Recent Activity

The Commissioner and the staff of the Equal Opportunity Commission work tirelessly to address discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation in the South Australian community. We do this by conciliating complaints of discrimination according to the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA), and assisting South Australian organisations to ensure that our workplaces, clubs and associations, educational institutions and goods and service providers are inclusive, and provide appropriate services and opportunities for a broad range of South Australians.  

Importantly, we also focus on the proactive prevention of discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation. We do this by engaging with the community to raise awareness and understanding of their rights and responsibilities under equal opportunity laws. We also partner with South Australian industry leaders, academic institutions, businesses and government agencies to promote a culture which respects and values people regardless of their identity or their personal circumstances.

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The EOC is honoured to welcome two new members to the Chiefs for Gender Equity group!

Commissioner Grant Stevens APM from SA Police and Victoria MacKirdy, Chief Executive of the Victor Harbor Council join a group of talented industry leaders who are committed to advancing gender equality in their organisations and industries. The group convenes regularly and represent a broad range of South Australian industries, the two new representatives will be adding their experience and perspectives from the local government and emergency service sectors.

The group of 14 in the lead up to International Women’s Day 2018 signed up to a new Gender Equality Accountability Framework which will hold them accountable for advancing the participation of women in the workforce. These ‘targets with teeth’ operate across the six key areas within workplaces including recruitment, retention, development, culture, leadership and workplaces’ responses to domestic violence.

The Framework will be accessible to all businesses in SA that want to set measurable targets on women securing senior executive positions. For more information, see the Chiefs for Gender Equity section.

 

The Commissioner for Equal Opportunity Dr Niki Vincent has been on the road visiting rural centres to meet with local organisations and community groups and to discuss matters relating to equal opportunity.  

Dr Vincent presented to the Rotary Club of Port Pirie about equal opportunity legislation relevant to small business, and the benefits of being proactive about equal opportunity and being open to flexible work arrangements for employees. The Commissioner will also be hosted by the Whyalla City Council in April to present to local members and the Whyalla Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and will also touch on sexual harassment as a relevant issue in 2018.

If you represent a organisation or business in rural South Australia, the Commissioner and her team is available for presentations to interest groups on a broad range of equal opportunity topics relevant to your region and community. Contact the EOC via the Connect page, or call us on (08) 8207 1977.  

Barry Mudge, Dr Vincent and John Howe at the Rotary Club of Port Pirie
Barry Mudge, Dr Vincent & John Howe

 

The EOC has partnered with the Adelaide Law School to offer free and confidential legal advice to any member of the community about matters relating to equal opportunity. The clinic is run by final year law students from the University of Adelaide under the supervision of a qualified lawyer. The Law Clinic is available to anyone to provide advice on - discrimination matters - the complaints process - how to lodge a complaint. The Clinic can also assist members of the public in preparing their documentation to lodge a complaint. To make an appointment, please go to Adelaide Law School Free Legal Clinic for more information or any queries, please email eoclas@adelaide.edu.au.

The Commissioner and the staff of the Equal Opportunity Commission are pleased to announce the launch of our new website! The site is designed to provide simple and accessible assistance on all matters relating to equal opportunity law in South Australia.

‘What is Discrimination’ provides an overview of all the types of discrimination and how to know whether you have experienced discrimination, or have potentially discriminated against another. It also provides streamlined information about the complaints process and how to lodge a complaint online.

‘About Equal Opportunity’ outlines the principles of equal opportunity and how it applies to employment, education, accommodation, clubs and associations as well as the provision of goods and services. This is an excellent resource for South Australian businesses, service providers, clubs and associations who want to be proactive about equal opportunity to ensure that discrimination doesn’t occur. Our ‘Resources’ page also provide additional information about equal opportunity law in South Australia, and how it relates to equal opportunity and human rights laws nationally and internationally. The EOC also provides information for school-age children through the ‘EO4Schools’ page about their rights under equal opportunity laws, and includes classroom resources for teachers.

The EOC provides tailored services for South Australian institutions, businesses and organisations including training and consultancy services relating to equality of opportunity, diversity and inclusion. For more information see ‘Consultancy, Training and Research,’ or see some of our projects underway at the ‘Initiatives’ page.

We welcome any feedback about the new website, if you have suggestions for improvement please contact us and let us know via the ‘Connect’ page.  Additionally if you have any enquiry relating to matters of equal opportunity, you can contact us directly through the Connect page or by calling (08) 8207 1977.

 

The EOC is piloting a new program to offer equal opportunity training across a broader range of topics, with more options for businesses to tailor training to their specific needs.

