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In February 2020, the Victorian Parliament passed its first gender equality law, a truly historic moment for the State with its promise of more equitable workplaces and fairer treatment for not only women, but all Victorian public sector workers, including universities and local councils. This was achieved by the persistent and passionate leadership of Gabrielle Williams, the Minister for Women, who is also the Minister for Prevention of Family Violence and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the Victorian Government. This is also another first for any state or territory in Australia.

From March 2021, Victorian defined entities are required to take positive action towards achieving workplace gender equality; to consider and promote gender equality in their policies, programs and services; and are subject to specific reporting obligations. 

The Act will promote gender equality by requiring defined entities to -

  • promote, encourage and facilitate the achievement of gender equality and improvement in the status of women
  • support the identification and elimination of systemic causes of gender inequality in policy, programs and delivery of services in workplaces and communities 
  • recognise that gender inequality may be compounded by other forms of disadvantage or discrimination that a person may experience on the basis of Aboriginality, age, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, race, religion, sexual orientation and other attributes 
  • redress disadvantage, address stigma, stereotyping, prejudice and violence, and accommodate persons of different genders by way of structural change
  • enhance economic and social participation by persons of different genders 
  • further promote the right to equality set out in the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

Significantly, the Act has established the Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector which supports the Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner to provide education, support implementation and enforce compliance.

There is no doubt that this legislation will greatly improve the rate of change needed to obtain gender equality for women and nonbinary people. It will also benefit men by challenging entrenched gender stereotypes in the workplace and beyond. It has already begun to make a difference with gender audits being undertaken across workplaces in the public sector and action plans being developed to begin to address any inequities.

We award Gabrielle Williams the Top Broad award for her leadership in introducing and implementing Australia’s first Gender Equality Act, that will lead the way creating a more gender equal society for all Victorians. This reform was driven by her passion for equity and social inclusion and she is proud to be a member of Victoria’s first ever gender-equal cabinet.