Premium Content:

14,221 days and counting of lawful discrimination under the WA Equal Opportunity Act

Sleight of hand is the magician’s friend: look at what I say, not at my actions. 

For the 14,221 days the WA Equal Opportunity Act (1984) has been in operation successive governments, including the current one elected in March 2017, have overseen the lawful choice by religious institutions to discriminate against divorced people, women, single parents, LGBTIQ people and others.

- Advertisement -

This sanctions denial of service or employment, expulsion from school, and other actions; effectively the denigration of people’s humanity. 

Some new funding has been given to three groups to advocate for and support people who may well be victims of these exemptions to discriminate. The repeal of which the government has chosen not to enact this term. Their hands are tied behind their back.

Actions instead of words: a timeline

July 1985. Equal Opportunity Act WA 1984 became operational

March 2017. Current WA State Government elected.

2019. WA Attorney General John Quigley asked the Law Reform Commission WA (LRCWA) to provide advice and recommendations to the government on possible amendments to enhance and update the Equal Opportunity Act.

16 April 2022. LRCWA Report 111 tabled in WA parliament.

August 2022. WA government media statement: “The Government has broadly accepted the recommendations” of the LRCWA Report, “these changes will be a significant reform in promoting equality in Western Australians and will bring the State in line with the rest of the country”.

December 2022. WA government statement: “The McGowan Labor Government will move to criminalise practices that seek to change or suppress an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity”

April 2024. WA government media statement: “The State Government remains 100 per cent committed to new equal opportunity legislation” “Policy and drafting work is continuing to develop a new Equal Opportunity Act and to ban conversion practices”. “This includes engaging closely with stakeholders and monitoring the progress of proposed Commonwealth Government reforms, ahead of introducing legislation in 2025 under a re-elected Cook Labor Government.”

8 March 2025. WA electoral commission website: The next State General Election in Western Australia scheduled.

Where to now?

Other States have moved ahead of WA with related reforms, irrespective of the federal government’s lack of reform of discrimination against LGBTIQ people.

Our recent request to meet with WA government ministers resulted in a hand-balling of correspondence between Ministers. 

There was not one word of acknowledgement that our concern about discrimination in our detailed letter was read, recognised or validated. Not a single word; only a, dismissive phrase that the responsible minister was “unable to meet”.

It is unconscionable to denigrate and assign people to ‘second class status’ in Australia for their basic humanity. It is unconscionable that legislation continues to exist that makes this lawful. 

Australia has form here, since Captain James Cook landed in 1770.

There are few specifics in the open ended government statements of reform. In behavioural terms, past behaviour is usually a good predictor of future behaviour. That’s troubling, to say the least. 

Questions of trust? There is no valid reason for this government to resile from a duty of care towards Western Australians and to put “freedom from the harmful exemptions in this legislation” on hold.

My partner and I will face the need for aged care services soon enough. Religious providers dominate this provider arena. 

Exemptions to discriminate against us are alive and well there. After careers in public service we are not about to accept being demeaned in our later years. 

It is well past time for the WA government to show leadership and move swiftly on ‘enacting’ reform before the election. Only action would evidence policy commitment.

The very existence of this Law models that it’s OK to harm us. We are seeing a considerable surge of derogatory behaviour towards LGBTIQ people from some politicians, political candidates and some organisations and also book bans in Australia at present, not to mention what is happening in other countries.

Silence, subservience and compromise in the face of discrimination is not an option. When we look in the mirror, who are we, who do we want to be? It will be approximately 14,600 days when the election occurs, then … what?

Yvonne Patterson
B.Sc. Psych (Hon); M. Psych (Clinical); M.B.A.

Paula Nathan AO
BA; Dip. P.Ed; B. Psych; MPsych (Clinical)

Yvonne Patterson and her partner Paula Nathan AO live in Perth. They have been a couple for over 40 years, and wed in 2018.

Yvonne retired after a career in Clinical Psychology and human services policy, while Paula was a respected academic from the University of WA and Clinical Psychologist, and the Founding Director of the Centre for Clinical Interventions

Latest

Actor Shannen Doherty, star of ‘Charmed’ and ‘Beverly Hills 90210’ dies aged 53

The actor had battled cancer for many years and publicly shared her struggle.

Fresh Tracks | The latest tunes worth checking out

New music featuring Kylie Minogue, Bebe Rexha, Tove Lo, Orville Peck and Beck, and many more.

On This Gay Day: Marriage equality was passed in England

Britain's parliament passes laws allowing same-sex marriage on this day in 2013.

Christian lobbyist Wendy Francis announces her retirement

The ACL staffer has been a vocal opponent to drag queens, marriage equality and conversion therapy bans.

Newsletter

Don't miss

Actor Shannen Doherty, star of ‘Charmed’ and ‘Beverly Hills 90210’ dies aged 53

The actor had battled cancer for many years and publicly shared her struggle.

Fresh Tracks | The latest tunes worth checking out

New music featuring Kylie Minogue, Bebe Rexha, Tove Lo, Orville Peck and Beck, and many more.

On This Gay Day: Marriage equality was passed in England

Britain's parliament passes laws allowing same-sex marriage on this day in 2013.

Christian lobbyist Wendy Francis announces her retirement

The ACL staffer has been a vocal opponent to drag queens, marriage equality and conversion therapy bans.

Fitness guru Richard Simmons dead at 76

His death comes just a day after he celebrated his birthday.

Actor Shannen Doherty, star of ‘Charmed’ and ‘Beverly Hills 90210’ dies aged 53

The actor had battled cancer for many years and publicly shared her struggle.

Fresh Tracks | The latest tunes worth checking out

New music featuring Kylie Minogue, Bebe Rexha, Tove Lo, Orville Peck and Beck, and many more.

On This Gay Day: Marriage equality was passed in England

Britain's parliament passes laws allowing same-sex marriage on this day in 2013.