Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

Hickie v. Hunt & Hunt Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (1998)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Marea Hickie, a solicitor, claimed unlawful discrimination by her employer, the partnership of Hunt & Hunt, during and after her maternity leave. Shortly after returning from maternity leave, the firm decided not to renew Hickie's contract. At issue was a requirement that Hickie work full-time to maintain her position at the firm. Hickie claimed that the firm’s non-renewal constituted unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status, pregnancy, potential pregnancy and family responsibility. Upon review of the case, the Commission noted that such a requirement was “likely to disadvantage women” and therefore the firm’s non-renewal resulted from “an act of [indirect] discrimination.” The respondent firm was ordered to pay Hickie $95,000 in compensation.

Phillips v. The Queen High Court of Australia (2006)

Gender-based violence in general, Sexual violence and rape

This appeal was based on the contention that there had been a wrong decision on a question of law concerning the admissibility of evidence in a sexual assault case. The appellant, Phillips, was convicted on several counts of rape and unlawful carnal knowledge and on one count of assault with intent to commit rape. The counts involved multiple teenage victims. Similarities existed across the victim’s stories and evidence was admitted concerning each victim. The Criminal Code stated that "an indictment must charge 1 offence only and not 2 or more offences," also stating that “Charges for more than 1 indictable offence may be joined in the same indictment against the same person if those charges are founded on the same facts or are, or form part of, a series of offences of the same or similar character or a series of offences committed in the prosecution of a single purpose." The appellant contended that the offenses did not reflect “offences of the same or similar character,” arguing that trial of the eight charges at once had been unduly prejudicial to his case. The High Court held that “prejudice to the fair trial of the appellant was substantial” and made a formal order for retrial.

Richardson v. Oracle Corporation Australia Pty Ltd Federal Court of Australia (2014)

Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

Rebecca Richardson brought a sexual harassment suit against a former co-worker, Randol Tucker. Before Richardson left the company, Richardson and Tucker were colleagues at Oracle Corporation Australia. At trial, Ms. Richardson prevailed and was awarded $18,000 in damages for which Oracle Corporation Australia was vicariously liable. Ms. Richardson appealed, arguing that the award was inadequate. The High Court highlighted the difficulty in formulating awards of general damages in sex discrimination cases, but acknowledged that harassment can cause severe physical and mental strain. The Court noted that more significant awards were granted to the victims of workplace bullying than the victims of sexual harassment despite “comparable” damage caused by both types of conduct. Based on the distress Richardson experienced because of Tucker’s conduct, the Federal Court found that the $18,000 award was inadequate and substituted an award of $100,000 to compensate Ms. Richardson for psychological injury caused by the sexual harassment.

SZEGN v. Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs Federal Court of Australia (2006)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Gender-based violence in general

A citizen of Fiji sought an extension of time to appeal a decision by a Federal Court Magistrate who affirmed a decision by the Refugee Review Tribunal to deny a protection visa. She alleged that she had a well-founded fear of persecution if returned to Fiji as a person who had been subjected to domestic violence by her former husband and as a member of the social group of “women at risk in Fiji.” The Tribunal found that while women had historically been at risk in Fiji, recent police forms and judgments suggested that she no longer had a reasonable fear of persecution. On appeal, she alleged that the Tribunal failed to provide her with a copy of certain country information as required by Australian law. The court found that the Tribunal was prepared to accept that the applicant was a member of a protected social group but did not accept that there was a lack of state protection. The court further found that the Tribunal adequately laid out the bases for its decision and that it did not rely on the material not provided to the applicant.