Function 1 - Fostering and encouraging informed and unprejudiced attitudes with a view to eliminating discrimination
4.1. Activities funded by the Attorney-General’s Department
4.1.1. Enquiries and complaints made to the Commission
One of the core functions of the Commission is to assist community members with enquiries in relation to discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation and to help them resolve complaints about unlawful discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation under the Act. This work is central to the Commission’s role in protecting and promoting equality of opportunity and preventing discrimination in South Australia. This function complements our education and consultancy services, which aim to drive social change to promote equality of opportunity across the community.
The number and type of enquiries and complaints we receive helps to highlight issues of systemic discrimination in particular areas under the Act and assists us in identifying priorities for our project, policy and educational work.
A summary of the main enquiry and complaint statistics are provided in this section. Detailed statistics can be found in Section 8 (Appendix).
The Commission provides a free, impartial and confidential enquiry service to educate the community about their rights and responsibilities under equal opportunity law. Details of enquiries are recorded to understand the types of discrimination reported by members of the community and their informational needs, to better target the delivery of educational information, resources and training.
In 2019-20, the Commission received 607 enquiries. This is an increase of 7% from last financial year. As displayed in Figure 3, the past three years show a comparable number of enquiries to the Commission, with a significant reduction from the number of enquires received in 2015-16.
This reduction is in part attributable to an increase members of the community directly accessing information and resources available through the Commission’s website.
Figure 3: Enquiries made to the Commissioner
While enquiries to the Commission can be made via a range of methods, almost 90% of enquiries during 2019-20 were made by telephone (64%) or email (25%). Although this is a similar proportion to the previous four years for these methods combined, it is notable that there was a 59% increase in email enquiries and a 21% decrease in telephone enquiries this year, compared to the average for these methods of enquiry over the previous four years.
The most commonly-reported grounds of discrimination by enquirers in 2019-20 were disability (27%), race (9%), sexual harassment (8%) and sex discrimination (5%). This is largely consistent with the previous four years. Similarly, the areas of employment (55%) and goods and services (22%) remained the most commonly identified areas of discrimination by enquirers this year.
It should be noted that a substantial proportion (around 40%) of enquiries to the Commission are not related to any ground or area under the Act.
Commission staff assisted enquirers in a range of ways; most frequently through referral to the Commission website for additional information (37%), by the provision of general information (27%), or by referral elsewhere if the enquiry falls outside the Commission’s functions (16%).
In the 2019-20 financial year, 181 complaints were lodged with the Commission. Figure 4 shows how this number compares with the previous four years.
The Commission has implemented substantial business performance improvements in complaint management over the past four years, in order to streamline the complaint- handling process, reduce administrative duplication and workload, and improve timeliness and efficiency.
These efficiencies have enabled the Commission to clear its backlog of complaints, with the number of open complaints carried over into the subsequent financial year declining by 70% over this period. This is despite a reduction of only 12% in the average number of complaints lodged over the last 5 years.
Figure 4 shows the number of complaints lodged, closed and carried over into the next financial year, for the last 5 years.
Figure 4: Complaints lodged, closed and carried over (last 5 years)
In 2019-20, most complaints (77%) were made directly via the online complaint form on the Commission’s website. Of the remaining complaints, 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.
When a complaint is lodged with the Commission as a possible breach of the Act, it is assessed against the Act by the Commissioner. Complaints may be either accepted and dealt with under the Act, not initiated as a complaint where it is outside the scope of the Act, or declined for a reason prescribed by the Act.11
Should the Commissioner decide to decline the complaint under section 95A of the Act then the complainant has the right to have the matter referred to the SACAT12 for determination.
Figure 5 shows the number of complaints assessed, accepted, declined at lodgement and not initiated at lodgement in 2019-20 compared with the previous four years.
In 2019-20, there was a 36% increase in the number of discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation complaints assessed compared to the previous year. This increase is substantial, particularly given the decrease in Commission staff. As a result of the diminishing budget and related risk to the Commission’s ability to maintain a high-performing complaint management service for the SA community, the Commissioner felt she had little choice but to undertake training to become a nationally accredited mediator.
In 2019-20, the Commissioner has dedicated approximately 10 hours of her time each week to hands-on complaint management and conciliation work and direct supervision of conciliation staff. This has reduced the time that the Commissioner was able to dedicate to other Commission functions of community education and consultancy. As far as can be ascertained, it is the first time in the history of the Commission that the Commissioner has had direct involvement in complaint conciliation work.
Figure 5: Complaint assessment (last 5 years)
Figure 6 shows the average complaint assessment time and the average time taken to finalise complaints in 2019-20 compared to previous years.
In 2019-20, the average complaint assessment time was 4.5 weeks. This reflects a reduction of almost a third from 2018-19 (6.6 weeks). Additionally, there was a 41% reduction in the time taken to finalise complaints, compared with last year.
Complaint assessment time has been reduced by 62% and the time taken to finalise complaints reduced by 56%, in comparison to 2016-17 (the year that the Commission introduced business performance improvement processes).
Figure 6: Complaint assessment and finalisation times
Figure 7 shows the grounds for complaints accepted in 2019-20 as a percentage of the total number of grounds.13
Disability discrimination was again the most common ground, at 21% of accepted complaints. Only marginally less frequent, 20% of complaints alleged sexual harassment. The remaining most frequent grounds of complaint were victimisation (14%) and discrimination on the basis of sex (11%), race (10%) and age (7%).
Figure 7: Accepted complaints by ground as a percentage of total grounds for 2019-20
Figure 8 shows the accepted complaints in 2019-20 by ground, compared with the average accepted complaints for each ground over the previous four years.
Figure 8: Accepted complaints by ground in 2019-20 compared with average by ground over previous 4 years
Complaints on the ground of disability discrimination in 2019-20 were 17% lower than the average number of complaints on this ground for the previous 4 years.
The number of complaints on the following grounds were all substantially higher in 2019-20 than the average over the previous four years:
- Sexual harassment – 45% higher
- Sex discrimination – 44% higher
- Victimisation – 40% higher
- Age discrimination – 36% higher
- Race discrimination – 22% higher
The number of complaints alleging discrimination on the ground of gender identity, the identity of a spouse or partner and sexual orientation were also all higher than the average over the last 4 years. Conversely, complaints on the ground of whistle-blowing, pregnancy, caring responsibilities, marital status and association with a child were all lower. However the numbers of complaints on these grounds have been consistently small over the last 5 years and so limited weight should be placed on these changes at this time.
Figure 9 shows the areas for accepted complaints.
Figure 9: Accepted complaints by area in 2019-20 compared with average for the previous 4 years
Employment remained the most common area for accepted complaints in 2019-20 and complaints in this area have grown substantially (34%) when compared to the average over the previous 4 years. As was the case in 2018-19, education overtook goods and services as the second most prevalent area in which accepted complaints arose.
As Figure 7 shows, there has been a 67% increase (albiet off a substantially low base) in accepted complaints in the area of education when compared to the average over the previous 4 years. In comparison, accepted complaints in the area of goods and services have reduced by 33% compared to the average over the previous 4 years.
