Call for reforms to the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (WA)

In August 2022, the WA Labor Government announced the broad acceptance of the recommendations from the Law Reform Commission’s (LRC) final report ‘Review of Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (WA)’. As we near the end of 2023 CWSW is extremely concerned about the timeliness of these reforms, particularly amongst recent media reporting of this work being delayed until 2025 and beyond. The importance and urgency of this reform particularly with regards to sexual harassment and family and domestic violence have never been clearer. 

Western Australia remains the only jurisdiction with a “disadvantage test” for sexual harassment complainants. This test effectively renders the complaints process to the Equal Opportunity Commission completely ineffective and prevents legitimate sexual harassment claims being progressed. The requirement for a complainant to “prove” disadvantage only serves to provide barriers to making complaints. It is imperative that the Government removes this test and shifts the focus onto the conduct of the harasser, consistent with other regulatory frameworks and community expectations.

The Act must extend sexual harassment protections to members of parliament and parliament staff, judicial officers and court staff, local government councillors and staff and unpaid or volunteer workers.  Members of parliament, their staff and members of the judiciary must be liable for and protected from sexual harassment, consistent with any other workplace arrangement. 

Numerous inquiries at both the State and Federal level have highlighted the pervasive nature of sexual harassment, particularly in Western Australia and made recommendations that insist on changes to the Equal Opportunity Act 1984. Underpinning those findings has been the complexity of different regulatory frameworks and the urgent need to align legislation and definitions across Australia to ensure consistency and create safe pathways for victim-survivors.  

With the new Commonwealth positive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment commencing next month, it is imperative Western Australia commits to implementing this Respect@Work recommendation consistent with those made by the LRC to reduce confusion for both employers and victim-survivors.  

Additionally, given the high rates of domestic and family violence in our State it is vital that the recommendation from the LRC review to introduce a new ground to protect victim-survivors of  domestic and family violence from discrimination is implemented. Discrimination against victim-survivors can have devastating consequences and can compound the harm caused by the originating violence. This change will provide protection for victim-survivors to have conversations about the violence they are experiencing.   

We call on the Government to introduce these reforms without delay and would encourage others in the sector to make these representations to Government on the importance of these changes. 



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