8.1. Enquiry Data

The Commission provides a free, impartial and confidential enquiry service to support and educate community members in understanding their rights and responsibilities under equal opportunity law. Details of enquiries are recorded to understand the types of discrimination faced by members of the community and their informational needs. This assists us to better target the delivery of information, resources and training.
There were 607 enquiries received in 2019-20 - a 7% increase in enquiries from the previous financial year. The past three years were relatively static in the number of enquiries (Table A1), with a significant reduction from the number reported in 2015-16. This is, in part, attributable to an increase in customer usage of self-service information and resources made available through the Commission’s website.

Table A1: Number of enquiries received
Enquiries received 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19 2019/20
 No. of enquiries received 891 597 570 566 607
 % difference from previous year  -26% -33% -5%  -1% +7%

Enquiries to the Commission can be made via a range of methods, but almost 90% of enquiries were made by telephone (64%) or email (25%) in the 2019-20 financial year. Although this is a similar percentage to the previous four years for these methods combined, it should be noted that there was a 59% increase in email enquiries and a 21% decrease in telephone enquiries in 2019-20 when compared to the average for these methods of enquiry over the previous four years.

The Commission assisted enquirers in a number of ways (Table A2).

Table A2: Enquiry outcomes
Enquiry Outcomes2015/162016/172017/182018/192019/20
 No %No%No%No%No%
General information provided33137 260 43 23341 195 34 165 27
Referred to Commission Website 64749 9  43840722637
Referred elsewhere (out of jurisdiction)15918 751310118164 2998 16
No action required76315 326 16 3498
Referred to Commission’s electronic complaint form 1001162 108214 9717 396
Complaint form and information package sent 58 738 72541614 2
Referred to advocate (to assist with EO/other Issue)63 748 93421461
Referred to Australian Human Rights Commission2431421313 21
Report/publication/presentation
provided/Other 
1119351141
Total887100597100 570100566100 607 10

1. 100% is the rounded value.

Disability, race, sexual harassment and sex discrimination were the most commonly-reported grounds of discrimination by enquirers in the 2019-20 financial year. This is similar to the previous four years. It should be noted a substantial percentage of enquiries to the Commission are not related to any ground or area under the Act (Table A3).

Table A3: Top seven grounds of discrimination identified by enquirers
Enquiries – Grounds12015/162016/172017/182018/192019/20
 No.%No.No. No.No%
Disability23523167 25 12821 1632717527
Race 106106810621053 9619
Sexual Harassment5326533535 6498
Sex67  7 497375457315
Age59636528 5386203
Caring Responsibilities434335173264162
Pregnancy283132152152152
All other enquiries (includes no EO ground)4294226841300 48 2363927943
Total21020100660100620100611100646100

1. There may be more than one ground/issue per enquiry.
2. 100% is the rounded value.

The areas of employment and goods and services remained the most commonly identified areas of discrimination under the EO Act by enquirers in 2019-20 (Table A4).

Table A4: Areas of discrimination identified by enquirers
Enquiries – Areas12015/162016/172017/182018/192019/20
 No.No.%No.No.%No%
Employment46759 290 5828356278 5328555
Goods & Services17622108 21 113231362611622
Education & Training 564394594795310
Accommodation40529255296387
Clubs and Associations486296316285306
Advertising9131314100
Total2797 100503100501100523100522100

1. Enquiry matters that fall outside the jurisdiction of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA) are not included in this table.
2. 100% is the rounded value.

Table A5 shows the gender identity of enquirers (where known).

Table A5: Gender identity of enquirers
2015/162016/172017/182018/192019/20
Gender of enquirersNo.%No.No.No. %No.%
 Female38744284 4825846 1724828948
Male 310 35199 3321037 14039 21936
Transgender/Intersex/other304100010
Unknown185 21110 1893 17481398 16
Total1885100597100562 100360100607100

1. 100% is the rounded value.

