Compliance powers

Contributed by The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and current to 28 June 2019

The Equal Opportunity Act gives the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission the function to promote and advance the objectives of the Equal Opportunity Act. Outlined in section 3, these objectives are broad, and include:

  • eliminating discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation (to the greatest possible extent), and identifying and eliminating their systemic causes
  • promoting and protecting the right to equality
  • promoting and facilitating the progressive realisation of equality.

In addition to the Commission's role in the resolution of disputes, the Equal Opportunity Act gives the Commission specific powers to facilitate compliance and encourage best practice. These powers include:

  • issuing practice guidelines relevant to the Equal Opportunity Act. Guidelines are not legally binding, but may be taken into consideration by a court or tribunal in relevant to legal proceedings (section 148)
  • conducting a review of an organisation's programs and practices for compliance with the Equal Opportunity Act (on request) (section 151)
  • providing advice about preparing and implementing action plans (which specify steps necessary for an organisation to improve compliance) (section 152) and maintaining a register of action plans (section 153)
  • conducting investigations on matters:
    • that are serious, relate to a class or group of people, and cannot be reasonably expected to be resolved through dispute resolution and involve a possible contravention of the Equal Opportunity Act
    • where there are reasonable grounds to expect that one or more contraventions of the Equal Opportunity Act have occurred
    • that would advance the objectives of the Equal Opportunity Act (section 127).
This may include investigating a breach of the positive duty
  • intervening as a party in proceedings that involve issues of equal opportunity, discrimination, sexual harassment or victimisation (section 159)
  • assisting in proceedings as amicus curiae where the intervention would be in the public interest, and where proceedings are likely to affect protection against discrimination (section 160).
The Commission has issued the following practice guidelines under section 148 of the Equal Opportunity Act:

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