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Sex discrimination in the workplace: education and awareness protecting and promoting rights and responsibilities.

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9 March 1999






- Education and awareness protecting and promoting rights and responsibilities -



I am pleased to launch today a collection of educ ative case studies that were conciliated by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 .


Titled Harsh Realities , the case studies tell the stories of women who have experienced sexual discrimination and harassment while in a wide range of work places such as factories, grocery stores, small clubs, and fruit shops.


The collection aims to direct attention towards commonly-made complaints received by the Commission and inform people of the kinds of experiences that many women face daily.


Until now, only complaints that go to hearing have been published.


As a result, many people would not be aware of levels of discrimination and harassment that still happen in a range of Australian workplaces.


The Harsh Realities case studies are a reminder that discrimination and harassment still occur in a variety of work situations.


The studies are a reminder that we all must work to defeat discrimination and harassment.


This work is yet another initiative to raise awareness and educate people about human rights and responsibilities and it comes at a time when complaints to the Commission have decreased.


The number of complaints received decreased from 2,249 in 1996-97 to 1,522 in 1997-98 - a reduction of 32 percent. Decreases occurred in the following areas:


* complaints under the Racial Discrimination Act fell by 37 per cent,

* complaints under the Sex Discrimination Act fell by 37 per cent,

* complaints under the Disability Discrimination Act fell by 14 per cent, and

* complaints under the HREOC Act fell by 54 per cent.


With improved knowledge and education in the community about human rights and discrimination laws, a continuing decline in complaints can be expected.


I encourage Australian employers to develop and implement effective workplace harassment and discrimination policies, service charters and internal complaint handling mechanisms.


I congratulate the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Halliday, and her team for their diligence in helping people to understand their rights and responsibilities under the Sex Discrimination Act.



Media contact:  Nicholas Harford (02) 6277 7300