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20 Melb. U. L. Rev. 311 (1995-1996)
Sexuality and Workplace Oppression

handle is hein.journals/mulr20 and id is 321 raw text is: SEXUALITY AND WORKPLACE OPPRESSION*
[Gay and lesbian workers report substantial levels of harassment and discrimination in their paid
working lives. Instances range from the near-universal silencing of sexuality difference by way of
enforced self-censorship through to harassment, not being hired, or being dismissed from a position
after sexuality becomes known by others in the workplace. Although it appears to be commonly
assumed that Australian anti-discrimination law provides an answer to such discrimination where it
occurs, this view is far from accurate. A number of factors explain why the different statutor,
schemes have played only a minor role in providing redress in relation to sexuality oppression in the
workplace. This article explores those reasons and then raises questions of strategy in the use of the
law by the lesbian and gay movements. ]
Prejudice and violence against lesbians and gay men in Australia is endemic.
The sites of this oppression are diverse. They include: public violence against
lesbians and gay men;' harassment and discrimination in the paid workforce2
and at school;3 inadequate service, or refusal of service;4 criminal sanctions in
* Editorial Note: The Equal Opportunity Act 1995 (Vic) introduces a 'lawful sexual activity'
ground into Victoria. It also contains a number of new exemptions including a 'dress, appearance
and behaviour' exemption, a working with children exemption and a provision which exempts
discrimination where the conduct complained of was necessary for the person to comply with the
person's 'genuine religious beliefs or principles'. The effect of this new Act is described in an
addendum to this article commencing on page 345.
t B Coin, LLB (Hons) (Melb), LLM (Melb); Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of
Victoria. Lecturer in Law, University of Melbourne. Thanks to Rosemary Hunter for her encour-
agement and advice as the supervisor of my LLM minor thesis on which this article is based, and
to Phillip Tahmindjis and Hilary Astor for their thoughtful comments as examiners of the thesis.
Thanks also to Richard Johnstone, Harold Luntz, Richard Mitchell and Jenny Morgan for their
comments on the draft of this article.
A study conducted in Victoria from September 1990 to January 1993 surveyed 1,002 lesbians
and gay men. The results revealed that approximately 70% of both lesbians and gay men re-
ported being subjected to violence in a public place, including being verbally abused, threatened
or physically assaulted. Physical assault was reported by 11% of lesbians and 20% of gay men:
Gay Men and Lesbians Against Discrimination (GLAD), Not A Day Goes By: Report on the
GLAD Survey into Discrimination and Violence Against Lesbians and Gay Men in Victoria
(1994) 18-19. These high levels of public violence have been confirmed in other Australian re-
ports: Vic Barbeler, The Young Lesbian Report: A Study of the Attitudes and Behaviours of Ado-
lescent Lesbians Today (1991-92) 51-2. One report names 15 men who have died from hate
crimes in New South Wales alone since 1989: Gary Cox, The Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence
Project, The Count & Counter Report: A Study Into Hate Related Violence Against Lesbians and
Gays (1994) 2.
2 GLAD found that approximately 45% of both male and female respondents recorded unfair
treatment in their paid working lives: GLAD, above n 1, 10.
3 Almost one-third of GLAD respondents recorded harassment and discrimination in education:
ibid 9. Other Australian surveys record higher levels: Barbeler, above n 1, 50; Jacqui Griffin,
School Watch Report (1993), examined in Daniel Philps, 'The Blackboard Jungle', Campaign
(Sydney), April 1994. The New South Wales Minister for Education has announced the intro-
duction of anti-discrimination policies to cover lesbian and gay secondary students: Kirsty
Machon, 'Harassment on Syllabus', Sydney Star Observer (Sydney), 25 January 1995.
4 GLAD recorded that 41% of lesbians and 25% of gay men reported inadequate service, or a
refusal of service, in shops, bars, clubs, motels, restaurants, taxis, government agencies and fi-
nancial institutions: GLAD, above n 1, 19-20.

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