Human Rights Commission ACT inquiries increase

JANUARY 9 2017 – 12:15AM

Emily Baker

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A gay man is told by his doctor he should “consider changing his ways” to avoid disease.

The neighbour of an Aboriginal woman seems to take her photo without her consent and leaves offensive notes on the windscreen of her car.

The same sex marriage debate has contributed to an increase in human rights inquiries.

A woman’s supervisor implies she is mentally unwell and makes her take leave, leaving her feeling pressured to resign from her job.

These are just some of the examples of the increased number of inquiries the ACT Human Rights Commission received during the last financial year.

The body dealt with 345 discrimination inquiries in 2015-16, up from 191 the year before. Human rights inquiries rose from 53 to 214.

Discrimination, Health Services, Disability and Community Services Commissioner Karen Toohey attributed the increase in queries to a growing awareness of discrimination and human rights issues.

The bulk of inquiries related to disability discrimination, she said, followed by race, sex and gender and age inquiries, most often relating services and employment.

Human rights issues often linked with hot-button topics in the media, such as the Mr Fluffy program, detainee rights and family violence. The commission also received inquiries outside its jurisdiction, including on refugees, asylum seekers and same-sex marriage.

Not all inquiries resulted in complaints, though complaint allegations increased from 120 to 169.

“People do not always want to lodge a complaint with us but want to know what their rights are so they can try and resolve the matter locally, hence the number of formal complaints we get is a small proportion of the number of inquiries we receive,” Ms Toohey said.

Other examples included:

  • A man’s son with Down syndrome was afraid to go to school. He was unsatisfied with how the school handled his complaints;
  • A woman’s employer refused to change her roster to accommodate school holidays and told her to find another job if she could not work the required hours;
  • A woman who believed a team sports coach was being bullying and aggressive towards young people in the club.

Source : The Canberra Times

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