Figure 10 shows the prevalence of the various grounds of accepted complaints in the area of employment in 2019-20 when compared to the average over the previous 4 years.
Figure 10: Accepted complaint grounds in employment in 2019-20 compared to the average over the previous 4 years
It is clear from Figure 10 that sexual harassment was by far the most prevalent ground for accepted complaints in employment in 2019-20. Complaints about victimisation and disability discrimination were the second most prevalent grounds in employment, followed by complaints of sex, race and age discrimination respectively.
While complaints of disability discrimination in employment have remained static overall for the last 5 years, there were substantial increases in the number of complaints of sex discrimination (54%), race discrimination (48%), sexual harrassment (45%), victimisation (41%) and age discrimination (40%) arising in employment when compared to the average over the last 4 years.
Figure 11 shows the prevalence of the various grounds of accepted complaints in the area of education in 2019-20 when compared to the average over the previous 4 years.
Figure 11: Accepted complaint grounds in education in 2019-20 compared to the average over the previous 4 years
As Figure 11 shows, complaints for most grounds in the area of education rose in 2019-20 when compared to the average over the last 4 years. This has led to a substantial (67%) increase in total complaints of discrimination in the area of education. It should be noted however, that complaints for almost all grounds in the area of education have risen from a low base.
Figure 12 shows the prevalence of the various grounds of accepted complaints in the area of goods and services in 2019-20 when compared to the average over the previous 4 years.
It can be seen from Figure 12 that there has been a very substantial decrease in complaints on the ground of disability discrimination in this area. Complaints of race discrimination have
also decreased (from a low base). Conversely, complaints of sex discrimination have increased (again, from a low base). Overall, as noted previously, complaints in the area of goods and services provision have declined by 33% when compared to the average over the last 4 years.
Figure 12: Accepted complaint grounds in goods and services in 2019-20 compared to the average over the previous 4 years
Under section 95 of the Act, if the Commissioner believes a complaint may be resolved by conciliation (other than matters declined by the Commissioner under section 95A), then the Commissioner must make all reasonable endeavours to resolve the complaint by conciliation.
Conciliation is a flexible and responsive dispute resolution process that provides an alternative to the more formal legal proceedings in the SACAT or the South Australian Employment Tribunal (SAET). Where conciliation does not achieve a resolution, the Commissioner may refer the complaint to the SACAT (or in some circumstances, to the SAET) for hearing and determination, unless the complaint is declined by the Commissioner or withdrawn by the complainant.
Figure 13 displays the number of conciliation attempts made in 2019-20 and the number in which a successful agreement was reached. It shows that, of the 70 complaints in which conciliation was attempted, this was successful in reaching a resolution in 81% of cases.
Figure 13: Conciliation success rate
There was a slight (2%) increase in the number of accepted complaints finalised in 2019-20 compared to the average over the previous 4 years. Figure 14 shows the outcomes of the total accepted complaints finalised in 2019-20 compared to the average over the previous four years.
Figure 14: Outcomes of accepted complaints finalised in 2019/20 compared to the average of the previous four years
As Figure 14 shows, 50% of all accepted complaints finalised in 2019-20 were resolved by conciliation. This is an 8% decrease on the average percentage over the previous 4 years. Twenty-three percent were referred to the Tribunal14, unchanged from the average over the previous 4 years. Twenty-seven percent were declined by the Commissioner following further investigation, or withdrawn by the complainant (in two cases, after conciliation was attempted). This represents an 8% increase on the average percentage over the previous 4 years.
For complaints that were successfully conciliated, Figure 15 shows that in 2019-20 the issuing of an apology and financial compensation were the most common outcomes achieved in settlement agreements. This has been the case on average for the last 4 years. It should be noted that settlement agreements often include more than one outcome and not all successful conciliations involve a written agreement.
Figure 15: Outcomes from successful conciliation
For those settlements involving financial compensation in 2019-20, individual agreements ranged from to $300 to $20,000. As Figure 16 shows, the average sum paid out per agreement in 2019-20 was similar to the average sum over the last 4 years. The total amount of financial compensation was 21% higher than the average total amount over the last four years.
Figure 16: Financial payments in conciliated settlement agreements
As Figure 17 shows, the majority of complainants (77%) in 2019-20 were aged between 20 and 59. There was a large increase in the percentage of accepted complaints from people aged 20-29 in 2019-20, double the average of the previous 4 years.
Figure 17: Percentage of complainants in age categories in 2019-20 compared to the average over previous 4 years (accepted complaints)
Figure 18 shows that, similar to the average over the previous 4 years, a higher percentage (59%) of complainants were female in 2019-20. A small proportion (3%) of complainants identified as transgender/intersex/gender diverse/non-binary.
Figure 18: Gender identity of complainants in 2019-20 compared to the average over previous 4 years (accepted complaints)
Subject to section 95C subsection (2) of the Act, the Commissioner may, at the request of the complainant or respondent, provide representation for them in proceedings before the Tribunal at public expense. The Commissioner must apply available public funds judiciously, so before providing representation, the Commissioner considers a range of factors including:
- the capacity of the party to represent themselves or provide their own representation
- the nature and circumstances of the alleged contravention of the Act
- whether the case has good prospects of success
- whether the party can afford to pay for representation without hardship, and
- any other matter considered relevant by the Commissioner.
In the 2019-20 financial year, the Commissioner agreed to fund five complainants for assessment by a lawyer to determine the prospects of success for their case before the Tribunal. The amount expensed for legal costs in 2019-20 was $27,363.
Section 92 of the Act provides for persons, businesses, corporations, Government departments and associations to apply to the SACAT for an exemption from the Act for a specific purpose. If an exemption is granted (via an Exemption Order), this allows the applicant to lawfully discriminate against a person, or a class of persons.
The purposes for which an exemption would be granted include increasing the employment of a class of persons within an organisation (i.e. designating a position for an Aboriginal employee), or increasing the participation of a particular sex in the provision of a service or employment (i.e. to ensure the advancement of women in a particular industry to promote gender equality and reduce the gender pay gap).
Overwhelmingly, however, applications for exemptions from the Act are from the defence industry. South Australia plays a significant role in the Australian and International defence industry and the economic interests of defence contractors in South Australia are substantial. Defence contractors have obligations under International Arms Regulations which generally preclude the contractors from tendering for or performing work for an international company where its employees have certain citizenships or nationalities. Accordingly, the granting of an Order for an exemption from the Act, on the basis of race, has very serious consequences for South Australia and the Commissioner takes her responsibilities under this section of the Act very seriously.
When an application for an exemption is made, the Commissioner is notified and afforded the right to make submissions to the SACAT about the appropriateness of the application. The Commissioner may also negotiate with the applicant where she has concerns with the scope of the application; for example, where she is of the view that the terms being sought are too broad. In 2019-20, the Commissioner was able to successfully negotiate with the applicants directly (where required) to limit and curtail the scope of applications to appropriately balance South Australia’s economic interests with protecting citizens from unfair discrimination.
Section 8.3 of the Appendix (Section 8) contains a brief summary of all applications for exemptions from the Act received in 2019-20.