The EOC Training Referral Program partners with local training providers and can offer training on-site at businesses and organisations around the state. Options for training can include:
•    Preventing workplace bullying, discrimination and harassment
•    Developing or implementing programs for employees with a disability, older employees or workplaces with diverse cultural backgrounds
•    Challenging stereotypes (unconscious bias)
•    Active bystander interventions
•    Leadership in diversity and inclusion.

The EOC also continues to offer training for nominated contact persons around their roles and responsibilities both in-house or on-site at your organisation.

For more information or to discuss training options specific to your business or organisation, contact the EOC via the Connect page or call us on (08) 8207 1977.  

 

On 16 April, Commissioner for Equal Opportunity Dr Niki Vincent attended the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics Australia National Games. The Games are taking place/took place in Adelaide 16-20 April, and included over 1,000 athletes with intellectual disability across 11 sporting events.  The Commissioner said “that it was a fantastic experience to be at the opening ceremony and cheering on Team South Australia!”.  A full list of Team SA athletes can be found here: www.specialolympics.com.au/nationalgames2018/sa.

On 11 April, Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA)’s CEO Libby Lyons was in Adelaide presenting as part of a pay equity leaders forum. She was hosted by two of our Chiefs for Gender Equity; the CEO of Eldercare Jane Pickering, and the Managing Partner of Finlaysons Lawyers David Martin.  For more information about the Chiefs for Gender Equity, go to the Chiefs of Gender Equity section of this website.

Workplace Gender Equality Agency CEO Libby Lyons in SA with Chiefs for Gender Equity
L-R Jane Pickering, David Martin, Dr Niki Vincent, Libby Lyons

 

On 12 April, Commissioner for Equal Opportunity Dr Niki Vincent and Manager for Strategy, Policy and Engagement Tricia Spargo attended a forum hosted by SBS about exploring diversity in South Australia. The forum discussed how the media reflects, recognises and celebrates diversity.

We were excited to see SBS ramping up its message of diversity and providing a unifying voice in Australian television, rather than exacerbating views which create disharmony and division. SBS executives unveiled their new content for 2018 which is set to entertain, inspire, challenge and shift the dial on attitudes as it explores diversity in culture, gender, sexuality, age and lifestyle. Much of the discussion on the night talked about diversity in the context of multicultural and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities which was important.

Tricia posed the important question of what role SBS can play in the inclusion of people with disability too. SBS are keen to hear from people with disabilities who may be producers or directors, or have stories to tell. SBS is one of the few networks that truly lives diversity, not just reflecting it on and off screen, but behind the scenes too!

 

A recent story from @Alina Eacott on ABC TV news on Friday 31st August highlighted the benefits of shared care arrangements in helping women advance their careers faster. Case studies from SA Chiefs for Gender Equity members Deloitte (SA) and Dr Niki Vincent.

Alina Eacott - ABC News © (YouTube)

Alina Eacott - ABC News © (PDF)

 

South Australia’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner Dr Niki Vincent has welcomed what she’s described as a “seismic shift” in SA Police’s attitude towards flexible working arrangements.

Dr Vincent today released the Equal Opportunity Commission’s second progress report looking at the work done by SAPOL to tackle sexual harassment and predatory behaviour in the workplace, following the release of the Commission’s independent review in December 2016.

The report found that by September this year, of the 38 recommendations made by the EOC in its independent review, 20 had been fully implemented, 14 were underway and four were in the planning stages.

For further information about the SAPOL Monitoring Project, the reports and the full media release, see the SAPOL Monitoring Project section

 

 

EOC figures show sexual harassment and age discrimination fastest growing grounds for complaint in SA.


Figures released in the 2017/18 South Australian Equal Opportunity Commission annual report today show disability discrimination in the workplace is still the number one ground for complaint, but sexual harassment and age discrimination have moved up the ladder to take second and third place.


The annual report found in 2017/18 the number of accepted discrimination complaints were down overall (from 246 to 211), but disability discrimination remains the largest problem, comprising 33% of all complaints.


Proportionally, sexual harassment recorded an increased percentage rise from 17 per cent to 24 per cent from last financial year, while age discrimination continued to rise significantly with an increase from 4 per cent to 10 per cent.
Equal Opportunity Commissioner for South Australia, Dr Niki Vincent, said although it was pleasing to see a meaningful reduction in the total number of disability discrimination complaints this year, it was still a significant problem in the community and retail and service industries should take note.


