What is a special measure?

Under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic), it is not discrimination for a person (or body) to take a special measure that promotes substantive equality for a group of people who have one (or more than one) protected attributes, for example race, sex, disability.

An example of a special measure is that Darebin City Council Youth Services sought an exemption from the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) so that it could host two women's-only events, targeted towards young women within the Darebin community who, due to cultural and religious reasons, wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to attend mixed gender events. The council also sought an exemption to employ women only for the duration of the two events. The Tribunal found that the proposed conduct amounted to a special measure for the purposes of section 12 of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 and the conduct therefore was not discrimination. The Tribunal dismissed the application for an exemption as it was not necessary. In addition, the Tribunal made a declaration that the council's conduct was a special measure

Section 12 of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) sets out the rules and relevant criteria for special measures. A person seeking to establish a special measure to promote a group of people should consider the steps they propose to take against the criteria in section 12.

Special measures have some essential characteristics. They must:

  • be undertaken in good faith to help promote or achieve substantive equality for members of the group
  • be reasonably likely to achieve this purpose
  • be a proportionate way of achieving the purpose, and
  • be justified because the members of the group have a particular need for advancement or assistance.

Further information, including more examples of special measures, is available on the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission website.

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