In 2019-20, the Commission moved its service satisfaction survey online and a link was sent to complainants and respondents following conciliation finalisation. This resulted in a 54% increase in the number of surveys completed this year (72) compared to the previous year (33). Survey results indicated 96% overall satisfaction with the Commission’s complaint- handling services (Table 3).
Table 3: 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 & 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 Satisfaction||96%|
Survey respondents are also asked for their comments and/or suggestions on how to improve our service. Examples of feedback provided by survey respondents and others are included below (full details of comments are included in the Appendix - Section 8).
4.1.2. Other initiatives funded by the Attorney-General’s Department to foster and encourage informed and unprejudiced attitudes with a view to eliminating discrimination
188.8.131.52. Advice to the Public Service Association and Department of Treasury and Finance regarding gender-neutral parental leave in the SA Public Service
On 26 February 2020 the Commissioner wrote to the Public Service Association (PSA) to request that gender-neutral parental leave provisions be included in the PSA’s log of claims for the enterprise bargaining process regarding the SA Modern Public Sector Enterprise Agreement.
This letter outlined the Commissioner’s concerns that the maternity leave provisions in the 2017 agreement may operate to reinforce gendered expectations that only mothers take significant time out of the workforce to care for young children, create barriers for male employees who wish to more equitably share parenting responsibilities and disproportionately exclude same-sex parents.
The Commissioner further committed to providing a detailed analysis of the issue to the PSA, the Director of Enterprise Bargaining at the Department of Treasury and Finance and the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment, to support discussions and decision-making.
This detailed analysis was provided to all parties above on 1 May. The analysis comprised a summary of trends and research supporting the growing movement towards gender-neutral parental leave provisions in workplace agreements, an in-depth analysis of the benefits of gender balanced leave provisions, comparisons with other Australian public sector agreements, and options for achieving gender-neutrality in the South Australian agreement’s provisions.
It was further highlighted that the adoption of gender-neutral parental leave provisions sits comfortably with the commitment by the State Government to achieving gender equality and the objectives of the Workplace Equality and Respect (WER) Project (see section 4.3.2), through which all State Government departments are implementing a Gender Equality and Respect Action Plan.
184.108.40.206. Letters to SA travel insurers regarding disability discrimination
On 11 June 2020 the Commissioner sent letters to three SA-based travel insurers regarding the potential for disability discrimination stemming from blanket mental health exemptions.
These letters were based on the work of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission’s ‘Fair-minded: Investigation into mental health discrimination in travel insurance’ report, which revealed the ‘prevalent and widespread’ practice amongst travel insurers of issuing policies with a blanket mental health exclusions, thereby unlawfully discriminating against people with mental health conditions.
The three-page letters, issued to RAA Insurance Limited, Insurance and Membership Services Limited (formerly COTA Insurance) and Insurance Australia Limited (formerly SGIC), provided education and resources about the responsibilities of insurers under SA anti-discrimination law with regards to disability discrimination.
The letters further requested a response outlining the actions each insurer is taking or plans to take to ensure their insurance policies as they apply mental health exemptions comply with the SA Act, and therefore clause 104 of the new General Insurance Code of Practice 2020, which requires compliance with relevant state anti-discrimination laws.
On 19 June the Commissioner received a response from Ian Stone, Group Managing Director, RAA, confirming that RAA travel insurance policies do not contain blanket exemptions for mental health. RAA’s response further confirmed that all staff who sell RAA Travel Insurance are trained in all areas of compliance. As at 30 June responses had not been received by the other two insurance providers.
220.127.116.11. Disability Employment Forum with PwC
In 2019-20, the Commission initiated planning for a Disability Employment Forum in conjunction with PwC, scheduled to be held on 27 May 2020. PwC was identified as a fitting corporate partner for this event because of its strong disability employment focus and national disability employment strategy. The forum was to bring together key stakeholders, including people with lived experience, with a particular focus on engaging high-level personnel from private industry.
Two planning meetings were jointly convened. However, this forum was postponed on account of the various impacts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, including the limitations posed by social distancing protocols and meeting size restrictions.
Circumstances permitting, it is intended that this event will take place in-person as soon as practicable in the 2020-21 reporting year.15
18.104.22.168. Participation in diversity and inclusion reference groups
Road2Employment Steering Group
In 2019-20 the Commissioner accepted an invitation to join the Road2Employment Steering Group, convened by Julia Farr Association Purple Orange. This group steers a NDIS-funded program aimed at building the capacity and capability of South Australian small to medium enterprises to provide employment opportunities for people with disability.
The program involves the establishment of at least three industry-specific ‘communities of practice’ to develop actions and targets to increase employment outcomes for people living with disability in those industries, as well as other components such as linking in with schools and offering one-on-one support to employers.
SA Public Sector Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Committee
The Commissioner accepted an invitation to join this newly formed committee and attended the first meeting in late 2019-20. The committee is chaired by the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment and exists to support her office and the State Government Senior Management Council in implementing the South Australian Public Sector Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. The committee will also monitor the implementation and progress of the SA Public Sector Disability Employment Strategy 2020-2021.
22.214.171.124. Stop Racism Taskforce
The Stop Racism Taskforce is a group of 27 South Australian peak bodies, government agencies, academics and social justice advocates. Members of the Taskforce come together to share information about their work and identify and promote good practice initiatives to prevent and reduce racism in workplaces and the broader community. The Commission convened two meetings of the Stop Racism Taskforce in September and December 2019. Restrictions associated with COVID 19 have meant that no other meetings were convened in the 2019-20 financial year, although members have kept in touch via email.
126.96.36.199. Race Relations in SA online event hosted by Reconciliation SA and SA Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement
On 23 June 2020, the Commissioner was a panel member on the Race Relations in SA online event. Other panel members included, Cheryl Axelby, Chief Executive ALRM, Grant Stevens, Commissioner for Police, April Lawrie, Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People and David Brown, Chief Executive Department for Correctional Services.
The event was held to discuss current issues in race relations in SA, including the incarceration rates of Aboriginal people, the over representation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system generally, the continuing number of deaths of Aboriginal people in custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (1987–1991) and the actions needed to address these issues.
188.8.131.52. Update on inclusive school uniform policies in independent and faith-based schools
In May 2018, the Commissioner approached independent and faith-based schools urging them to consider more inclusive and non-discriminatory school uniform policies that consider students’ gender, disability, religious dress requirements and cultural diversity. The Commissioner advised that failing to address these issues may give rise to a complaint of discrimination under equal opportunity laws.
On 30 July 2019, the Commissioner wrote to the Hon. John Dawkins, AO, Presiding Member Education Standards Board (the Board), about the application of the ‘Standards for Registration and Review of Registration of Schools’ to student uniform codes and the importance of these codes allowing for the expression of diversity in a non-discriminatory manner.
She noted that while State Government schools already have appropriate guidelines in place, a number of South Australian independent and faith-based schools still required female students to wear open clothing, such as skirts or dresses (with the exception of sporting activities). The Commissioner expressed her concern about the lack of action taken by these schools to review their uniform codes.