Dr Vincent said she wanted to see more attention paid to diverse and inclusive employment practices, especially in smaller businesses in South Australia.


“Around 1 in 5 people are living with disability. We need better training for managers in recruiting and supporting staff from a variety of backgrounds, as well as providing more inclusive and welcoming experiences for customers.
“The level of workplace participation for those living with a disability is simply woeful. We are hearing stories from suitably qualified university graduates with disabilities who just can’t get employment. They should be given every opportunity to fulfil their potential as valued members of our community. Research also shows organisations that employ a diverse workforce can also gain greater brand value.”


Dr Vincent said the nature of equal opportunity complaints had changed over the years. New issues were now coming to the forefront, including both sexual harassment and age discrimination in the workplace.


“Movements like #MeToo have increased awareness about what constitutes sexual harassment at work, with people now feeling more comfortable about speaking up.


“In addition, with an ageing population and the need to work for longer, we are also seeing increased levels of complaint in regard to age discrimination and this is likely to continue into the future until workplaces address their often unconscious bias around both gender and age.”


Dr Vincent said there needed to be more proactive education in schools, workplaces and the community to drive change.
In the 2017/18 financial year the Commissioner delivered more than 50 public speeches to industry and community groups, increased the number of specific EO training sessions delivered in SA workplaces, undertook major research projects for organisations such as the SA Police Force and launched initiatives including an EO legal aid clinic in conjunction with University of Adelaide and sponsorship of specific projects by the university’s PhD students into broader equity issues in South Australia.

 

The Australian Council of Human Rights Authorities (ACHRA), which comprises the State, Territory and Federal Human Rights and Discrimination authorities, recently met in Adelaide on 18-19 October 2018 to consider a number of issues of common concern and interest.

Changes of Commissioners

ACHRA acknowledges the positive contribution of Tim Soutphommasane, who finished his term as Race Discrimination Commissioner in August 2018. We pay tribute to his inspiring leadership, wisdom, resilience, courage, and compassion. We welcome Chin Tan who began his five year term as Race Discrimination Commissioner in October 2018. ACHRA also welcomes Scott McDougall, Queensland’s new Anti-Discrimination Commissioner.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Tackling and preventing sexual harassment in the workplace is a key priority for ACHRA as it remains an endemic problem in Australian workplaces, with young people and women most at risk. Members heard from Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, who is currently leading a world-first national inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace. The inquiry is travelling the country to examine the extent of the problem and identify best practice solutions with a view to making recommendations to government and business stakeholders. The Australian Human Rights

Commission will be accepting submissions until 31 January 2019 and public consultations will be held in all Australian capital cities and a number of regional cities. For more information visit National Inquiry into Sexual Harrasment in Australian Workplaces

Review into Religious Freedoms

Recent media coverage of the Federal Government’s Religious Freedom Review provoked considerable community debate about the application of equal opportunity laws to religious institutions -

especially to schools run by religious institutions. The rights in equal opportunity laws are designed to co-exist. ACHRA members are of the view that the current religious exceptions in some jurisdictions require modification to better balance the legitimate interests of both LGBTIQ people and religious bodies.

No Australian student should be refused entry into, or expelled by, a school because they identify as LGBTIQ.

ACHRA calls for amendments to federal and state equal opportunity laws to remove the exemptions that allow religious schools to discriminate against students on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity. Amendments should be wide enough to ensure students are not discriminated against on any basis other than religion, including their relationship status, pregnancy, or whether they come from a same-sex family.

We support amendments to equal opportunity laws to ensure that schools may only take a prospective employee's religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status into account where they relate to an 'inherent requirement' of the job. This would balance religious freedoms with the right to equality, for example by allowing these factors to be taken into account when recruiting a religious instruction teacher, but not when recruiting a maths teacher.

Disability Equality in Education

ACHRA members discussed the need for more concerted action to prevent the unlawful exclusion of students with disability from school through seclusion, suspension or expulsion to manage behaviour. Students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHA), Autism Spectrum Disorder, and those exhibiting behaviours of concern are most at risk. ACHRA calls on all state and territory government and private schools to review their policies on suspension and expulsions to ensure they do not disproportionately affect students with disability. ACHRA encourages education authorities to build on existing efforts to ensure any reduced attendance patterns for students with disability are consistent with human rights and anti-discrimination laws, time-limited and accompanied by a return to school plan. ACHRA also encourages education authorities to examine and publicly report aggregate data on the number of part-time enrolments, suspensions and expulsions of students with disability from schools. ACHRA supports equality of access to education for children and students with disability and advocates for the importance of inclusive education. We are committed to working in partnership with schools and educational settings to increase awareness of the Disability Standards for Education.