8.2. Complaint Data

The Commission has implemented substantial business performance improvements in complaint-handling over the past four years, in order to streamline the complaint-handling process, reduce administrative duplication and workload, and improve the timeliness and efficiency of complaints management.

Table A6 shows the number of complaints lodged, closed and carried over in the 2019-20 financial year, compared with the four previous years.

Table A6: Number of complaints lodged, closed and carried forward
All Complaints2015/162016/172017/182018/192019/20
Complaints lodged187246213179 181
Complaints closed 194171 327206188
Complaints open at year end101 176623528

Most complaints (77%) were made directly via the online complaint form on the Commission’s website. However, an additional 16% were lodged via email (often via a legal representative), 5% through submission of a hard copy complaint form, and 2% via a letter posted to the Commission.

8.2.1. Complaint Assessment

Table A7 shows the number of complaints assessed, accepted, declined at lodgement, and not initiated at lodgement in 2019-20 compared with the previous four years. There was a 36% increase in the number of complaints assessed in 2019-20 compared to the previous year– which is substantial given the decrease in conciliation staff to only 2 FTE.

Table A7: Number of complaints assessed and outcomes of assessment
Complaint Assessments2015/162016/172017/182018/192019/20
No. of complaints assessed169245248151 205
Complaints accepted at assessment in the year

132
(78%)

181
(74%)

127
(51%)

77
(51%)

142
(69%)

Declined at lodgement/not initiated1 3764 12174622

1. ‘Not initiated’ complaints are those that do not initiate the SA EO Act – i.e. where there is no ground covered by the Act in the complaint.
2. One case was undetermined at 30 June 2020.

In 2019-20 there was again a substantial (32%) decrease in the average complaint assessment time (from 6.6 weeks in 2018-19 to 4.5 weeks in 2019-20). Complaint assessment time has been reduced by 62% when compared to 2016-17 (the latter being the year that business performance improvement processes were introduced).

Table A8: Complaint assessment times  
Complaint Assessment Times12016/172017/182018/192019/20
Average no. of weeks to assess complaints11.911.66.64.5

1. Complaint assessment times were not measured prior to 2016/17.

The time taken to finalise complaints was also substantially decreased in the 2019-20 financial year. As Table A9 shows, there was a 41% reduction in the time taken to finalise complaints in 2019-20 when compared to the previous year. The time taken to finalise complaints in 2019-20 was 56% lower than in 2016-17 when business performance processes were first introduced.

Table A9: Finalisation times for all Complaints
Finalisation of complaints2015/162016/17+2017/182018/192019/20
Average no. weeks to finalise complaints29.226.433.319.611.51

1. Accepted complaints were finalised in an average of 13.6 weeks and rejected complaints in an average of 5.2 weeks.

8.2.2. Grounds and Areas of Complaints

Disability was the most common ground of discrimination (occurring as a ground in 50 accepted complaints). Although this has been a consistent trend for many years (and is similar in other Australian jurisdictions), there was a considerable decrease in the percentage of disability discrimination complaints (21%) and substantial increases in the number (and percentage) of complaints alleging sexual harassment (20%), victimisation (14%) sex (11%) and race (10%) discrimination. Complaints of age discrimination represented 7% of the total grounds (Table A10).
Employment and education are the most common areas for accepted complaints.

Table A10 (3 parts): Complaints by ground and areas of discrimination (accepted complaints)
Grounds and AreasEmploymentGoods and Services
 15/16 16/1717/1818/1919/2015/1616/1717/18 18/1919/20
Age10511312 431-1
Association with a Child- -111 -1 - -
Caring Responsibilities 10552-1 -1-
Disability322629162630 37729
Gender Identity---1421112
Identity of Spouse or Partner1315- - -1
Marital Status31-212- ---
Pregnancy32553-----
Race7136141117236
Sex1174111827227
Sexual Harassment212629144117-2
Sexual Orientation5 24-5- ---1
Victimisation19249926-3-1-
Whistle-blower14555-1-1-
Total 125116110791635277141129
Grounds and Areas (Accepted Complaints)

