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What does the Gender Equality Act 2020 mean for my organisation?

A landmark piece of legislation

Victoria’s Gender Equality Act 2020 (Vic) (‘the Act’), which took effect on 31 March 2021, is the first of its kind in Australia. The intention of the Act is to achieve gender equality – defined as “equality of rights, opportunities, responsibilities and outcomes” between people of different genders. 

The Act follows in the footsteps of similar legislation in other countries that require public sector organisations to make meaningful progress towards gender equality. It works alongside and strengthens existing obligations under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). 

This legislation is underpinned by a set of 10 gender equality principles that uphold the rights of all Victorians to live in a safe and equal society with equal access to power, resources and opportunities and the freedom to make choices about their lives. 

To achieve a gender equal society, the Act sets out obligations for the Victorian public sector that are intended to address structural and systemic causes of gender inequality and identify and redress intersectional disadvantage.

What does the Act mean for my organisation?

The Act established the Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector (‘the Commission’), which oversees the requirements for defined entities, such as local governments, universities and public service bodies, to take positive action towards gender equality in the workplace and through their policies, programs and services. 

The Act obliges defined entities to progress gender equality in their organisations through:

  • Workplace gender auditing on the composition of the workforce and against key workplace gender equality indicators conducted at least every four years.
  • Developing and publishing a Gender Equality Action Plan (GEAP) every four years, based on the results of the workplace gender audit.
  • Conducting Gender Impact Assessments (GIAs) on all policies, programs, and services that are new or up for review and have a ‘direct and significant impact on the public’. 

Defined entities are required to measure their progress towards gender equality in these areas and submit a progress report to the Commission every two years.

The Act is a landmark piece of legislation that presents an exciting opportunity to advance gender equality in the public sector workforce and the broader Victorian community.

Contact Women’s Health East’s Manager Gender Equality, Melissa O’Reilly, at moreilly@whe.org.au, to discuss how we can support you to take forward your obligations under the Act.