The Act amends the Public Health Act 2010 No 127. It provides for 150-metre “safe access zones” around reproductive health clinics, which are intended to protect the safety and well-being of people entering and leaving such clinics, including employees. The Act creates offenses punishable with imprisonment for interfering with access to clinics (§ 98C), causing actual or potential distress or anxiety to persons in safe access zones (§ 98D), or for taking/distributing photographs of people in safe access zones (§ 98E). The Act also contains exemptions under § 98F, which states that Act does not prohibit conduct in a religious building, near Parliament House in Macquarie Street, Sydney; or “the carrying out of any survey or opinion poll by or with the authority of a candidate, or the distribution of any handbill or leaflet by or with the authority of a candidate, during the course of a Commonwealth, State or local government election, referendum or plebiscite.” In enacting the Act, NSW joined other Australian states and territories, which had already enacted laws banning the harassment of women seeking abortions.
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On June 21, 2018, the NSW Parliament passed the Act to supplement existing criminal legislation both at the NSW (e.g., Crimes Act 1900 and Human Tissue Act 1983) and Commonwealth levels (e.g., the Criminal Code Act 1995). The Act defines “modern slavery” as “any conduct involving the use of any form of slavery, servitude or forced labour to exploit children or other persons taking place in the supply chains of government agencies or non-government agencies.” The Act provides for an Anti-slavery Commissioner and establishes a Modern Slavery Committee.
Division 10A concerns sexual servitude, which is defined as “the condition of a person who provides sexual services and who, because of the use of force or threats is not free to cease providing sexual services, or is not free to leave the place or area where the person provides sexual services.” Section 80D provides for up to 15 years’ imprisonment for any person causing (willfully or recklessly) or attempting to cause sexual servitude (and up to 20 years if the victim is under 18 or cognitively impaired). Section 80E provides for up to 15 years for any person conducting a business involving the sexual servitude of others, or who knows about, or is reckless as to, sexual servitude (and up to 19 years if the victim is under 18 or cognitively impaired).
The Act aims to prevent, ensure accountability for, and apply standards set by the United Nations and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women to domestic violence. It aims to fulfill these objectives by “empowering courts to make apprehended domestic violence orders to protect people from domestic violence, intimidation (including harassment) and stalking” (§ 9(2)(a)). Intimidation is defined as: “conduct amounting to harassment or molestation of the person,” “an approach made to the person by any means (including by telephone, telephone text messaging, e-mailing, and other technologically assisted means) that causes the person to fear for his or her safety,” or “any conduct that causes a reasonable apprehension of injury to a person or to a person with whom he or she has a domestic relationship, or of violence or damage to any person or property” (§ 7(1)). Stalking is defined as following, watching, frequenting the vicinity of or approaching a person’s place of residence, business or work, or any place that a person frequents for the purposes of any social or leisure activity (§ 8(1)). The Act (at Parts 3 and 4) gives courts the authority to issue orders relating to apprehended domestic or personal violence. The Act provides that a “person who stalks or intimidates another person with the intention of causing the other person to fear physical or mental harm” may be punished with up to five years imprisonment (§ 13(1)). A person who “knowingly contravenes a prohibition or restriction specified in an apprehended violence order made against the person” may be punished with up to two years imprisonment (§ 14(1)).
NSW, much like the rest of Australia, suffers from high incidents of domestic violence. Across Australia, one in three women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by someone known to them, one in five women have been stalked during their lifetime, and on average one woman is killed every week by a current or former partner. Aboriginal women and girls are 35 times more likely than the wider female population to be hospitalised due to family violence. In 2016, the NSW Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, launched the ‘NSW Domestic Family Violence Blueprint for Reform 2016-2021: Safer Lives for Women, Men and Children’ setting out actions to reform the domestic violence system in NSW over a five-year period (the blueprint is the first of its kind in Australia). The NSW Government has allocated AUD 350 million in the 2017/18 budget over a four-year period to fund the effort. (http://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Pages/bocsar_pages/Domestic-Violence.aspx; https://www.whiteribbon.org.au/understand-domestic-violence/facts-violence-women/domestic-violence-statistics/; http://www.domesticviolence.nsw.gov.au/home)
Section 22A, Part 2A of the Act provides that a person sexually harasses another person if “the person makes an unwelcome sexual advance, or an unwelcome request for sexual favours, to the other person, or the person engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the other person, in circumstances in which a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated that the other person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.” Part 2A sets out various prohibitions against the harassment of employees, commission agents, contract workers and partners, and the circumstances in which the harassment may occur. On June 20, 2018, the Australian Human Rights Commission announced that it would undertake a national inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces at a federal level and make recommendations to address the issue.
