DISCRIMINATION against dominant white males will soon be encouraged in a bid to boost the status of women, the disabled and cultural and religious minorities.
Such positive discrimination — treating people differently in order to obtain equality for marginalised groups – is set to be legalised under planned changes to the Equal Opportunity Act foreshadowed last week by state Attorney-General Rob Hulls.
The laws are also expected to protect the rights of people with criminal records to get a job, as long as their past misdeeds are irrelevant to work being sought.
Equal Opportunity Commission CEO Dr Helen Szoke said males had «been the big success story in business and goods and services».
«Clearly, they will have their position changed because they will be competing in a different way with these people who have been traditionally marginalised,» she said.
«Let’s open it up so everyone can have a fair go.»
Victoria’s peak business body expressed concern yesterday about the need for the proposed laws, and questioned if they would undermine the right of companies to make legitimate business decisions.
At present, individuals or bodies wanting to single out any race or gender for special treatment must gain an exemption from VCAT.
Companies and public bodies accused of discrimination can only be held to account after a complaint has been made.
But the proposed changes go much further, allowing the commission to inquire into discrimination, seize documents and search and enter premises after attempts to bring about change have failed.
Businesses and individuals would be required to change their ways even if a complaint had not been received.
Action could be taken where an unlawful act was «likely to occur», not just in cases where discrimination has taken place.
The commission would also have real teeth to enforce its rulings via VCAT and, as a last resort, in the courts.
The changes, shown in a Department of Justice report by former public advocate Julian Gardner, would also:
EDUCATE people so they know their rights.
GIVE more protection to people with disabilities, requiring companies and public entities to reasonably accommodate their needs.
GRANT the homeless and people who act as volunteers better protection from discrimination.
Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry workplace general manager David Gregory said business supported the objectives of equal opportunity legislation.
«But I am concerned and curious about whether these changes mean the commission can second-guess the legitimate business decisions of individual businesses,» he said.
The first raft of changes to the Equal Opportunity Act were introduced into Parliament last week.
Youths who gang-raped girl in stairwells are named
Seven schoolboys aged as young as 13 who joked as they took turns to rape a 14-year-old girl because she “disrespected” a gang member can be identified today for the first time.
The girl was subjected to an ordeal lasting several hours in stairwells around a housing estate in East London, parts of which were filmed on mobile phones.
O’Neil Denton, known as Hitman by the Kingshold Boys gang, now aged 16, ordered his friends to snatch the girl from the streets of Hackney after she was said to have insulted him. The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was attacked while walking home from school in April last year.
After being disturbed, Denton and some of the group took their victim to another stairwell where she was forced to commit a sex act at knifepoint. The boys rang friends during the attack, and a crowd began to gather, including Weiled Ibrahim, now aged 17, Jayden Ryan, Yusuf Raymond, and Jack Bartle, aged 16, and Alexander Vanderpuije and Cleon Brown, both 15. The final, and worst, assault took place on the ninth floor of another block of flats where the girl was raped repeatedly during a 50-minute ordeal. When she tried to fight back, junior members of the gang kicked her and smashed her head against a wall.
Nicola Merrick, for the prosecution, said: “The victim knew, of course, she was going to be raped again. She could hear Ibrahim and others saying there were other boys who would rape her badly.”
Eventually 15 boys assembled on the stairwell. “The boys threatened her throughout, intimidating her and physically assaulting her. Ibraham slapped her face and pulled her hair whilst another banged her head against the wall and someone threw a bottle of water at her.
“She broke down, turned her face to the wall and wept. The boys referred to this as crocodile tears.” In a newspaper interview the victim relived some of the ordeal. She said: “I was taken to the ninth floor of the tower block where I was thrown on to the landing. Another gang member pulled a knife out and I was forced into more sex acts with five others. I was like a zombie.
“There were so many grabbing at me, pulling my clothes off. I’d reached the point of giving up. I really thought I was going to die. Then I recognised a boy I’d known for years. I felt relieved. He was a friend. But when I asked him to help me, he said, ‘No, I’m with my boys now’. I will never forget that.”
The girl escaped only when a 14-year-old boy, a football apprentice, realised what was happening and, ignoring the threats of others, walked her out of the premises. Six of the defendants were arrested within hours, because of CCTV footage, and the rest were in custody within two days. None of the gang, who were of Caribbean, Ethiopian, Moroccan and British descent, showed any remorse during questioning or throughout the six-week trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court.
Two others, who were convicted of rape on the basis that they “aided and abetted”, remain anonymous.
All nine, from East London, will be sentenced on Monday.
How I suffered: the victim’s story
In an impact statement the victim described how she had attempted suicide, could not leave her home alone and was always looking over her shoulder.
She said: “My whole world has been turned upside down. Trying to get back to normal has been very difficult. I used to have a lot of friends. I used to go places. I used to like shopping and the cinema and meeting new people.
“I long for all that back — instead I feel like a prisoner, having to look over my shoulder everywhere I go. Although I used to find the unexpected fun, the unexpected is now frightening and not exciting.” She suffers recurring nightmares and wakes feeling tired. The teenager said she hated herself for not screaming more or fighting off the rapists but was “frozen with fear”.
Nicola Merrick, for the prosecution, told the court: “She has lost all her friends. She missed a year of schooling. Her family relationships have been put under severe strain. She is quite clear that it would be a very long time in the future, if ever, before she is able to deal with this.
“She refers to herself as still in a state. I suspect that’s an understatement. She still can’t go out alone but she has recently started counselling.”