Workplace gender equality hits pockets of resistance in the police force, public service


The South Australian Equal Opportunity Act, enacted in 1984, was among the earliest comprehensive pieces of equal opportunity legislation in Australia.
But gender equality shortfalls were highlighted in the South Australian public service and police force in 2016.

The state government announced an audit to identify gender pay gaps in state government departments.

The audit was among initiatives in the government’s Investing in Women’s Futures program, aiming to cut South Australia’s public service gender gap of 10.8%, compared to 17.9% nationally.

The target is a 50-50 gender split in people leading the public service. A decade earlier, less than a third of executives were women. In 2016, it was 45% or 557 out of 1249 executives. 

Also in 2016, an independent review into the prevalence of sex discrimination, sexual harassment and predatory behaviour in the South Australian police force was launched. The Equal Opportunity Commission would carry out the review.

Police commissioner Grant Stevens hoped the review would encourage more women to join the police force. He aimed for gender equity in the force with recruiting to be 50-50 men and women. The police union came out in opposition to the 50-50 recruiting.

But progress has been made since 1972 when women had to resign as Education Department teachers if they married. They could be reappointed but at junior level and with loss of long service leave entitlements.

In 1972, the principle of equal pay for work of equal value was finally accepted by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.

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