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Profession calls for passage of new equal opportunity laws

Profession calls for passage of new equal opportunity laws

The Victorian legal profession has urged state ministers to support the passage of new equal opportunity legislation in state Parliament.

THE Victorian legal profession has urged state ministers to support the passage of new equal opportunity legislation in state Parliament.

The Equal Opportunity Bill currently before Parliament would bring equal opportunity legislation in line with evolving community attitudes and values and the Charter of Human Rights, Law Institute of Victoria CEO Michael Brett Young said.

Under the proposed new laws, the focus of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission’s complaints handling function would include more effective dispute resolution, the LIV said in a submission on the Bill.

The LIV said it supported, among other things, giving parties an opportunity to assess whether they foresee settlement at the Commission a viable and realistic outcome for their matters.

The LIV said, however that it is disappointed that the Government is seeking to remove proposed protections for volunteers from the Bill.

"Volunteers are protected under similar legislation in other parts of Australia and should not be treated differently to other employees," Brett Young said.

The Victorian professional body welcomed the Bill giving the Commission broader investigation and enforcement powers to address serious discrimination affecting organisations as a whole, and not just individuals.

"This Bill is an important step to address discrimination which can have devastating economic and health effects not just on individuals but on entire workplaces," Brett Young said.

"Discrimination can lead to extended sick leave, reduced productivity, depression and mental health issues," he said.

The new system of investigation will no longer require vulnerable individuals to bring a complaint, but will enable the Commission to work constructively with organisations to assist them in promoting equality.

In its submission, the LIV said that it is important to balance the right to freedom of religious belief with the right to equality, and religious organisations including schools should have to show that that discrimination is necessary to fulfil the inherent requirements of the job.

"Anti-discrimination legislation was first introduced in Victoria in 1977 and this Bill is an important step in updating the law to promote equality," Brett Young said.


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