Western Australia’s anti-discrimination laws will be overhauled to be more effective, including protecting sexual harassment victims in the mining industry and members of the LGBTQA+ community in schools.
The Law Reform Commission of WA made 163 recommendations in its final report to the state government, following a process which began in 2019.
An extensive discussion paper was published last year, with the Commission receiving 995 written submissions and undertaking seven public consultation sessions.
The state government has broadly accepted the recommendations and the new Act will bring WA into line with other jurisdictions.
Some of the key reforms expected to be included in the bill include:
- Removing the “disadvantage test” for sexual harassment complainants, in line with the recent damning report into the mining industry;
- Strengthening equal opportunity protections for LGBTIQA+ staff and students in religious schools;
- Providing anti-discrimination protections to trans, gender-diverse or non-binary people without recognition from the Gender Reassignment Board;
- Extending the ban against sexual and racial harassment to members of parliament and staff, judicial and court staff, local government, and unpaid or volunteer workers;
- Protecting domestic violence victims from discrimination;
- Introducing anti-vilification laws; and
- Strengthening victimisation provisions.
Attorney-General John Quigley said the Equal Opportunity Act was one of the most significant social reforms in WA’s history when it was introduced 38 years ago, but since then community expectations had progressed.
“WA now lags behind most other jurisdictions,” he said.
“These changes will be a significant reform in promoting equality in West Australians and will bring the state in line with the rest of the country.
“This is not about granting additional rights to any one group of people, but ensuring all West Australians are free from discrimination, harassment, vilification and victimisation.
“The new Equal Opportunity Act will streamline the operation of the Equal Opportunity Commission, which will be given broader discretion to dismiss trivial or unworthy complaints and to focus on its roles of complaint resolution and community education.”