The Commissioner outlined that uniform codes which mandate different uniforms for females and males perpetuate unhelpful gender stereotypes, reduce the opportunity for self- expression and could potentially give rise to a claim of discrimination under the Act.
The Commissioner acknowledged that she had received correspondence from several Catholic and Independent schools that have taken positive action in bringing about gender equality in their school uniform codes.
184.108.40.206. Training and Public Education
The Commission provides education and training services to employers, employees and community groups to help them achieve compliance with the Act, embed best practice and support cultural change on equal opportunity. These services include in-house training courses and customised training for organisations and workplaces.
Training Referral Program
In 2019-20, following the pilot program in 2018-19, the Commission continued to run its Training Referral Program (TRP). The TRP connects South Australian businesses and organisations with a panel of approved providers who deliver relevant training. This program complements the training offered by the Commission, and is aimed at assisting assist South Australian businesses and organisations to easily and efficiently source training in regard to the Act from private organisations.
In 2019-20, a panel of four of the five training providers from the pilot TRP continued to work with us to support and extend the Commission’s capacity to deliver equal opportunity training, they were:
- Perks People Solutions (trainers Cecilia White and Sarah Hills)
- YWCA Australia (trainers Michelle Tatyzo, Mason Somerville and Jemma Taylor-Cross)
- Diversity Inclusion (trainer Lucinda Hewitson)
- Leed Consulting (trainer Anna Lee)
Training topics included within the scope of the TRP in 2019--20 were:
The Contact Officer – roles and responsibilities:
- Refresher training for the Contact Officer role
- Prevention of workplace bullying, discrimination and harassment (for the individual or workforce)
- Managers - Prevention and resolving complaints of workplace bullying, discrimination and harassment
- Bystander awareness
- Unconscious bias
- Diversity and inclusion leadership
- Customised training in the areas of ‘Disability and Inclusion in the Workplace - Responsibilities of Managers and Supervisors’ and ‘Disability Discrimination’
- Prevention and management of sexual harassment complaints16
As a result of the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic and the resulting downturn in referrals to the TRP providers from March 2020 to June 2020, the Commission has not been able to confidently review and assess the success of the TRP in 2019-20. As a result the TRP will resume in its current format with a new application and assessment process beginning at the end of the current contractual period on 31 August 2020.
For the period 1 July 2019 to 30 November 2019, the TRP pilot delivered 16 training sessions with 209 participants (Table 4).
Table 4: Number of in-house and customised training sessions and participants
|Training sessions nos.||29||19||16#|
|Training sessions nos.||15||12||4*|
|Total - participants||742||302||238|
|Total - sessions||44||31||20|
^ 2017/18 numbers include community education participants. As of 2018/19 community education participant numbers are no longer collected.
# Due to the start of the COVID 19 pandemic in March 2020 and social distancing requirements the Commission stopped accepting referrals for training for the TRP. Therefore these numbers only cover the period from July 2019 to November 2019.
* Due to the COVID 19 pandemic in March 2020 and social distancing requirements, the Commission cancelled the remainder of In house training program. As such, these numbers only cover the period from August 2019 to February 2020.
220.127.116.11. Commissioner’s public education activity
The Commissioner delivers regular presentations to a range of community and business groups, industry associations, peak bodies, government and non-government organisations, and unions with a view to informing and engaging on equal opportunity and anti- discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation issues and promoting the work of the Commission.
In 2019-20, the Commissioner spoke at 47 events (see details in Table 5 below) reaching more than 6000 people. However, many additional scheduled speaking engagements were postponed or cancelled between March and June 2020 due to COVID-19.
Table 5: The Commissioner’s speaking engagements 2019-20
|July 19||Panel member for the 2019 Industrial and Organisational Psychology Conference. Topic: Building agility in hierarchical organisations: the challenge for the public sector|
|Presentation at the ICT and Digital Government Forum entitled ‘Innovation and Ethics in the Digital Age’|
|August 19||Guest Speaker at 2019 Women in Leadership Journey – Flinders University. Presentation title: ‘Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in SA: Equal Opportunity Law and Beyond’ (20 participants from Vietnam).|
|Guest Speaker to Law Reform class at Adelaide University Law School. Topic ‘Promoting diversity and inclusion in SA: Equal Opportunity law and beyond’.|
|Presentation to DPC Cabinet Office Monthly Meeting. Topic: ‘The SA Equal Opportunity Commission’|
|Keynote Speaker at the 2019 Council of Ambulance Authorities (CAA) Australia-New Zealand conference (Perth WA). Presentation titled ‘Beyond buzz words and box ticking: Building diversity and inclusion into organisation DNA’ (note that this address was undertaken during the Commissioner’s annual leave as the interstate travel, although funded by the conference organisers, was declined by the Attorney General)|
|Panel member at the Australian Property Institute 2019 National Leadership Series SA Breakfast. Theme: Strength in Diversity|
|Panel member for City of Unley event ‘Celebrating 125th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage’|
|Panel member for Chartered Accountants Australia and NZ Series. Topic: Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace|
|September 19||Guest Speaker at the ICT and Digital Government Industry Forum. Topic Innovation and Ethics in the Digital Age 2.0|
|Presentation for the Sex Work decriminalisation MP briefing at Parliament House.|
|Presentation titled ‘Decriminalisation of Sex Work in SA: Impact on the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA)’|
|Presentation at the SA Wine Industry employment relations seminar. Topic ‘Workplace discrimination and harassment: how is SA doing?’|
|Interviewed for a Women on Boards event.|
|MC of the Village Foundation Launch and interviewed founder Tiffany De Sousa Machado|
|Panel member at 2019 Women in Hotels Conference.|
|Keynote Speaker and Panel session at Public Service Association Women’s Conference speech entitled ‘125 years of women’s suffrage in SA: Unfinished business’.|
|October 19||Chaired panel session at the History Teachers Association of Australia Conference. Topic: 125 anniversary of women’s suffrage in South Australia|
|Keynote Speaker at Spence Club Suffrage Event. Speech entitled ‘The impact of suffrage and what it means for women today in South Australia’|
|Presented at the 2019 Diversity and Inclusion in Sport Forum: Challenges of inclusion and the key ingredients that make it work (in Sydney). Topic ‘Beyond Buzzwords and Box-Ticking: Building Inclusion into Organisational DNA’|
|Guest Speaker on leadership and presented certificates at the Kangaroo Island Leaders Forum graduation dinner|
|Presented at Zest Fest. Speech and panel on ‘Ageing well: the role of work and employment’|
|Australian Council of Human Rights Authorities (ACHRA) Melbourne Conference (chaired 2 day conference)|
|Guest Lecture to MBA course students on ‘Leading for Growth’|
|Keynote presenter at the 2019 Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) State Conference.|
