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Goal 4: Effective access to justice and remedy for people and communities whose rights are breached

Outcome 4.1 [PBS criterion]

We deliver a fair and effective investigation and conciliation service.

National Information and Investigation and Conciliation Services

In 201910, the Commission assisted over 12,554 people and organisations by providing information about the law and the complaint process, assisting with problem solving and providing referrals to other services.

The Commission provided approximately 26 information/education sessions to stakeholders, professionals, advocates and community groups across Australia.

In 2019-20, the Commission accepted 2,307 complaints of alleged discrimination and breaches of human rights and finalised 2,237 complaints. The Commission conducted approximately 1,432 conciliations processes, of which 1,004 complaints (70%) were successfully resolved.

Progress indicator 4.11 [PBS target]

85% of complaints are finalised in under 12 months, 40% of complaints are resolved by conciliation, 85% of parties to complaints are satisfied with the service they receive.

In 2019–2020 period, the Commission met and exceeded all criteria in the above indicator:

  • 98.5% of complaints were finalised within 12 months
  • 46% of complaints were resolved by conciliation
  • 93% of surveyed participants reported that they were satisfied with the service they received and with 77%rating the service ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’, and additionally
  • 99% of surveyed participants to complaints that were conciliated, reported that they were satisfied and 83% rated the service as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’.

 "My conciliator guided me through the process demonstrating empathy and patience to my emotional state and situation. She provided balance through the conversations between parties to ensure achievable milestones and outcomes were agreed and achieved. I am grateful for the assistance and advice she provided in achieving the best possible outcome for me."

Progress indicator 4.12 [PBS target]

Instances where the terms on which investigation and conciliation disputes are resolved include systemic outcomes that accord with the objectives of the law.

Information on the outcomes of conciliated complaints under federal anti-discrimination law indicates that 39% of outcomes included terms which will have benefits for people beyond the individual complainant. For example, agreements to introduce anti-discrimination policies and provide anti-discrimination training in workplaces and agreements to undertake modifications to buildings and services to address potential discriminatory factors.

Progress indicator 4.13 [PBS target]

Instances where participation in the investigation and conciliation process results in increased understanding of rights and responsibilities in the law.

Commission survey data highlights the educative effect of the Commission’s complaint process. For example, in relation to conciliated complaints, 77.5% of surveyed participants indicated that involvement in the complaint process had assisted them to better understand their rights and responsibilities under federal human rights and anti-discrimination law.

These case studies are an example of these outcomes:

Case study 5: Complaint of sexual harassment under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth)

The complainant worked as an assistant with the respondent company. She alleged her manager sexually harassed her, including by making sexual advances by text message, commenting on her breasts, inviting her to a hotel and offering to go to her place and give her a massage. She claimed when she complaints to the manager’s supervisor, she was told there was insufficient evidence for any action to be taken and recommended she delete the telephone messages. On being advised of the complaint, the company agreed to participate in conciliation.

The complaint was resolved. The parties agreed to end the employment relationship. The company agreed to pay the complainant $40,000 as general damages and provide her with a reference. The complainant’s former manager apologised to her for the distress she experienced from the events giving rise to the complaint. The company undertook to provide commission training for all staff on sexual harassment, workplace discrimination, the company’s complaint process and the obligations of staff and managers.

Case study 6: Complaint of disability discrimination under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)

The complainant has a brain injury and alleged the respondent entertainment venue company did not allow the online purchase of companion tickets and that seating maps did not show the location of doors or steps.

The company advised that, in response to the issues raised in the complaint, it undertook a review and upgrade of its online ticket purchasing platform and seating maps. The company said the new ticket purchasing platform allowed for easier and more streamlined purchase and verification of companion tickets.

The complainant considered that the actions taken by the company resolved her complaint.