All Victorians benefit from gender equality. We have asked Victorians to have a say on the changes we can make to help achieve it.

Update on the Gender Equality Legislation

Thank you for your input to date on the Exposure Draft of the Gender Equality Bill (the Bill). The Office for Women has recently relocated within the Department of Premier and Cabinet and has been collating and analysing all the feedback provided via submissions in response to our discussion paper, consultation reports and survey results.

What will the Gender Equality Bill do?

The Gender Equality Bill proposes new obligations on the Victorian public sector, universities and local councils to plan, implement strategies and report on gender equality in the workplace and promote gender equality across the wider community through considering how policies, programs and services impact people of different genders.

The Bill will affect a broad range of organisations including:

  • public service bodies
  • public entities
  • special bodies
  • local government
  • universities
  • Court Services Victoria; and
  • The Office of Public Prosecutions.

All organisations captured under the Bill will be required to take action to achieve workplace gender equality and promote gender equality across the wider community. The main obligations under the Bill include:

The Bill proposes that certain Victorian public sector organisations must develop, implement and publicly report on progress against Gender Equality Action Plans.

At a State level, the Minister for Women will also be required to develop and maintain a State Gender Equality Action Plan and report on progress.

The Bill proposes that organisations be required to undertake Gender Impact Assessments on certain policies, programs and services to consider the impact on people of all genders.

The use of Gender Impact Assessments in jurisdictions such as Canada and Austria has enabled better policy and program outcomes such as improved women’s workforce participation, safety and wellbeing.

Women are approximately half of the Victorian population. The public organisations that represent them should reflect that make up.

The Bill will allow for the development of tailored targets and quotas through regulations, drawing on baseline data provided by organisations as part of their first Gender Equality Action Plans, jurisdictional comparisons and best practice research.

It is not anticipated that blanket targets or quotas will be introduced, rather targets and quotas will be tailored, flexible and reflect an industry or sector’s status in terms of gender equality.

Targets are a proven means to achieve gender equality and improve female representation across the talent pipeline. The majority of countries that top the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index (for example, Iceland and Norway) have successfully used targets and quotas to improve gender equality on boards, in leadership positions and to address workforce segregation.

Targets and quotas will apply to a subset of the workplace gender equality indicators and will be developed in consultation with key stakeholders.

In the proposed Gender Equality Bill, organisations will be required to report on progress against key indicators of workplace gender equality and any applicable targets or quotas, as well as progress on the implementation of strategies and measures within Gender Equality Action Plans.

In terms of implementation, organisations may be able to incorporate reporting into existing processes to minimise regulatory reporting burdens. In many public sector organisations required data is available through existing reporting systems; the impact of gender equality reporting may involve undertaking additional analysis as opposed to additional data gathering.

Each year the Victorian Government spends billions of dollars on goods and services to help deliver its work.

Governments often use purchasing guidelines to help influence positive social outcomes. For example, ensuring that suppliers meet environmental sustainability guidelines.

The Bill proposes that guidelines may be issued to ensure that the Victorian Government promote gender equality through procurement and funding policies and practices.

We need transparency about what’s working and what’s not in reaching gender equality.

We have received feedback from a range of stakeholders about the importance of support for organisations and the need for an independent body to ensure public bodies are meeting requirements to improve gender equality. The Bill will outline a compliance framework and introduce a body to perform education, monitoring, compliance and enforcement functions.

What we did

The Victorian Government released the Bill for public comment in August 2018, with consultation occurring from 21 August to 28 September 2018. Community engagement on the Bill was substantial, with 56 submissions received and 700 Victorians responding to the Bill through this website in 2018.

On 15 and 16 September 2018 a Citizens' Jury of Victorians met to deliberate on the issue of quotas which is a key topic for consideration in the development of the Gender Equality Bill. After being presented with research, data and evidence, the Jury made a number of important recommendations regarding quotas in the Victorian public sector. See the Citizen Jury recommendations in Key Documents on this page.

A series of 10 stakeholder workshops were held between December 2017 and February 2018 and further workshops and targeted consultations were held between May-August 2019 across metropolitan and regional Victoria. Stakeholders represented an array of public sector organisations including universities, councils, police, emergency and essential services, women’s health and legal organisations, multicultural and faith organisations and Victorian Government departments. The consultation process centred on testing the proposed legislative model and seeking stakeholder views on implementation considerations.

What you told us

Stakeholders discussed a range of aspects that the Bill will cover, including:

  • the potential benefits of gender equality
  • the principles and objectives of the Bill
  • the definition of gender and consideration of diversity
  • the scope of organisations that will be required to take gender equality action
  • the approach to gender equality
  • the Bill’s capacity to influence the private and not-for-profit sector
  • the requirements that organisations will be asked to meet
  • the setting of targets and quotas
  • monitoring, support, compliance
  • resourcing and timelines
  • the critical preconditions for the success of gender equality legislation

The feedback we received through this process was very positive. Stakeholders expressed strong support for a Gender Equality Bill, emphasising its critical role in achieving substantive equality in practice. Stakeholders viewed the Bill as a once in a generation reform opportunity to influence policy shifts, social norms, cultural expectations and attitudes across Victoria as well as set the standard on gender equality legislation for other jurisdictions in Australia and internationally.

What we heard

Feedback on the content of the Bill was centred around two main areas – strengthening existing provisions and ensuring clarity and certainty. We heard that our stakeholders are in favour of amending the Bill to ensure it is effective in its objective of driving sustainable systemic and structural change on gender equality. The in-depth feedback provided by stakeholders is being synthesised and will contribute significantly to the final drafting of the Bill.

Next steps

The Office for Women has proposed changes to the Bill based on your feedback. The Victorian Government has committed to progressing Victoria’s first Gender Equality Bill, and it is anticipated that the final Bill will be introduced into Parliament by the end of 2019. Please check back here for further updates throughout the process.