|Presentation entitled ‘The state of the state: Equal Opportunity Matters’|
|Panel member at UniSA Business School 2019 EQUIS Re-accreditation|
|Presentation to the University of Adelaide External Relations Branch Team Development Day.|
|Speech entitled ‘On Resilience’ followed by a Q&A|
|November 19||Presented to Webster’s Lawyers development program. Topic: Human Rights and Equal Opportunity’ (with Claire O’Connor SC).|
|Guest Speaker at the Australian Police Industrial Relations Group Conference 2019. Presentation entitled: ‘Building diversity and inclusion into organisational DNA – beyond tick-boxes and buzzwords’|
|Commissioner facilitated CEDA Lunch on the topic of ‘Women and the future of work’ (with SA Chiefs for Gender Equity).|
|Presented to Attorney-General’s Department Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employee group. Topic: ‘The state of the State: Equal opportunity matters’.|
|Presented at the Small Business Commissioner’s BIZLINK Seminar. Topic: Understanding SA’s Equal Opportunity laws and how diversity and inclusion improves workplace culture and delivers better decision making, performance and productivity’|
|Keynote presentation at City of Salisbury 125th Anniversary Women’s Suffrage event. Topic: The importance of women in leadership|
|Presented at SA Water’s Innovation and Excellence Forum. Topic: Building diversity and inclusion into organisational DNA (and why you need to care about it).|
|On panel for Fabians South Australia event. Topic: Gender, work and wages (with Brad Chilcott, Abbey Kendall and Jamila Rizvi)|
|December 19||Presented and facilitated the Equal Opportunity Commission’s ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence’ event and panel session|
|Panel member for the University of Adelaide’s ‘Celebrating 125th Anniversary of Women’s suffrage’ event|
|Presented to Kaplan Business School MBA students. Topic: Leadership matters|
|Commissioner narrated ‘Up and Doing: Sweeping away an injustice too long existing’ Parliamentary re-enactment of women’s suffrage.|
|February 20||Commissioner facilitated panel event and questions at Committee for Economic Development Australia lunch. Topic: Women and Leadership Series Launch (with Chiefs for Gender Equity)|
|Keynote speaker at the Governor’s Leadership Foundation 21st anniversary celebration event.|
|March 20||Keynote speaker at the Women in Super IWD (Flagship) event. Topic: The realities of equal opportunity in our state and what you can do to help create a more tolerant and equitable society|
|Panel session for the City of Adelaide International Women’s Day event. Topic: #EachforEqual Chaired Australian Council of Human Rights Authorities video conference|
|April 20||Delivered the Mavis Robertson Address for the Conference of Major Super Funds (CMSF).|
|Speech entitled ‘Gender Equity: How can we play our part?’|
|June 20||Online Panel member for Flexible Working Day 12 June 2020 session (with Chiefs for Gender Equity). Topic: How workplaces must adapt to rapid change as we face a post-pandemic world|
|Interactive webinar panel session on ‘Race Relations in SA and the impact of #BlackLivesMatter’ (with SA Police Commissioner, Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement and CE of Department for Correctional Services).|
The Commissioner also proactively and reactively engages with radio, online and print media as a platform to help educate the community about their rights and responsibilities under equal opportunity law, and to draw community attention to and/or respond to issues of discrimination, sexual harassment, victimisation and other matters relevant to the work of the Commission.
In 2019-20, the Commissioner was mentioned/quoted in/interviewed for 80 media reports/segments. This represents a 45% increase on the previous year, but sadly, a significant number of additional media engagements were related to allegations of sexual assault/sexual harassment by a Member of the SA Parliament and to a rise in racial vilification issues in the SA community associated with COVID-19.
Table 6: The Commissioner’s media engagements 2019-20
|July 19||ABC Radio Adelaide Breakfast and ABC North & West 3 July – Attorney-General criticises the Equal Opportunity Commissioner over use of her budget|
|InDaily 3 July – SA Attorney-General and EO Commissioner in open conflict over budget|
|The Sunday Mail 28 July – Let girls wear the pants: Gender-neutral uniforms offered by more schools|
|Opinion piece by the Advertiser 29 July – Choice of uniform styles a student right|
|ABC Adelaide Drive 29 July – Jules Schiller interviewed Commissioner Vincent on school uniform choices for students|
|ABC Online 29 July – Autistic children left ‘completely traumatised’ after holiday park refuses entry to assistance dog|
|The Advertiser 30 July – Police Officers get second chance at key survey|
|August 19||SBS News 5 August – Adelaide nightclub accused of ‘racial profiling’ after turning away patron|
|10 News First 5 August – Man Claims Nightclub Refused Him Entry Because He’s African|
|ABC Radio Adelaide Mornings 5 August – David Bevan interviewed Commissioner Vincent re Adelaide nightclub accused of racism after turning away Zimbabwean man|
|The Advertiser Adelaide 8 August – Flinders University research finds most private schools ignore anti-discrimination law on uniform choice for girls|
|September 19||Sunday Mail Adelaide 1 September – Fathers lose out on flexi hours|
|October 19||Opinion piece for The Advertiser Adelaide 7 October – Equal Pay for equal work still a dream|
|November 19||The Advertiser Adelaide 7 November – Adelaide: WSP parental policy to win over staff|
|ABC Radio Adelaide Drive program 11 November – Jules Schiller interviewed Commissioner|
|Vincent for segment on workplace relationships - the dos and don’ts|
|ABC Radio Adelaide 13 November – interview on Racist letter written to a neighbour: Explanation of the Racial Vilification Act|
|ABC Online 14 November – Aboriginal man left ‘stunned’ after being sent ‘racist’ letter in Adelaide|
|InDaily 18 November – Chapman has another crack at Equal Opportunity Commissioner|
|The Advertiser Adelaide 20 November – Equal Opportunity Commissioner concerned about disability access concerns if Overland train service closes|
|5AA Adelaide Radio 21 November – interview about future of The Overland train and disability issues|
|The Advertiser Adelaide 23 November – Compulsory training for SA Public servants to reduce violence against women|
|The Mandarin 26 November – Compulsory training for SA Public servants to reduce violence against women|
|The Advertiser Adelaide 26 November – Santos sets new bar for parental leave|
|ABC Radio Adelaide Afternoons 28 November – Sarah Hanson-Young wins defamation case against David Leyonhjelm (treatment of women in politics)|
|December 19||ABC Radio North & West 3 December – segment on Future of the Overland train service and disability concerns|
|ABC Radio Adelaide Afternoon Program 5 December – Dr Niki Vincent, SA Equal Opportunity Commissioner; Stacey Nelan Domestic Abuse Survivor; Sylvia Powell, Eldercare - segment on the ways workplaces can better support employees who are victims of domestic violence|
|ABC Radio North & West 6 December – segment on report that reveals exploitation of people from overseas in SA|
|The Advertiser 14 December – EO Commissioner warns about inappropriate workplace behaviour over the Festive Season|
|ABC Radio Adelaide 17 December – segment on Mildura woman attempts to tear down Aboriginal flag in viral video|
|January 20||The Advertiser 5 January – MP sorry for bottom slap|
|Channel 7 TV News – Sexual harassment by MP|
|ABC News 6 January – SA Opposition calls for MP Sam Duluk to be stood down and wants independent investigation|
|InDaily 7 January – Independent inquiry to probe parliament’s “nightmare before Christmas”|