Division 10 of the Act prohibits and defines sexual violence against adults and children. A person consents to sexual intercourse if the person freely and voluntarily agrees (§ 61HE(2)). As provided in section 61HE(3), a perpetrator is deemed to know that the other person does not consent if they have actual knowledge, are reckless as to consent, or had no reasonable belief that the other person consented. In determining consent, the trier of fact must consider all of the circumstances, including any steps taken by the person to ascertain whether the other person consents, but not including any self-induced intoxication of the person. There can be no consent if the person is a minor, unconscious or asleep, cognitively incapacitated, under duress, or unlawfully detained.
The accused was charged with conducting a business involving sexual servitude, in violation of section 260.6(2) of the Criminal Code Act 1995. She pled not guilty and proceeded to trial, facing charges that she had recruited four women from Malaysia to work at a brothel. The victims entered Australia on student visas, were forced to repay AUD 5,000 each, and were not permitted to leave the brothel until they repaid that amount. The accused also threatened the women with physical violence and deportation. The Court found the work that the women were forced to perform, including being paraded in front of potential customers wearing numbers for identification, was demeaning and dehumanizing. The Court found the accused guilty on all seven counts and sentenced her to six years’ imprisonment.
The accused pled guilty to one count of conducting a business involving sexual servitude, in contravention of section 270.6(2) of the Criminal Code Act 1995. Between August 2005 and March 2008, the accused recruited and facilitated the placement of 11 Thai women in brothels in various Australian cities. Each of the women (except for those who worked for one particular brothel) transferred a portion of their net earnings to the accused to repay the debts they were told they owed. She was sentenced to two years and three months imprisonment.
This was an appeal from convictions for violations of section 270.6(2) of the Criminal Code Act 1995, which generally prohibits forced labor. The two appellants, a married couple, ran various brothels in Sydney where five Thai women were sex workers. Four of the Thai women, while still in Thailand, signed contracts agreeing to provide sexual services in Australia. The contracts obligated each of them to repay approximately AUD 45,000 before they could keep any of their earnings. Four of the five women paid the AUD 45,000, and then continued working at the brothels. There was no dispute that the women worked in the brothels; the dispute was whether they had been subjected to sexual servitude. Following a trial, the defendants were convicted of conducting a business involving sexual servitude and sentenced to five years’ and four years’ imprisonment, respectively. Both appealed their convictions on the basis that the verdicts were unreasonable and unsupported by the evidence, that the trial judge erroneously instructed the jury on the fault element of the offense, and that their sentences were excessive. The Court of Criminal Appeal affirmed the convictions.
The case concerns the defendants, a married couple, who kept five Thai women as slaves in a secret room in the basement of their licensed brothel in Sydney. The defendants purchased the Thai women through contacts in Thailand (for between AUD 12,500 – 15,000). Upon arriving in Australia, four of the women were informed that they owed between AUD 35,000 and 45,000 that they had to repay by working in the brothel (one of the victims was told about the debt in Thailand). The defendants confiscated the women’s passports and kept them in locked confinement either at the brothel or at their residence. The women worked extremely long hours, seven days a week. The defendants were each found guilty of five counts of intentionally possessing a slave and five counts of intentionally exercising ownership authority over a slave, in violation of section 270.3(1)(a) of the Criminal Code Act 1995. The court sentenced Mr. McIvor to 12 years’ imprisonment and Ms. Tanuchit to 11 years’ imprisonment.
