WA’s Equal Opportunity Act review an opportunity to protect LGBTQ+ students

The Western Australian Law Reform Commission has finally released its Discussion Paper which reviews the state’s Equal Opportunity Act (1984).

WA Attorney General John Quigley has announced that the government will commence a review of the state’s Equal Opportunity laws back in 2018, including those which allow schools to expel students and fire teachers who are gay, bisexual or transgender.

“Experience and statistics suggest that more could be done to protect and encourage the equal treatment which we expect, and to which we are entitled as members of the Western Australian community,” the Commission published in the paper’s foreword.

“It is reasonable to think that the Act could be changed and improved to help ensure that Western Australia continues to be a fair, respectful and non-discriminatory community.”

WA spokesperson for just.equal Australia Brian Greig, who had been active in the push for a review, said WA has the second-worst anti-discrimination Act in Australia after New South Wales.

“This review has taken more than three years and the report is in excess of 200 pages. It will take a little time to digest but it is now open for public comment,” Grieg said.

“This is our opportunity to demand updates and improvements to the Equal Opportunity Act, especially around gender identity, sex characteristics, removing special religious exemptions and introducing anti-vilification protections.

Advocates at just.equal says the review process is an opportunity for WA not just to catch up with most other states, but surpass them.

“It is not acceptable that in 2021, LGBT students and teachers in WA can be expelled and sacked; that people who are transgender and gender diverse cannot access discrimination protections unless they undertake medical intervention, and that there are no laws to protect our community from harmful speech and vilification,” Greig continued.

“It has been 20 years since there has been any substantial LGBTI law reform. The ‘McGinty’ law reforms of 2002 saw WA leap-frog many other states with great reforms, but since then we have fallen well behind.”

“It’s time to push the McGowan Government for change and to reboot the Act in 2022.”

Public submissions close on 29 October.

OIP Staff

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