|The Advertiser 8 January – Independent inquiry to investigate Duluk|
|InDaily 9 January – Speaker silent on Duluk inquiry|
|ABC Radio Adelaide 20 January – Adelaide nightclub restricts access to men unaccompanied by a woman|
|InDaily 24 January – LGBTI pamphlet 'disturbing' but not illegal|
|February 20||ABC Online 4 February – Liberal MP Sam Duluk to return to Parliament for first sitting day since inappropriate conduct claims|
|Channel 7 News 4 February – EO Commissioner Dr Niki Vincent is urging any staffers with complaints against Sam Duluk to bring them to her|
|Channel 10 News 4 February – The Equal Opportunity Commissioner says she’s prepared to investigate a night of booze fuelled offensive behaviour|
|ABC Radio Adelaide and ABC Radio North & West 4 February – Commissioner urges anyone with workplace sexual harassment complaints to come forward|
|ABC Radio Adelaide and ABC North & West 20 February – Equal Opportunity Commission believes she will be able to investigate Sam Duluk’s allegations|
|ABC Radio 20 February – interview regarding motion passed asking the Equal Opportunity Commissioner to investigate Sam Duluk|
|The Advertiser 21 February – Gender pay-gap gains grind to a halt|
|ABC Radio 28 February – Dr Niki Vincent, Equal Opportunity Commissioner & Victoria Putman, Author & Ali MacGregor, Entertainer - discussion regarding Be a Lady, They said video re: confusing messages women receive|
|March 20||Chiefs for Gender Equity video 2 March for International Women’s Day – Dr Niki Vincent from the SA Chiefs for Gender Equity group says it’s business leaders who must drive change in 2020|
|ABC News Online 5 March – Equal Opportunity Commissioner to investigate ‘19th century boys ‘club’ culture in SA Parliament|
|In conversation with Tony D’Alessandro for Chiefs for Gender Equity video 6 March – discussing how the superannuation gap for women is pushing many into poverty|
|The Advertiser 6 March – SA gender equity chief call for zero tolerance on workplace harassment|
|The Advertiser 6 March – MPs probed on shoddy behaviour|
|ABC Radio Adelaide & ABC North & West 6 March – Equal Opportunity Commissioner agrees to investigate the workplace culture of Parliament|
|Opinion piece for The Advertiser 7 March – Super system failing women, says SA Equal Opportunity Commissioner Niki Vincent|
|ABC Radio Adelaide Drive 10 March – Jules Schiller interviewed Commissioner about the ‘19th century boys ‘club’ culture of SA Parliament|
|The Advertiser 11 March – Report identifies challenges to SAPOL gender equality|
|The Mirage News 11 March – Equal Opportunity Commission Final Report of South Australia Police released|
|The Advertiser 24 March – Duluk-inspired probe could include Federal expertise|
|InDaily piece 26 March – Working from home|
|April 20||Opinion piece for InDaily 1 April – COVID-19 makes life tougher for those already struggling|
|ABC News 8 April – South Australian councillor spat at in racist coronavirus attack|
|The Advertiser 8 April – Northern Suburbs council worker subject to racist attack amid coronavirus pandemic|
|Channel 7 News 8 April – Coronavirus-fuelled racism incident at Salisbury supermarket|
|Triple M & HIT Adelaide Radio 8 April - Coronavirus pandemic: Equal Opportunity Commissioner condemns racial attack|
|ABC Radio Adelaide & ABC North & West 14 April – Coronavirus pandemic: Claims a racist attach on a local councillor is absolutely abhorrent|
|May 20 ABC Radio Adelaide and ABC North & West 1 May – Equal Opportunity Commissioner welcomes new laws regarding MP sexual harassment|
|Channel 7 News 4 May – Coronavirus discrimination continues to rise as SA businesses refuse service to those in face masks (imputed disability)|
|The Advertiser 5 May – SA businesses under investigation for COVID-19 discrimination|
|ABC Radio Adelaide and ABC North & West 5 May – Coronavirus pandemic: Three SA businesses under investigation for discrimination|
|The Advertiser 13 May - Open letter from Natasha Stott Despoja and prominent South Australians calls for greater domestic violence vigilance|
|Mirage News 14 May - Disability Discrimination Commissioner joins Play by Rules with colleagues Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins (co-chair), and South Australia’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner Dr Niki Vincent|
|The Advertiser 19 May – How could it happen? Taskforce to probe how Anne Marie was failed|
|Channel 7 News 21 May – Adelaide grocer under fire after ‘racist’ TikTok ‘sneeze prank’ shared on Instagram|
|ABC Adelaide TV News 21 May – Adelaide grocer under fire after ‘racist’ TikTok ‘sneeze prank’ shared on Instagram|
|Australian Times 21 May – SA grocer to be investigated for ‘sneezing’ prank video|
|Channel 9 News 21 May - interviewed on a segment regarding the recent ‘sneeze prank’ video shared on social media|
|June 20||Public Service Association Magazine June – When ‘not fair’ is unlawful|
|Channel 7 News Adelaide 5 June – Sale of golliwogs (with Aboriginal Elder Garth Dodd)|
|The Advertiser 6 June – Opportunity to move past gender inequity|
|The Advertiser 6 June – Face mask discrimination emerging in SA, says Equal Opportunity Commissioner|
|The Sunday Mail 7 June – National survey records almost 400 cases of Asian-Australian COVID-19 related racism|
The Commission’s website (www.eoc.sa.gov.au) forms an integral part of its community information service and delivers access to a range of information and educational resources, including publications, factsheets, policies, procedures, case studies, training videos, online courses and quizzes. It also enables people to lodge complaints of discrimination online, view the Commission’s training calendar, and enrol for in-house equal opportunity training programs.
In 2019-20 the website had 137,684 visitor sessions (62,228 more than 2018-19) and 297,897 page views (86,615 more than 2018-19).
Accessibility of the Commission website
In early 2020, the Commissioner and her team began liaising with the eGovernment team, Office for Digital Government in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, to progress an upgrade of the Commission website to ensure it meets the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). 17
The upgrade to the Commission website is also being used by the eGovernment team as an opportunity to have the internal template system for all State Government department websites validated for compliance by Vision Australia.
The upgrade is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.
In 2019-20 the Commission continued to grow its social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, amplifying the reach and impact of its work. The Commission’s Facebook page has seen a 36% increase in followers from 1025 to 1400 for the 2019-20 financial year, reaching 30,195 people through its posts in the same period.18
The Commissioner has her own Facebook page that has seen an increase in followers to almost 2000. The Commissioner’s Twitter followers are now at 1927. The Commissioner also has over 10,000 connections on LinkedIn.
The Chiefs for Gender Equity Facebook page reached 1,157 followers with 1,120 page likes, and the Chiefs for Gender Equity LinkedIn page has 343 connections.
Figure 19 shows the Commissioner’s public education activity over the last four years.
Figure 19: The Commissioner’s public education activity 2016-17 to 2019-20
4.2. Initiatives developed through external partnerships
4.2.1. Free Legal Advice Clinic – Adelaide University Law School
In January 2018, the Commission established a free legal advice clinic in partnership with the University of Adelaide to improve access to justice for members of the community. The clinic was based at the offices of the Commission until COVID-19 restrictions came into place in March 2020 (after which, it provided a phone service from the university campus).
