Stephen Dawson: Flaws in Equal Opportunity laws are “scandalous”

Stephen Dawson, Western Australia’s Minister for Minister for Emergency Services; Innovation and the Digital Economy; Medical Research and Volunteering says it’s “scandalous” that the state’s Equal Opportunity laws allow teachers to be sacked over their sexuality, and school students to be expelled.

The Minister was a keynote speaker at the Crown Pride Luncheon on Friday where he shared his personal journey of coming out, finding community, and entering politics. Minister Dawson also shared his marriage journey which saw him marry husband Dennis Liddelow on three separate occasions.

During a Q&A session following his speech, host Matt Tiney asked if the reform to the state’s Equal Opportunity laws would progress before the next state election. The Minister said he was frustrated by the slow progress of the development of legislation.

“I would like to see us have these laws passed through parliament.” Dawson said noting that the proposed legislative updates were currently being drafted.

Asked specifically about the lack of protections for teachers and school students, the Minister said there was a lot about the current laws that needed to be addressed.

“It is frankly scandalous that people can be sacked because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Stephen Dawson said.

The State’s Attorney General, John Quigley, has recently given a long list of reasons why the legislation has not been updated. Most recently a spokesperson for the minister flagged that the new laws may not be able to proceed until after an update of federal laws was undertaken by the Albanese government, a claim that has been called out by rights advocates and equal opportunity experts.

Crown’s Pride Luncheon, now in its fifth year, sees community organisations and businesses coming together to hear stories from members of the LGBTIQA+ communities. On Friday hundreds of guests heard from Stephen Dawson, World Pride CEO Kate Wickett, local Indigenous identity Ingrid Cumming, former football coach Danielle Laidley, and Pride WA CEO Lauren Butterly.

Participants could put their questions to the Minister via an online app, and the lack of progress on the Equal Opportunity laws, unfulfilled promised to ban conversion therapy, abandoned updated to surrogacy laws, and the failure to abolish the Gender Reassignment Board were at the top of the list of thing people wanted answers about.

“When will WA Labor pass the long-awaited Equal Opportunity and other key reforms through parliament? (given they’ve already been drafted)”, one participant asked. “What can the average person do to support ending conversion therapy practices in Australia.” asked another.

“How are the changes to the surrogacy laws going? It was a promise by the McGowan Government and want to know it is still going through now that Mark has resigned.” asked another. “People in the LGBTIQA+ communities are frustrated that Equal Opportunity Law reform keeps getting pushed back – do you share this frustration?” was another question submitted to the Q&A session.

Graeme Watson 

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