Housing/
Land/
Accommodation

Clubs and Associations
 15/16 16/1717/1818/1919/2015/1616/1717/18 18/1919/20
Age---1--21- 
Association with a Child1- ---- -- - 
Caring Responsibilities -1----1- 
Disability3342244122
Gender Identity--1----1  
Identity of Spouse or Partner----- - - 
Marital Status2------ -- 
Pregnancy--1------ 
Race-7----1-- 
Sex1----15-- 
Sexual Harassment---1--2-1 
Sexual Orientation------ --- 
Victimisation-11- 16--1
Whistle-blower1-2- 1--- 
Total 713842720433
Grounds and Areas (Accepted
Complaints)
Education/TrainingTotal Grounds
 15/1616/1717/1818/1919/2015/1616/1717/1818/1919/20
Age----31410 13416
Association with a Child-----1-311
Caring
Responsibilities
1--11105873
Disability413511658552 3150
Gender Identity----521311
Identity of Spouse or Partner- -1 2-1 32 8
Marital Status 1----82-21
Pregnancy----32953
Race11214193910724
Sex ---11152361426
Sexual Harassment-1--32236281646
Sexual Orientation-----526
Victimisation-2-262035121233
Whistle-blower1 -1---59895
Total1871536189250159 111233

1. Refers to complaints of victimisation under the Whistleblowers Protection Act 1993 (SA), the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2018 (SA) or the Independent Commissioner for Corruption Act 2012 (SA).

Note: - In a column means zero.
Note: There may be more than one ground per complaint.
Note: Data in Table A11 will vary slightly from year to year due to database corrections and changes during the period a complaint is open.

8.2.3. Outcomes of Accepted Complaints

Of the 114 accepted complaints finalised in the 2019-20 financial year, 70 conciliations were undertaken. Of these, 57 (81%) were successful.

As Table A11 shows, 50% of all accepted complaints (57) were resolved by conciliation. 26 complaints (23%) were referred to the Tribunal (with 11 being referred post-conciliation and 15 being referred without attempting conciliation) and 31 complaints (27%) were declined by the Commissioner following further investigation or withdrawn by complainant (in two of the latter cases, conciliation was attempted).

Table A11: Outcomes of finalised accepted complaints

Outcomes of accepted complaints finalised in the year2015/162016/172017/182018/192019/20
Complaints resolved by conciliation58716654 571
Referred to Tribunal18136620262
Declined by the Commissioner following further investigation or withdrawn by     
complainant     
1415 30 26313
Total accepted complaints finalised in the year 9099 162 100 114


1. There were 70 conciliations attempted in 2019-20 and 57 of these were successful, representing an 81% success rate.
2. Eleven of these cases were referred to the Tribunal after conciliation and 15 were referred without attempting conciliation.
3. Two of these cases were declined/withdrawn after conciliation.

8.2.4. Complaint outcomes resulting from settlement agreements

The issuing of an apology and financial compensation were the most common outcomes achieved in settlement agreements made in conciliation in 2019-20 (Table A12). Settlement agreements can include more than one outcome, and not all successful conciliations involve a written agreement.

Table A12: Outcomes resulting from conciliated settlement agreements
Outcomes from conciliation12015/162016/172017/182018/192019/20
Apology1931202231
Financial compensation273629 1725
Staff training/development program10914418
Policy change/change in practice897614
Private agreement2281613
Other access achieved (e.g. mobility)63256
Reasonable adjustment32245
Employment options improved (e.g. job offer) 11754
Undertaking to cease an action03313
Access to education/training23162
Access to/provision of Accommodation 11112
Reference provided 33252
Provision of goods/services/facilities63412
Access to club membership/benefits24100
Other172010 511