In his initial trial, a jury found the accused guilty of the crime of sexual intercourse without consent. He appealed and was granted a retrial, which was a bench trial (no jury). The focus of the retrial was whether the complainant had consented and, if not, whether the accused knew. The complainant (then 18) and the accused (then 21) met at a Sydney nightclub. Soon after meeting, and after having danced and kissed on the dance floor, the accused anally penetrated the complainant in an alleyway behind the club. During the retrial, the court did not believe that the complainant “by her actions, herself meant to consent to sexual intercourse and in her own mind was not consenting to sexual intercourse,” but the issue was “[w]hether or not the accused knew that she was not consenting.” The court held that the accused did not know that the complainant had not consented. In reaching its decision, the court noted that the complainant did “not say ‘stop’ or ‘no.’ She did not take any physical action to move away from the intercourse or attempted intercourse.” The court accepted that the “series of circumstances on the early morning of 12 May 2013 amounts to reasonable grounds, in the circumstances for the accused to have formed the belief […] that in fact the complainant was consenting to what was occurring even though it was quick, unromantic, they had both been drinking and in the case of both of them may not occurred if each had been sober.” The court acquitted the accused on the basis that the “the Crown ha[d] [not] made out the third element, namely to prove that the accused had no reasonable grounds for believing that the complainant was not consenting…” The court’s judgment of acquittal was upheld on appeal. This case is important because it led to the NSW Attorney General requesting that the NSW Law Reform Commission review section 61HA of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) in order to determine if the law should be amended to better protect victims. District Court re-trail decision available here: http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/556710/27630007/1500427752463/Tupman_Lazarus.pdf?token=mHtsYtApoYyV2KbtbIvqb0GxWmc%3D
The Equal Opportunity Act aims to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment, and victimisation to the greatest extent possible and to promote equality as far as reasonably practicable. It defines and prohibits discrimination in relation to various “attributes,” including sex, sexual orientation, marital status, and pregnancy. The prohibitions apply in a range of situations, including employment-related discrimination. Sexual harassment and victimisation are also defined and prohibited. The Act also regulates the operation of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (“VEOHRC”), its powers, and the process by which people may bring disputes concerning violations of the Act to the Commission. After investigating a dispute, the VEOHRC may refer a matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which may order a person to refrain from further violating the Act or pay compensation to the applicant for loss, damage or injury suffered.
The Abortion Law Reform Act allows a registered medical practitioner to terminate a pregnancy (perform an abortion) on a woman who is not more than 24 weeks pregnant. After 24 weeks, an abortion may still be performed if the medical practitioner believes it is appropriate in all the circumstances, and has consulted at least one other registered medical practitioner who reasonably agrees. It also permits the supply or administration of drugs to perform and abortion by a pharmacist or registered nurse in similar situations.
The Family Violence Protection Act aims to maximise safety for children and adults who have experienced family violence, and to prevent and reduce family violence to the greatest extent possible. It also aims to promote accountability for those who perpetrate family violence. The Act provides for police protection before court, family violence intervention orders (and their enforcement), and counselling orders.
The Charter aims to protect and promote the human rights set out in Part 2, including property rights and freedom from forced work (slavery), as well as the right to enjoy those human rights without discrimination. With respect to any proposed new law, the Victorian Parliament must prepare a “statement of compatibility,” which must examine the proposed law’s compatibility (or incompatibility) with the human rights protected in the Charter. While this statement has no effect on the validity of any law, it furthers the purpose of the Charter in promoting human rights. Further, under section 32 of the Charter, all statutory provisions must be interpreted in a way that is compatible with human rights (to the extent it is possible to do so consistently with their purpose). The Charter also allows the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to intervene in any court or tribunal proceeding in relation to the Charter.
The Crimes Act is the principal Victorian criminal legislation setting out a range of criminal offences and penalties. In relation to gender justice, the Act prohibits sexual violence and rape, stalking, sexual assault, rape, abortion (as amended by the Abortion Law Reform Act 2008) and female genital mutilation. The Act also prohibits attempts and conspiracies to commit these offenses, and sets forth applicable procedures and defenses. The Act previously contained a defense of “defensive homicide,” which was intended to, among other things, assist women who killed an abusive partner in self-defense. However, this defense was abolished in November 2014 on the basis that it was not operating as intended. The penalties for violations of the Act vary, and the principles in the Sentencing Act 1991 apply to sentencing in all courts except the Children’s Court.
