Wednesday, 07 October 2015

Annual report – the Commission’s year in review

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission's Annual Report for 2014/15 was tabled in Parliament today, and offers a comprehensive rundown of the work the Commission has been involved in over the year.

We received 9175 enquiries, raising 13,877 issues and accepted 1060 complaints during 2014/15. This is an indication that discrimination continues to blight the lives of many Victorians and that there is still much work to do. We are fortunate to work with many people in our community to confront the challenge and we thank everyone for their ongoing support.

Once again, disability was the highest area of enquiry, followed by race, sex, sexual harassment, age, employment activity, carer status and parental status.

Looking back over the year a major piece of work we undertook exposed – and devised measures to overcome – the harmful discrimination that has obstructed people with disabilities when they seek to report crime. The result of this work was the research report Beyond Doubt, which made 16 recommendations, including developing an Easy English guide for people with disability to ensure they better understand how to report a crime.

Commission staff are also engaged in a complex and detailed review of sexual harassment and sex discrimination within Victoria Police. This is the largest project of its type ever undertaken by the Commission and, when complete, is likely to create a model for interstate police services and new insight for all large organisations.

The Commission, in partnership with Victoria Police, the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and community groups, launched the Report Racism project in northern Melbourne and Shepparton after our research found that, while racism is a daily occurrence in the lives of members of the Aboriginal community, few report it. It is the first venture of its type ever introduced in Australia.

Elsewhere, we produced another Australian first – a detailed guideline for sports clubs aimed to ensure transgender people can take part in sporting activities. This met a need not only for transgender people; it also responded to requests from sporting organisations who are keen to be inclusive and who know that they stand to benefit from broader participation.

Tapping into growing community momentum for change in the area of gender equality, the Commission proposed and inaugurated the Victorian Male Champions of Change. Founding members of this group include prominent men, leaders in business, education, government and other fields, who are committed to advancing the role of women in the workplace and who know that advancing human rights and equal opportunity is everyone’s business.

We also provided a submission to the eight-year review of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, which included 27 recommendations aimed at enhancing the development of a human rights culture in Victoria. The recommendations seek to improve the effectiveness of the Charter, and relate not only to the functions of the Commission but also the roles of other entities such as courts, tribunals, the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee and other public authorities.

That is just a snapshot of the work the Commission has been undertaking. For greater detail on those pieces of work, and many others, you can download the annual report.