1. There may be more than one outcome per conciliation agreement.

Table A13: Financial component in settlement agreements

Financial Compensation2015/162016/172017/182018/192019/20
Total financial compensation payments$68,503$217,643$139,317$122,726$173,114
Average financial compensation payment$4,030$10,364$5,805 $7,219 $6,9251

1. Individual agreements for financial compensation ranged from $20,000 to $300 in 2019-20.

8.2.5. Complainant Demographic Information

As Table A14 shows, the majority of complainants (77%) in 2019-20 were aged between 20 and 59. There was a large increase in the percentage of complainants aged 20-29 in 2019-20 (double the average of the previous 4 years).

As Table A15 shows, similar to the average over the previous 4 years, a higher proportion (59%) of complainants were female in 2019-20. A small proportion (3%) of complainants identified as transgender/intersex/gender diverse/non-binary.

Table A14: Age group of complainants (accepted)
Age group of complainants (accepted complaints)2015/162016/172017/182018/192019/20
0 - 9 years 0%0%2%2% 2%
10 - 19 years3%5% 7%7% 6%
20 - 29 years15%12% 15%6%24%
30 - 39 years22% 19%9%25%27%
40 - 49 years15% 15%23%13% 13%
50 - 59 years19%11%13%14%13%
60 - 69 years5%14%9%5%6%
70 - 79 years4%2% 3%1%2%
80 + years0%1%0%0%0%
Unknown age17%20%20%23%7%
Total *100% 100% 100%100%100%
* 100% is the rounded value.

Table A15: Gender identity of complainants (accepted)
Gender of complainants (accepted complaints)2015/162016/172017/182018/192019/20
Female50%59%61%56%59%
Male48% 39% 39%44% 39%
Transgender/Intersex/Gender Diverse/Non-binary 2%1% 0%0%3%
Total1100%100% 100% 100%100%

1. 100% is the rounded value.

8.2.6. Satisfaction with Complaint Handling Services

Customer satisfaction surveys are sent to all parties to a complaint (complainants and respondents) following complaint finalisation. A total of 72 evaluation surveys were returned in the 2019-20 reporting period. Survey results indicated 96% overall satisfaction with the Commission’s complaint-handling services (Table A16).

Table A16: Survey evaluation results of complaint-handling services
Questions:Agree/Strongly Agree
The complaint process was well explained to me. 96%
I was kept well informed throughout the complaint process. 97%
I understood the information provided by Commission staff. 100%
The documents provided were easy to understand and use.96%
Staff were professional, helpful and courteous in their manner.100%
I was treated fairly and impartially.93%
The other party was treated fairly and impartially. 99%
I am satisfied with the time it took to resolve the complaint.93%
I am satisfied with the complaint outcome reached.89%
I am satisfied with the complaint handling process overall.93%
Overall Average Satisfaction96%

Survey respondents are also asked for their comments and/or suggestions on how to improve our service. Feedback was as follows:

