WA Equal Opportunity Commission Annual Report 2021-22

Annual report
In this reporting year the Commission, like many organisations in Western Australia, has learnt to live with COVID-19 and has adapted well.
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Online meetings are now a matter of course, and in May the Commission successfully held its first online public event for the annual Isabelle Lake Memorial Lecture.
As restrictions were put in place to ease the spread of the pandemic across WA, the Commission was impacted by an influx of enquiries from the public. There was 13.7 percent increase of enquiries received at the Commission compared with the previous year.
The past year also continued to bring a focus on sexual harassment.Since the reinvigoration of the #MeToo movement in 2017 following allegations of sexual harassment and abuse in the Hollywood film industry, various industries around the world have been scrutinised and this year that included Federal Parliament in Canberra and the FIFO mining industry in Western Australia.
The Commission made a submission to the WA State Government inquiry into sexual harassment in the state’s FIFO mining industry.
Within that submission the Commission recommended the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 be amended to remove the onus on the complainant to prove the respondent’s behaviour caused a disadvantage to them. This was also taken up as a recommendation in the inquiry’s final report Enough is Enough.
The Commission and many stakeholders made submissions to the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia’s (LRCWA) review of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984. The LRCWA's Report and recommendations to the WA Government was published after 30 June 2022.
The Commission also made a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Anti-Racism Framework.
In the submission the Commission recommended the Policy Framework for Substantive Equality across State Government as best practise for achieving diversity and inclusion with the public sector and Western Australia.
Aboriginal people in particular have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of systemic discrimination. The mandating of the Framework for Substantive Equality would place an important focus on how to address systemic racism and other forms of systemic discrimination.
Another recommendation included in the submission was to neutralise unconscious bias in employment. Many organisations do not match the diversity of the community they serve, particularly at senior levels.
Equal Opportunity Commission | 4 | Annual Report 2021-22
This is not solely a race problem, and many initiatives have already been put in place to address gender bias in recruitment.
However there needs to be more widespread use of methods for addressing intersectionality barriers from unconscious bias for other diversity groups including race, impairments, gender diversity, older and young people.
The Commission transitioned to the Integrated Courts Management System (ICMS) for managing its complaints and enquiries. I would like to thank Commission staff for their efficiency in adapting to the new system, particularly the Commission’s Systems Officer who worked with the Courts Technology Group (Department of Justice) to fit the system to the Commission’s needs.
During 2021-22 the Commission’s Corporate Executive developed a new operating structure which was put in place at the beginning of the 2022-2023 financial year. The new structure better aligns the two arms of the Commission - community education and complaint handling – to more effectively streamline its services to the people of Western Australia.
Finally, I would like to thank Commission staff for rising to the challenges set before them during 2021-22. We are a small body of dedicated staff tasked with tackling discrimination and harassment in a very large state, and this office has handled this challenge with passion and professionalism.