It provides legal advice to any individual who believes that they have been unlawfully discriminated against, sexually harassed or victimised. While the clinic is available to all, it is particularly helpful in supporting people who are disadvantaged or ill-equipped to cope with the challenges of legal process. It is staffed by final year law students and a qualified legal practitioner. All advice provided by the service is checked by an experienced lawyer.
The clinic can work with people to identify equal opportunity and discrimination issues and can advise and support people through the entire complaints process. This includes drafting and lodging complaints, providing referrals to other resources and supports, preparing documents, and preparing for Tribunal hearings.
The clinic also provides important legal training for our future lawyers by exposing students to the practical application of the law.
Between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2020, the clinic assisted 102 people.
4.3. Initiatives funded through membership fees or fee-for-service consulting
4.3.1. Chiefs for Gender Equity
The Chiefs for Gender Equity are a group of South Australian organisational leaders working together with the common goal of achieving gender equality. Collectively, the group represents a broad range of sectors, with all members committed to informing and influencing all levels of South Australian business and government and driving change within the organisations they lead, their industries and the South Australian community.
The Chiefs vision is that by 2030,19 South Australia is achieving economic growth and prosperity through the equal representation and recognition of women and men across all aspects of community, work and family life. The Chiefs for Gender Equity’s plan of action has continued to focus on the following six areas in 2019-20:
- Our Leadership Shadow – making sure Chiefs walk the talk and model the behaviour expected from employees and peers. This includes taking a public stand, such as honouring the ‘panel pledge’ and refusing to speak at events where there are no women speakers
- Flexible work – ensuring that Chiefs’ employees, men and women, have access to working arrangements that enable them to manage their work and life responsibilities. Workplace flexibility is critical to continuing to increase women’s workforce participation and to enabling men and women to increasingly ‘share the care’
- Reducing unconscious bias – finding ways to eliminate entrenched biases in recruitment and leadership decisions. Eliminating biases creates fairness as well enhances opportunities to attract and retain diverse, high-quality talent, which will assist South Australian businesses is meeting the social and economic challenges of the future
- Accountability – each Chief develops a reporting matrix that enables their organisation to address any existing, and gain insight into emerging, gender equity issues, monitor progress and strengthen public accountability
- Gender Pay Gap – working to address the gender pay gap to promote gender equity and women’s financial security and independence across their lifetime; and
- Workplace responses to domestic violence – the Chiefs recognise that workplaces are key environments where preventative action can be undertaken to reduce violence against women and to support those experiencing or escaping violence.
In 2019-20 the group continued to meet a minimum of six times yearly. The Commissioner continued as convenor of the group and oversaw the executive and administrative support provided. Membership of the group included:
- Ms Chris Barnesby, Head of Pandemic Response (formerly, General Manager, Olympic Dam), BHP
- Mr Hamilton Calder, State Director SA/NT, Committee for Economic Development of Australia
- Mr Kim Cheater, Partner, PwC
- Mr Tony D’Alessandro, CEO Statewide Super
- Ms Victoria MacKirdy, CEO, City of Victor Harbor
- Dr Neil McGoran, Director, Catholic Education SA
- Professor Caroline McMillen, Chief Scientist SA
- Mr Jake Parkinson, CEO, South Australian National Football League
- Ms Jane Pickering, CEO, Eldercare
- Mr Matthew Salisbury, SA & NT Regional Director, WSP
- Ms Catherine Sayer, CEO, Food South Australia (resigned at end of FY)
- Mr Grant Stevens APM, Commissioner, South Australia Police
- Mr Ian Stone, Group Managing Director, RAA
- Ms Karen Thomas, Partner and Head of Office, Dentons
- Mr Roger Zammit, CEO, Badge Group
- Mr Ben Owens, Head of Retail, Westpac and BankSA, SA & NT
Each Chief pays a $5,000 annual membership fee. The fees are used to fund the Chiefs’ activities, administrative and executive support, and a media consultant. In 2019-20 the Chiefs secured $25,000 in additional funding from the SA Department of the Premier and Cabinet to fund a project promoting gender equity in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) - details below.
Gender equity in SMEs project
Early in the 2019-20 reporting year, the Chiefs presented a proposal to the Premier, the Hon Steven Marshall MP, regarding a project to advance gender equity in South Australian SMEs. The project aimed to fill a gap in accessible resources available to SMEs on workplace issues related to gender equality,20 and proposed to proceed in two stages.
Phase 1 of the project proposed to understand the challenges, via consultation, facing SMEs in improving gender equality within their businesses, with Phase 2 involving the development of resources to support in achieving this. The Department of the Premier and Cabinet funded Phase 1 of the project to the value of $25,000.
With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and the inability of industry to participate in consultation in the early stages, the project was pivoted to begin with resource development. Draft resources on key topics were provided to industry stakeholders for feedback. Eight resources covering the following topics were produced and are now publically available:
- Business case for gender equality
- Assessing workforce equality
- Recruitment strategies
- Workplace flexibility
- Parent and carer supports
- Improving workplace culture
- Workplace sexual harassment
- Family and domestic violence
These resources were distributed to industry associations, the Small Business Commissioner and the Office for Women, and promoted through print media and social media posts on the Chiefs for Gender Equity pages. The full funding for the project was utilised in the 2019-20 FY.
Engagement with state government MPs
Two key Members of the South Australian Government attended Chiefs for Gender Equity meetings in 2019-20. The Hon Steven Marshall MP attended the 6 August 2019 meeting and was presented with case studies from Eldercare and Badge Group about workplace initiatives aimed at advancing gender equity. Intersections between the objectives of State Government and Chiefs for Gender Equity were discussed, with a particular focus on the importance of gender equity for SA to effectively transition to a STEM-focussed economy. The SME project (see above) was also discussed.
At this meeting it was agreed that the Commission would prepare a briefing for the Premier on policy reform to address the gender superannuation gap for South Australian women.21 This briefing was provided on 4 February and outlined a number of key recommendations, including that detailed analysis be undertaken from a macroeconomic perspective by the relevant agency. It was noted that the issue and potential reforms could be raised at Council of Australian Governments for further consideration.
The Hon Michelle Lensink MLC attended the Chiefs for Gender Equity 2 June 2020 meeting, and was presented with case studies of gender equity initiatives from BHP, Badge Group and WSP. Minister Lensink was provided with an update on the progress of the SME project. Intersections between the objectives of the Department for Human Services and Chiefs for Gender Equity were discussed, including a request for information from the Minister about State Government responses to the recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Respect@Work report on sexual harassment in the workplace.
Media and social media engagement
The Chiefs are regularly approached by media for comment on a range of topics related to gender equality. Throughout 2019-20, the Chiefs for Gender Equity were featured or mentioned in 29 media stories (representing a 66% increase from 19 pieces in 2018-19). Features included six opinion pieces by various Chiefs in South Australian and national publications, two feature articles in SA Life, one television story, and two pieces of national coverage, as well as various radio interviews. Additionally, seven of the Chiefs were speakers in eight public speaking or webinar events relating to gender equity issues.
