Victoria appoints first gender equality commissioner

By Shannon Jenkins

Thursday September 10, 2020

parliament house victoria
James Merlino, Martin Foley, Lisa Neville and Martin Pakula have resigned their positions as frontbenchers in the Victorian state government. (Image: Adobe/FiledIMAGE)

South Australian equal opportunity commissioner Niki Vincent will help implement groundbreaking new laws as part of her new role in the Victorian Public Sector.

As Victoria’s first gender equality commissioner, Vincent will ensure that the state’s public sector organisations comply with the Gender Equality Act 2020, which was passed in February.

Under the act — which is the first of its kind in Australia — public sector entities must publicly report on their progress on workplace gender equality.

Vincent will work with departments and agencies to develop the key indicators for reporting, along with the four-year plans. Targets could involve a range of issues from equal pay, to sexual harassment, and career-progression practices, and there will be penalties for those that don’t comply.

The new laws apply to roughly 380,000 employees spanning more than 300 organisations, including universities, local governments, Court Services Victoria, and the Office of Public Prosecutions.

Read more: New laws require Vic public sector to take gender equality seriously

Dr Niki Vincent. Image: Twitter.

The commissioner will be tasked with focusing on education and support for organisations, as well as influencing policy, social norms, cultural expectations and attitudes towards gender equality. The role also carries compliance, enforcement and dispute resolution functions.

Announcing the appointment on LinkedIn, Vincent expressed hope that the new laws would inspire other jurisdictions.

“This role is an Australian first and will allow me to work with the Victorian Government to transform public sector workplaces into world-leaders in gender equality. I am extremely grateful for my experience as South Australia’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner, and as a chair of the Australian Council of Human Rights Authorities,” she wrote.

“Victoria’s Gender Equality Act 2020, which will guide my agenda, is nation-leading legislation that can make a real difference in driving more rapid progress towards workplace gender equality in a major sector of the Victorian economy. It also has the powerful potential to create a ‘snowball effect’ into other sectors in Victoria — and other Australian states.”

Vincent has previously rolled out gender equality action plans across the SA public service to eliminate violence against women, and to support people experiencing domestic, family, and sexual violence. She also led an independent review into sex discrimination and sexual harassment in the SA Police Force.

Prior to her role as SA equal opportunity commissioner, Vincent was CEO of the Leaders Institute of SA, Adjunct Professor in the University of South Australia’s Business School, and a member of the SA Remuneration Tribunal.

She will commence in her new role in October.

Read more: Compulsory training for SA public servants to reduce violence against women


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