Full description Background
In 1975 a Community Services Centre was opened by the Premier with an aim to create greater understanding between all members of society and to create equal opportunities for all. In particular, it was intended to provide information on the activities of government departments and instrumentalities, and also to provide a place for the public to put their problems to trained officers. Located within the Premier's Department (VA 2717), the Centre included several bureaux which carried out functions which later developed within the Premier's portfolio. The Anti-Discrimination Bureau pre-empted the introduction of the Equal Opportunity Act 1977 (No.9025).
The Equal Opportunity Act 1977 made it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of sex (including sexual harassment) or marital status in certain areas. The Office of the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity (VA 1830) and the Equal Opportunity Board (VA 1417) were established under the provisions of the Equal Opportunity Act 1977 (No.9025).
The Commissioner dealt with complaints under the Equal Opportunity Act through the process of negotiation and conciliation and referred unresolved complaints to the Equal Opportunity Board. The Commissioner of Equal Opportunity was required to investigate:
- complaints lodged with the Registrar of the Equal Opportunity Board
- matters referred by the Board.
The Commissioner's role was investigative, conciliatory, and negotiation-oriented. Outside the metropolitan area complaints could be lodged with the clerk of a Magistrates Court.
The Equal Opportunity Board acted as a tribunal to hear and determine unconciliated complaints and heard applications for exemptions from the provisions of the Equal Opportunity Act. The Board's function is adjudicative. The Board's proceedings were subject to appeal to the Supreme Court by way of re-hearing.
From 1977 to 1983 the function encompassed:
receipt, investigation, conciliation, negotiation and adjudication of complaints of discrimination on the grounds of sex (including sexual harassment) and marital status in the areas of employment, education, accommodation and the provision of goods and services, under the provisions of the Equal Opportunity Act 1977 (No.9025).
From 1983 the function extended to include complaints received under the federal Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and the Human Rights Commission Act 1981, under a co-operative agreement between Victoria and the Commonwealth.
The Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (No.10095) extended the grounds of unlawful discrimination to include race, impairment, political or religious beliefs and extended the areas to which the Act applied to include clubs which receive Government funding or which use Crown land.
Until 1984 complaints of discrimination on the grounds of race could be heard and conciliation undertaken as part of the ethnic affairs function. However, there was no legal sanction until proclamation of the 1984 Act.
The Attorney General assumed responsibility for the hearing of racial discrimination complaints from the Minister for Ethnic Affairs (VRG 76) in 1984 and for the Equal Opportunity Commission from the Premier (VRG 50) in 1985.
The position of Commissioner was abolished under the 1993 Amendment Act and replaced with a position known as Chief Conciliator. As at May 2001 the Commission comprises a Chairperson and four other members, one of whom is the full time Chief Conciliator.
Resolves discrimination complaints lodged under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984. The Commission also receives complaints lodged under the federal Racial Discrimination Act 1975,, Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. However all complaints made under federal law in Victoria are finalised by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission based in Sydney
Provides information about equal opportunity rights and responsibilities
Provides training and education programs and campaigns about equal opportunity, discrimination and harassment issues
Conducts research and provides advice on legal and policy issues related to discrimination and human rights.
The Commission is a statutory authority that reports to Parliament via the Attorney-General.
Under the provisions of the Equal Opportunity Act 1995, the name of the Equal Opportunity Board was changed to the Anti Discrimination Tribunal although its role and operations remained unchanged. From the establishment of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, Anti-Discrimination hearings have been dealt with by the Anti-Discrimination List which is part of the Civil Division of the Tribunal.