, information management, compliance and administrative functions of the Commission.

Documents

Equal Opportunity Commission annual report 2019-20
Page reviewed 6 November 2020