Melbourne: History has been made with the Andrews Labor Government‘s Gender Equality Bill 2019 passing through Victorian Parliament – a landmark step in breaking-down discrimination and gender barriers in the workplace.
Minister for Women Gabrielle Williams said the Bill was an Australian first and represented a once in a generation opportunity to influence policy, social norms, cultural expectations and attitudes across Victoria.
The legislation applies to public sector workplaces and will help close the gender pay gap, improve gender equality at all levels of the workforce and reduce workplace sexual harassment.
Increasing women’s workforce participation means greater productivity, a boost in economic output and more financially secure families.
The Bill requires public sector organisations, universities and local councils to develop and implement Gender Equality Action Plans every four years – including data on the current state of gender equality in the organisation and strategies for achieving workplace gender equality.
Their progress will be reported on every two years – with results made public for accountability and transparency.
Organisations will also need to undertake gender impact assessments, ensuring that policies, programs and services consider the different needs of Victorians of all genders.
A Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner will be established to provide independent oversight of the reforms – educating, monitoring progress and ensuring compliance.
While the Bill provides the Commissioner with enforcement powers, the initial approach will be educational, focusing on supporting organisations to achieve their gender equality goals.
The Bill has been developed through a comprehensive state-wide consultation process held over the past four years, where the views of a vast and varied cross-section of the Victorian community were heard.
International evidence shows that when organisations are compelled to identify gender gaps in their organisations and develop a plan to address those gaps, they take deliberate and positive action, and are better positioned to serve their communities in the process.