The Chiefs for Gender Equity Facebook page has 1,157 followers (up from 1,049 in 2018-19) with 1,120 page likes, and the Chiefs for Gender Equity LinkedIn page has 343 followers (up from 305 in 2018-19). In late 2019-20 the Chiefs for Gender Equity established a Social Media Guideline for internal use to harmonise approaches amongst Chiefs and Chiefs for Gender Equity media with the intention of engaging with a wider audience in 2020-21.
4.3.2. Workplace Equality and Respect (WER) Project
The Commission has been funded by Senior Management Council (the CEs of every State Government department) to deliver the whole-of-government Workplace Equality and Respect (WER) Project over three years.
Commencing in January 2018, the project aims to strengthen gender equality and promote safe and respectful workplace cultures across the SA public sector. It contributes to the State Government’s efforts to prevent violence against women by addressing, through the workplace, the underlying drivers or causes of gendered violence.
The project’s focus encompasses workplace sexual harassment and sexual assault, as well as improved workplace responses to employees experiencing domestic and family violence and employees who might be concerned about their use of violence.
The project builds upon the initial White Ribbon Workplace Accreditation Project, led by the Commission from 2015 - 2017, through which 19 State Government agencies achieved White Ribbon Workplace Accreditation.
In 2019-20, each of the 24 State Government agencies participating in the WER Project has implemented an agency-specific Gender Equality and Respect Action Plan that aligns with Our Watch’s best practice Workplace Equality and Respect Standards.
All agencies participating in the WER Project will also seek reaccreditation as White Ribbon workplaces in late 2020 or early 2021.
As well as ongoing project governance and coordination, the Commission provides regular advice to participating agencies on leading practice approaches to workplace gender equality and prevention of violence against women.
Additionally, the Commission is progressing projects to promote gender equality and prevent violence against women at a whole-of-government level, including:
- Undertaking a systematic examination of what State Government agencies currently have in place to respond to employees who use domestic and family violence and issues for agencies in responding. The Commission has produced a report with recommendations for future work to build the public sector’s capacity to recognise and respond to employees who use domestic and family violence.
- The SA Public Sector gender equality data standards project: The Commission and the Office of the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment are progressing a project to improve SA public sector gender equality data capability in line with national benchmarks.
The WER Project positions the State Government as a national leader in workplace prevention of violence against women.
4.3.3. Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harassment in South Australia Police
The Commission was invited by South Australia Police (SAPOL) to conduct an Independent Review into the nature and extent of sex discrimination and sexual harassment, including predatory behaviour, within SAPOL (the ‘Independent Review’). The final report was released in December 2016 and included 38 recommendations to combat sex discrimination, sexual harassment and predatory behaviour and improve the safety and wellbeing of SAPOL staff.
Six key areas covered in the recommendations included:
- Workforce management
- Training and development
- Flexible workplace cultures
- Dispute resolution and complaints
- Wellbeing and support services.
All recommendations were accepted for implementation by SAPOL. The Commission was subsequently engaged to independently monitor and report on SAPOL’s progress in implementing these, and to evaluate whether a change in culture is being achieved.
Funded by SAPOL, the Commission’s SAPOL Monitoring Project commenced in May 2017 and concluded in February 2020. The Commission completed four progress reports for SAPOL over the course of the project:
- Report 1 (delivered January 2018) focused on the extent to which SAPOL had set a foundation for positive cultural change and noted seven areas for improvement on the issues of change management, change leadership and immediate actions for cultural change.
- Report 2 (delivered September 2018) focused on an assessment of the policies, processes and systems that contribute to the desired culture and noted six areas for improvement for flexible working options for specialist roles, gender equality reporting, target setting and employee exit management processes.
- Report 3 (delivered May 2019) focused on an assessment of SAPOL’s supervisors’ and managers’ capacity and willingness to support cultural change, and the capacity of the Diversity and Inclusion Branch to fulfil its purpose and objectives. Seven areas for improvement were noted.
- Report 4 (final – delivered February 2020) focused on evidence of change in perceptions, experiences and practices that support a sustainable culture of gender equality. The Commission found that since 2016 SAPOL has achieved important progress in initiating cultural change. The final report provides key advice to SAPOL about how to continue its change momentum, addressing the key challenges and barriers to equality within its workforce.
All reports can be viewed by the public on the Commission’s website.
4.3.4. Strengthening Responses to Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at the University of Adelaide
In 2017 the Commission was engaged by the University of Adelaide (the University) to undertake an audit of its systems and structures that prevent and respond to incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault experienced by students. The Commission’s resultant Audit Report found the University had the fundamental infrastructure to prevent and respond
to these behaviours. Forty two recommendations were made to strengthen efforts to eliminate sexual harassment and sexual assault and the sociocultural drivers that enable them.
The University subsequently established the Respect. Now. Always. Taskforce (the Taskforce) to align the 42 Audit Report recommendations to form a single University-wide Action Plan. The Taskforce endorsed a two-year review of progress against the Action Plan.
In 2019 the Commission was engaged by the University to undertake an independent two- year audit on progress made towards implementing the Commission’s recommendations across the University community. The 2019 Progress Audit was underpinned by a program logic model that determined that some recommendations would require cultural change and therefore more than two years to implement.
The Progress Audit reviewed evidence under the following broad topic areas:
* University community development
* policies, processes and procedures
* information and communication technology
* communications and engagement
* further investigation.
The Progress Audit was delivered in November 2019. The Commission found that the University was on track to deliver policy, process and systems changes to implement all 42 recommendations. Ongoing implementation of the recommendations is required to enable the University to evolve to a culture where gender diversity, inclusivity and sexual respect ensure a safe and equitable learning environment for all.
13 A complaint to the Commission may be on the basis of more than one ground covered by the Act, for example discrimination on the basis of gender and race.
14 Of those complaints referred to the Tribunal, 42% were referred following an unsuccessful conciliation attempt and the rest were referred without attempting conciliation.
15 As the first event of its kind in Adelaide, in-person engagement is considered necessary to ensure optimal attendance, engagement and success of the event.
16 As a result of increasing requests for training on the prevention and management of sexual harassment complaints in 2019 -2020, this additional program has been added to the scope of the TRP.
17 The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are part of a series of web accessibility guidelines published by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium, the main international standards organisation for the Internet. They are a set of recommendations for making Web content more accessible, primarily for people with disabilities—but also for all user agents, including highly limited devices, such as mobile phones. WCAG 2.0, was published in December 2008 and became an ISO standard, ISO/IEC 40500:2012 in October 2012. WCAG 2.1 became a W3C Recommendation in June 2018.
18 This is the first time the Commission has reported on data for the number of users reached through its Facebook page.
19 In line with timeframes for the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
20 The Chiefs identified that existing resources available to business on the topic of gender equality were often inaccessible to SMEs, in terms of complexity and applicability of content and resources required for the implementation of ideas. Existing resources were therefore of limited in impact in South Australia, where SMEs constitute the vast majority of all businesses and are a major employer..