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Equal opportunity
getting a fair go

Equal opportunity is more than just a cool idea - it's the law! It's about ensuring that everyone in the workplace gets a fair go and is not discriminated against. Discrimination is when someone is not treated as fairly as someone else in a similar situation.

If you have what it takes to do the job, your employer has to give you the opportunity to show your worth, regardless of your:

  • sexual preference
  • religion
  • political opinion
  • race

And regardless of whether:

  • you are a man or a woman
  • you have a physical or intellectual disability
  • you are a new migrant or from a migrant background
  • you are young or old
  • you are married or single

Equal training opportunities
You should receive the same opportunity to attend training sessions as everyone else who does the same job as you.

Equal chance of getting a promotion

You should have the same chance of getting a promotion as everyone else who has the same qualifications and experience.

Same skills + same qualifications + same work = equal pay
Everyone with the same skills, who does the same work, or work of equal value has the right to receive the same pay.

Enjoy the same conditions of employment
Your conditions of employment are the terms under which you agree to work and include your wage or salary amount, number of working hours and the times in which you work. You can have conditions of employment that are different to your workmates, as long as the reason for the difference is not discriminatory.

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) was established in 1986. It was set up to look into actions which are discriminatory.

There are a number of federal laws that force employers give everyone a fair go. These laws include:

The HREOC is responsible for making sure employers follow these laws. Their other responsibilities include:

  • educating people about equal opportunity and human rights;
  • handling discrimination and human rights complaints from people;
  • helping make laws related to equal opportunity and human rights.

Say you applied for a job or asked the boss for a promotion and you were refused simply because of your race. If you think you have enough skills and qualifications and experience for the job you would have every right to appeal against that decision. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission is where you would lodge your appeal for you.

Affirmative action
Affirmative action is positive action taken in the workplace to promote equal opportunity.

Affirmative action involves:

  • identifying and removing all of the barriers confronting women in employment;
  • putting in place programs and strategies that ensure women and men have the ability to compete on equal terms for jobs and promotions;
  • encouraging women to enter jobs traditionally seen as unsuitable for them; and
  • promoting equal access to higher wages and increased prospects of job advancement.

In 1986 the Affirmative Action Act was passed to make sure women don’t get a raw deal when it comes to employment opportunities and promotions. The Act requires private sector companies, community organisations and a number of other organisations such as trade unions, with 100 or more employees to establish an affirmative action program.

At the same time the Affirmative Action Agency was established to administer the Act.  In 1999 the Act was amended to become the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act (1999) and the name of the Agency was also changed to the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency. 

Fact Sheet Article No:10

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When Deborah Wardley applied to become a commercial airline pilot for Ansett Australia in 1979, she was knocked back because the airline refused to employ women pilots. A comment from a letter written by the General Manager of Ansett to the secretary of the Women's Electoral Lobby shows just how bad the company's opinion of women was at the time.

"Ansett has adopted a policy of only employing men as pilots. This does not mean that women cannot be good pilots, but we are concerned with the provision of the safest and most efficient air service possible. In this regard, we feel that an all-male pilot crew is safer than one in which the sexes are mixed."

The Victorian Equal Opportunity Board said Ansett's refusal was illegal and ruled that Deborah be judged on her merits, not on her gender. She won the right to her dream job!

Worksite Links
Sexual harassment fact sheet

Equal pay fact sheet

Women in the Workforce

External Links
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity commission

Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency