Legislative Council: Thursday, February 09, 2023


We're Equal Campaign

The Hon. I. PNEVMATIKOS (14:37): My question is to the Attorney-General. Will the minister please update the council on the We're Equal initiative being run by the Office of the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:37): I certainly will and I thank the honourable member for a question—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! I call the Attorney-General.

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: —that is a state issue. It is remarkable foresight that the honourable member has to understand the differences between state and federal jurisdictions. Given that the honourable member has asked a question—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. K.J. MAHER: Sir, I can't hear myself think at the moment.

The PRESIDENT: Please continue, and please listen in silence. I call the Attorney.

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: Some time ago, I informed the chamber about a four-week pilot program that was the initiative of the Office of the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity: the We're Equal program. This initiative began as a public-facing campaign to help South Australian businesses provide an easily identifiable, safe work environment which is free from discrimination, bullying or harassment.

It aimed to promote respect and inclusion across the areas of law relevant to the Equal Opportunity Act, which the commissioner is responsible for administering, covering four main areas of discrimination: age; disability and accessibility; race and culture, including religious appearance and dress; and relationships, including gender, sexuality, pregnancy, marital status and association with a child such as breastfeeding. Businesses that participated in the four-week pilot program signed up to display a statement of commitment, pledging that as an employer they had zero tolerance for discrimination and disrespectful behaviour to both staff, customers, or suppliers and contractors.

I am extraordinarily pleased that the commissioner has informed me that after a highly successful four-week pilot campaign, the initiative will be continuing and expanding beyond the four weeks and be expanding beyond just hospitality venues. Over the four-week pilot program, 695 registrations were received from members of the public who participated in things like the drink bottle giveaway promotion, with nearly 1,000 drink bottles being distributed as part of the We're Equal program. The promotion had a total reach on social media, I'm informed, in excess of 8,000 over three channels, and 11 media stories were generated across television, radio and online.

Some very promising figures from the pilot also demonstrated the success of the campaign's educational component to business owners and their workers. This success is evidenced in the figures, which showed that compared with the previous month the equal opportunity website saw a 51 per cent increase in total activity across the entire site during the pilot period, with notable increases in views of pages relating to discrimination laws and types of discrimination, complaint processes and pathways, and training and resources.

Most promising was the feedback received from the campaign's participants about customer and staff responses to the pilot program, indicating it was resoundingly positive and supportive of the campaign's intent. In particular, several respondents reported that there was real value in the campaign as a tool to start conversations with staff or for inducting new staff, and one respondent even offered examples of how the pilot had clearly generated confidence in the surrounding community for members of diverse backgrounds to use and feel safe in their venues.

Due to this positive feedback and engagement with the pilot, the office of the equal opportunity commissioner are currently undertaking work to expand the initiative beyond small hospitality venues into a much broader reach across South Australian businesses. Work is currently being done with businesses in the financial sector, high-profile venues, peak sporting bodies, government departments and legal firms to make this campaign farther reaching and ongoing. Many new businesses, including Credit Union SA, have just signed up to the initiative, and many others have expressed interest in joining, and that process will happen over the coming months.

Any business wanting to sign up is encouraged to go to the Equal Opportunity Commission's website to register their interest. Registration is quick and easy and is available in three categories: small businesses, for sole traders and businesses with fewer than 20 employees; medium-size businesses and organisations, 20 to 200 employees; and the large ones, with in excess of 200 employees. Once the business has completed the form and submitted it on the Equal Opportunity Commission's website, small and medium businesses will receive an email with a direct link and a welcome pack.

I would like to thank all of the staff from the office of the equal opportunity commissioner, particularly the commissioner, Ms Jodeen Carney, and Assistant Commissioner Colin Marsh for leading this initiative that encourages zero tolerance towards discriminatory behaviour in our workplaces.