Gender equality legislation is great news for Victoria
The Gender Equality Bill being introduced to Parliament today promises better opportunities for women in the public sector and fairer, more equitable workplaces.
“We welcome the Bill and the intention behind it to ensure measurable action on gender equality across the public sector,” says Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton. “Legislation like this is more than just symbolic; with commitment from government and leaders across the public sector, it can provoke real, sustainable change and create a public service that is fairer and more inclusive for all employees.”
Through its independent review of Victoria Police, the Commission has seen first-hand how transformative change is possible in even the most complex public authorities. “Our work with Victoria Police shows what can be achieved when organisations place gender equality front and centre and invest in changing the structures, systems and rules – written and unwritten – that prevent women from achieving their full potential,” says Commissioner Hilton.
“The substantial progress towards gender equality that Victoria Police has made over the last five years should serve as a challenge for other public sector organisations. What kind of workplace do you want to create for the next generation of women in the public service?”
Covering around 300 organisations within the public sector, including universities and local councils, the Gender Equality Bill will require public sector agencies to report publicly on a range of key gender equality indicators, including equal pay, rates of sexual harassment and their practices for managing career progression. To guide their approach, public sector agencies will need to prepare a gender equality action plan and undertake periodic gender impact assessments.
Scrutiny will be critical to the gender equality legislation’s long-term success, says Commissioner Hilton. “The success of our independent review of Victoria Police relied on their willingness to be scrutinised by the Commission in our role as the state's independent regulator for equal opportunity and human rights,” says Commissioner Hilton. “That example has shown us that close monitoring is a critical element in driving real action. It has also shown us the support and education that many organisations will need and want to become more inclusive.”
Through the course of the independent review of Victoria Police, the Commission developed a detailed outcome monitoring framework that will help Victoria Police to continue its progress towards achieving gender equality by 2030. The framework maps 10 domains that organisations must focus on to drive cultural change and create more respectful workplaces.
“In part, achieving gender equality is about ensuring that employers and organisations are preventing discrimination,” says Commissioner Hilton. “It’s important to remember that, every day, we still hear stories from individuals about their harmful experiences of discrimination and harassment. The reason they pick up the phone to the Commission is because they want the harassment or discrimination to stop now – and every Victorian deserves that.”