  • I have never dealt with the commission before but believe the process was handled in an excellent and professional manner. Thank you [Conciliation Officer] for your professionalism and guidance in this matter. No improvement needed in my opinion
  • I was very happy with the service provided and hope that the Minister will fund the EOC adequately in the future. This is a public service of great value to the community and a fully funded service enables the EOC to meet the Government's obligations to enable citizens’ rights and probably saves money in the long run.
  • [Conciliation Officer] was very professional and caring of my wellbeing during the afternoon of my conference. I really appreciated that. Thanks. Give [Conciliation Officer] a pay rise!!
  • No. The person who done our complaint was kind respectful and learnt about disability in sporting activities.
  • I thank [Conciliation Officer] for [their] assistance.
  • I found this process was not as daunting as I thought it would be and the people in the involved were very helpful and courteous. A big thank you to all.
  • The matter was handled very professionally.
  • [Conciliation Officer] provided an exceptional level of service, showing compassion and true impartiality.
  • The experience could not be improved on. It was handled with professionalism and empathy.
  • The professionalism of [Conciliation Officer] was outstanding and resulted in the parties being able to negotiate an outcome that met both needs.
  • I write to thank you for the assistance you provided to [complainant]. I acknowledge the professionalism and empathy you displayed in dealing with this matter. My thanks also to the Commission and Dr Vincent for providing assistance to a vulnerable person in difficult circumstances.
  • Thank you for your assistance with this matter, I sincerely feel you went above and beyond and I appreciate the assistance you have given me in regards to the whole situation…
  • Very happy with the way [Conciliation Officer] handled a complex and sensitive matter. [Conciliation Officer] approach was measured, reasonable and fair.
  • The only comment I have is with regards to the settlement agreement, we used the commissions template and we realised that we should have been clearer about the monetary component in relation to the payment being subject to tax or not. As much of a learning for us.
  • I would like to say that [Conciliation Officer] was an outstanding mediator and I really appreciated the manner in which [Conciliation Officer] communicated with me.
  • People with rights need to consider other people's rights too...if person being complained about have serious problems that their complainant rights affect. This needs serious considerations for future reference.
  • [Conciliation Officer] was an outstanding mediator - my compliments - [Conciliation Officer] is gold.
  • Greater focus on ensuring the most senior person in the agency/respondent is engaged with the complaint
  • I am so pleased that I went down this path in my situation otherwise nothing would have been achieved.
  • Our conciliation officer was amazing. [Conciliation Officer] was able to explain things very well and was able to allocate time for questions or clarification to be answered.
  • [Conciliation Officer] was very helpful and professional throughout the process

8.3. Exemption Requests

As discussed in section 4.1.1.3. of this report, section 92 of the Act provides for applicants to apply to the SA Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) for an exemption from the Act for a specific purpose. The SACAT provides the Commissioner with a copy of all applications received, to enable her to review the application and make any submissions she considers necessary before an application is considered by the SACAT.

Below is a brief summary of all applications received by the Commission in 2019-20.

ApplicantSummaryOrder
Cobham Aviation Services Australia Pty LtdApplication for a Defence exemption, to allow the applicant to comply with US contract requirements. The Commission discussed and agreed the terms of the application directly with the applicant. Exemption Order granted
Applicant AnonymisedApplication for an exemption to recruit females to increase gender diversity. The application was subsequently discontinued as the applicant was not ready to proceed. No Exemption Order was made as the matter was withdrawn by the
Applicant
Department for Health and WellbeingApplication to renew an exemption allowing the Department and the Aboriginal Health Council of SA to advertise to hire Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) persons, including 
 ATSI persons of a specific gender, for positions which undertake ATSI health worker roles and functions. 
Exemption Order granted
Minister for Education and Child Development  Application to renew an exemption regarding the admission and education of girls at the single sex campus of Roma Mitchell Secondary College. Exemption Order granted
Hen House Co-operative LtdApplication for an exemption to allow the applicant to prioritise and target women for some of their programs and activities, which seek to close the gender investment gap. Exemption Order granted
Wallmans LawyersApplication for an exemption to allow the applicant to offer a summer clerkship and mentoring program to ATSI law students, based on research and statistics regarding the low levels of ATSI persons employed in the law.No Exemption Order was made, as the Tribunal formed the view that the situation was covered by the exemption in section 65 of the Act, and therefore the Order was not necessary. The Tribunal indicated that if necessary, it would have been granted.
ASC OPV Shipbuilders Pty Ltd Application for a Defence exemption, to allow the applicant to comply with US contract requirements. The Commission discussed and agreed the terms of the application directly with the applicant. Exemption Order granted
ASC Pty Ltd & OthersApplication for renewal of a Defence exemption, to allow the applicant to comply with US contract requirements. The Commission discussed and agreed the terms of the application directly with the applicant. Exemption Order granted