The proceedings concerned the plaintiff’s entitlement to an interest in seven properties purchased by the defendant in his name during and after their nine-year relationship. The plaintiff brought a claim under Part 9 of the Property Law Act 1958 (Vic), requesting that the Court adjust the interests in the properties on the basis of her financial and non-financial contributions to the relationship. While the parties were not married, the court was satisfied that on the balance of probabilities, they were in a genuine domestic relationship, considering factors such as their co-habitation, financial independence and the fact they had a child. In determining the contributions of each party to the relationship, the Court noted that “full value” must be given to the role of either party as homemaker. The plaintiff was not required to demonstrate a link between her contributions as homemaker or parent and the value of the properties in question. The Court acknowledged that the defendant had assumed the full burden of the mortgage commitments of the properties, but also acknowledged that the plaintiff had principal responsibility for the care of her three children. The Court was satisfied that the parties’ contributions were equal, and adjusted the interests in the properties on this basis.
The plaintiff alleged that, during the course of her employment at construction firm Winslow Constructors, she was abused, bullied, and sexually harassed by Winslow employees and subcontractors. She alleged that Winslow was vicariously liable for the acts of its employees and subcontractors, or in the alternative, negligent in failing to provide a safe working environment. On the fifth day of the trial, Winslow admitted liability for negligence. The decision before the Court was the quantum of damages available to the plaintiff. The Court found that she had sustained very considerable psychiatric injuries and a jaw injury (due to teeth grinding) as a direct consequence of the bullying, abuse, and sexual harassment leveled at her by Winslow’s employees and subcontractors. The Court found that these injuries “have and will continue to diminish the quality of her life.” The Court awarded general damages AUD 380,000. Based on “virtually unanimous” evidence that the plaintiff would never work again, the Court also awarded her AUD 283,941.70 for past economic loss AUD 696,085.41 for future economic loss, to reflect her loss of future earning capacity.
The students enrolled at Castlemaine Steiner School Ltd (“Castlemaine”) for kindergarten and prep were originally approximately 75% boys and 25% girls. Castlemaine wished to offer more places to female students in order to maintain gender balance in their classes. Such conduct would constitute discrimination on the basis of gender in the provision of education and services under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) (“EO Act”), unless an exemption applies. Castlemaine sought an exemption under section 89 of the EO Act, contending that an exemption would enable it to promote social cohesion and gender balance, and would provide boys and girls opportunities to be with a meaningful number of children of their own gender. In assessing the application, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (“VCAT”) noted that they were required to interpret the law, so far as it is possible to do so, compatibly with section 32(1) of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic). In addition, VCAT was required to consider whether the interests served by the exemption are sufficient to justify taking the relevant conduct out of the prohibitions of the EO Act. Ultimately, VCAT granted the exemption for the maximum period of five years, on the basis that the proposed exemption offered a reasonable chance of to achieving gender balance.
This decision concerned the appeal by Christian Youth Camps (“CYC”) against the decision of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (“VCAT”) that CYC had unlawfully discriminated against Cobaw, an organisation concerned with youth suicide prevention. CYC, the operator of a camping facility at Phillip Island, had been established by the Christian Brethren Church and was opposed to homosexual activity on religious grounds. Cobaw had sought to rent CYC’s camping resort for the purposes of a weekend camp to be attended by homosexual young people. CYC had refused Cobaw’s request for accommodation. VCAT found that by refusing to accommodate Cobaw, CYC had unlawfully discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation in the provision of accommodation or services. CYC asserted that its refusal to accommodate the youths was necessary to comply with its religious beliefs or principles, and sought to invoke the religious exemption in sections 75(2) and 77 of the Equal Opportunity Act 1995 (Vic). VCAT found that CYC could not rely on the religious exemption as they were not a body established for religious purposes. While CYC had been established by the Christian Brethren Church, VCAT found that the CYC’s purposes and activities were not religious. The Court of Appeal dismissed CYC’s appeal and upheld VCAT’s decision. The Court of Appeal affirmed VCAT’s finding that the refusal to accommodate was made in the course of the conduct of a secular and commercial accommodation business. The Court of Appeal also upheld VCAT’s finding that CYC’s opposition to homosexual activity was a “rule of private morality,” which “carried with it no obligation to convince others to adopt the same rule.”
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