School Uniform Choice in Public, Private and Faith-Based Schools

ACHRA members have seen an increase in enquiries and complaints from girls, or parents on behalf of girls, who have been prevented from wearing shorts or trousers at school and told to wear skirts or dresses as a mandatory uniform requirement.
ACHRA noted that while many schools nationwide have adopted uniform policies allowing choice for female students, others continue to discriminate on the basis of sex. Age discrimination has also been a valid area of complaint, where younger female students have been allowed to wear pants but senior students have not. ACHRA members encourage all government, private and faith-based schools to review school uniform policies to enable greater choice of formal and informal uniform options, including shorts and long pants, for girls.

Sports, Human Rights and Equality

ACHRA discussed the important work of the national inclusive sports program Play by the Rules in which ACHRA are key partners, and welcomed its current campaign focus on child safe and inclusive sport, which aligns with recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. ACHRA members also offered their congratulations to the GingerCloud Foundation’s Modified Rugby Program (MRP) which was awarded the Play by the Rules Award by Human Rights Commissioner for Children, Megan Mitchell, at the Diversity and Inclusion in Sport National Forum in Melbourne in October. The MRP is a world-first modified form of touch-only rugby specifically designed for children and young adults with learning and perceptual disabilities. In 2017 GingerCloud became an official partner of Rugby Australia with the aim of supporting the growth of the program nationally. Information about Play by the Rules is available at Play by the Rules.

Research Partnership with Professor Simon Rice and Dr Belinda Smith, University of Sydney Law School

ACHRA members have agreed to participate in a new research initiative led by Professor Simon Rice and Dr Belinda Smith from the University of Sydney Law School. The researchers are seeking to develop a deeper understanding of the educational and promotional activities undertaken by ACHRA members and their effectiveness in eliminating discrimination, promoting equality of opportunity and ensuring compliance with anti-discrimination laws. Professor Rice and Dr Smith will undertake a detailed mapping exercise of the nature and range of educational and promotional activities undertaken nationally, and will identify the similarities and difference in strategy and approach across federal, state and territory jurisdictions. They expect to identify the challenges faced in promoting compliance with the law, options for and constraints in addressing these challenges, and factors considered when choosing specific educational and promotional activities. It is anticipated that this research will be of interest and value to ACHRA by helping to facilitate a more coordinated, efficient and cost-effective national approach to eliminating discrimination and promoting equality through these initiatives.

Addressing Violence Against Women

ACHRA welcomed Patty Kinnersly, Chief Executive Officer of Our Watch, and Tracie McLeod-Howe, Chief Executive Officer of White Ribbon, to speak about their work and common vision to end violence against women and their children. Members acknowledged that gender inequality is the core driver of violence against women, and is at the heart of the solution.

Through its Workplace Equality and Respect Project, the South Australian Equal Opportunity Commission is engaging in an important collaboration with both Our Watch and White Ribbon to strengthen gender equality and promote safe and respectful workplace cultures across the South Australian public sector.

ACHRA members welcome the valued contribution that Our Watch make to the research agenda on what works to shift the social norms, practices and structures that drive violence. Working closely with their sister organisation, Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), Our Watch has undertaken various research projects and identified research priorities for primary prevention. They have produced a range of resources and publications which assist governments and stakeholders to develop their own appropriate policies, strategies and programs. These include:

  • Change the story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia. This was produced in partnership with VicHealth and ANROWS and presents the evidence and a conceptual approach for preventing violence against women and their children in Australia.
  • Counting on change: A guide to prevention monitoring. This is a guide for policy-makers, researchers, and advocates on measuring population-level progress towards the prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia.
  • Changing the picture: preventing violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. This resource considers the main drivers, actions and principles for preventing violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
  • Respectful Relationships Education Toolkit

For more information visit www.ourwatch.org.au and  www.whiteribbon.org.au

For further information, contact:

  • South Australia: Commissioner Dr Niki Vincent, 0439 493 303
  • Australian Capital Territory: Commissioner Dr Helen Watchirs, 0423 821 718
  • Northern Territory: Commissioner Sally Sievers, 08 8999 1444
  • Queensland: Commissioner Scott McDougall, 07 3021 9120
  • Tasmania: Commissioner Sarah Bolt, 03 6165 7515
  • Victoria: Commissioner Kristen Hilton, 0447 526 642
  • Western Australia: Acting Commissioner Dr John Byrne, 08 9216 3955