What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 6 April 2020 – 12 April 2020

Report Says, Discrimination Against LGBTIQ+ Still Prevalent

A new report, prepared and endorsed by 202 NGOs across the country, has found that despite reforms, discrimination against LGBTIQ+ persons remain prevalent. Edwina MacDonald, Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre and one of the report’s coordinators, said that the report ‘provides a snapshot of the existing problems and is a stark reminder that Australians will not face this pandemic on equal footings.’ The report found that despite progress, systemic issues have persisted and need redressing. ‘Despite reforms, discrimination, harassment and violence on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and bodily variations in sex characteristics, remain prevalent,” the report found. In review of the findings, the report has petitioned the Government to undertake a series of steps in the next 18 months to redress concerns. These recommendations include:
• Removing unjust hurdles on people seeking official identity documents reflecting their gender
• Ensuring access to psychosocial support for people with intersex variations and their families.
• Implementing effective measures to reduce bullying, harassment and violence, particularly targeted at youth.

The Report also argued against the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill and said that the Australian Government must instead enact a comprehensive Equality Act.

Racial Abuse Related to Covid19

A South Australian woman of Cambodian descent was abused in public last week in yet another race-related coronavirus attack. Councillor for the City of Salisbury, Sarah Ouk, said she was on an island waiting to cross a road last Monday, when a driver in a passing car shouted at her. ‘[The driver] started to scream that ‘you Asians bring corona[virus] to Australia’,’ Ms Ouk recalled. ‘He stuck his head out and tried to do sneezing, coughing, and then he spat at me,’ she added. Ms Ouk said the incident had made her feel afraid. ‘I was really devastated — no one deserves this,’ she said. Ms Ouk claims to have not seen the car’s registration number, or driver’s face clearly, meaning she was unable to complain to SA Police. Despite this, Ms Ouk was able to make an informal report to South Australia’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner. Commissioner Dr Niki Vincent described the attack as ‘sickening’ and encouraged all Australians to show compassion to one another. Commissioner Vincent also noted that the attack comes amidst a rise in racial discrimination complaints related to the coronavirus. ‘Across Australia, there have been reports of nursing and medical staff being shunned at work because of their race, people being denied entry to places or services because of fears they will transmit COVID-19 and people of Asian heritage being racially abused while shopping,’ Commissioner Vincent said. ‘I am sure most South Australians would agree that this kind of behaviour is incredibly harmful at an individual and community level,’ she concluded.

Public Assaults Towards Health Care Workers

Nurses and midwives in NSW have been told to wear normal attire outside their hospital hours following reports of public assaults toward healthcare workers. The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NMA) confirmed that hospital administrators were telling employees not to wear scrubs to and from work. This follows a spate of incidents involving members of the public who have abused medical professionals in fear they are transmitting coronavirus. One such incident happened to an intensive care nurse at Royal North Shore hospital, who was reportedly assaulted after boarding a train while wearing her scrubs. Westmead Hospital received several reports of nurses being refused service at supermarkets and cafes or being abused by petrol station attendants for walking in their uniform. NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard rebuked these ‘unacceptable’ behaviours and said, ‘it’s not Australian, it’s not the way Aussies behave.’ Mr Hazzard said while those who were abusing staff were a ‘small minority’, the reports still disturbed him. ‘I think every right-minded member of our community would be appalled that our doctors and nurses are being targets for these people, who don’t seem to get it,’ he said in a press conference last week. ‘I want all of us as a community to make it clear to that small minority that your behaviour is completely unacceptable, completely,’ he concluded.