“A roadmap to gold-standard protections”: LGBTIQA+ groups welcome anti-discrimination commitment
16 August 2022 – National and Western Australian LGBTIQA+ groups have today welcomed the announcement by Western Australian Attorney General, John Quigley, that the government will amend the state’s Equal Opportunity Act, including to better protect LGBTIQA+ students and staff in religious schools.
The commitment follows the tabling of the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia’s final report into the state’s anti-discrimination laws, commissioned in 2019.
“Regardless of where they live in Australia, every person deserves to live with dignity and respect, no matter who they are, whom they love or the sex characteristics they were born with”, said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.
“Today the Law Reform Commission has delivered the Parliament of Western Australia a roadmap to ensure LGBTIQA+ West Australians are protected equally, by gold-standard anti-discrimination laws.
“We welcome the government’s statement that they accept the recommendations, and their commitment to implementing several of the recommendations, including acting to protect LGBTIQA+ students and staff from discrimination in religious schools and ensuring protections are extended to all trans and gender diverse people, as well as people born with variations of sex characteristics.”
The Law Reform Commission’s report adopts key recommendations from Equality Australia’s submission, endorsed by 14 WA-based and national LGBTIQA+ groups. They include:
- Ensuring all LGBTIQA+ people are protected from discrimination by including new inclusive attributes of ‘sexual orientation’, ‘gender identity’ and ‘sex characteristics’.
- Ensuring religious schools and organisations play by the same rules, by narrowing carve-outs which currently allow discrimination against LGBTIQA+ staff, students and service users in religious schools and organisations.
- Modernising the overall discrimination framework to make it accessible, responsive and prevent discrimination before it occurs. Among the recommendations are simpler definitions of discrimination, shifting the onus to a respondent once a prima facie case of discrimination is made out, introducing vilification protections, and introducing positive duties to prevent discrimination.
Misty Farquhar, Convener of Rainbow Futures WA, welcomed the government’s announcement, saying:
“It is encouraging to see the McGowan government committing to plug the many gaps in protection for LGBTIQA+ people in Western Australia. Hopefully this will be the beginning of government action to address the unfinished business of ensuring equality for our communities.
“The government must now seize this opportunity to put WA back on the map as a state that respects the dignity and equality of all.
“We thank the Attorney General for his leadership and look forward to working with his office to ensure that the legislation responds to the needs of WA’s diverse LGBTIQA+ community and other groups impacted by discrimination and vilification.”
The Attorney General has also committed to amend the Equal Opportunity Act to provide anti-discrimination protections for all trans, gender-diverse or non-binary people, regardless of whether they have updated their gender markers on official documentation.
Hunter Gurevich, Chair of TransFolkWA, welcomed the commitment, calling on the government to act separately to make it easier for trans and gender diverse Western Australians to access ID documents that reflect their gender.
“The trans and gender diverse community of Western Australia has waited over four years for our government to amend gender recognition laws, so that we can be recognised as who we are in a similar way to trans folk in almost every other state and territory.
“We are delighted with these commitments, and urge the government to immediately remove the cruel and unnecessary barriers that trans and gender diverse people in West Australian face in updating our birth certificates to reflect who we are”
Michelle McGrath, Western Australian intersex advocate welcomed the new discrimination protections for intersex people1 proposed by the WA Law Reform Commission.
“With the ACT and Victoria now committed to reforms protecting intersex people from harmful practices, I hope the WA Government will go further and ensure intersex people are also protected from unnecessary surgical and hormonal medical interventions that modify sex characteristics without their personal informed consent, unless necessary to avoid serious, urgent and irreparable harm to the concern person.
“It is disappointing and concerning that the Law Reform Commission proposes recommendations that discriminate in sport against intersex people aged over 12 years based on their sex characteristics. Several other states and territories do not allow discrimination against intersex people in sport, and WA should follow the same path.”
Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown added that the government must ensure all vulnerable groups are protected in the final legislation.
“We look forward to working with the McGowan government on the detail of the reform to ensure that the recommendations are implemented and more recent developments in other states and territories to protect other vulnerable groups are reflected in the final legislation.”
For media inquiries, contact Matthew Phillips, on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0408 541 717
1 Intersex people are born with variations of sex characteristics that don’t fit medical and social norms for female or male bodies, and that create risks or experiences of stigma, discrimination and harm.
Sex characteristics are physical features relating to sex, including chromosomes, genitals, gonads, hormones, and other reproductive anatomy, and secondary features that emerge from puberty.