Friday, February 4, 2011

How effective, how diligent is the South Australian Equal Opportunity Commission.

According to the website,, one of its three mandates (information, education, assessing & resolving complaints) is ‘...Our complaint handlers assist people to reach an agreement if a complaint of discrimination or harassment is made. We do not act as advocates. Our aim is to bring people together to try to resolve the complaint. If a complaint cannot be resolved, it may be referred to the Equal Opportunity Tribunal...’

By its own admittance; a dog without a bark, a snake without venom, a tiger missing a few molars.

How effective is this well-oiled machine. From the 2010 Annual Report:

‘...satisfaction with the conciliation process remains high on the part of both complainants and respondents...’

‘...will continue to deliver valuable services to help protect South Australians against unlawful discrimination...’

‘...Over the past year 59% of complaints within our jurisdiction were resolved through conciliation...’

‘...Eighty five percent of conciliated outcomes involved the respondent making an apology or providing another undertaking to the complainant...’

How effective? Let’s put it to the test. In fact, let’s deal with specifics.


For years, I have assisted workplace bully targets with filling-in the Complaint Form. You see, if you don’t get it right, I assure you, it WILL come back and bite you in the bum.

On Thursday, 24 March 2005, at 4.08pm, I lodged a completed Complaint Form claiming I was being victimised for having lodged a previous complaint of sexual harassment on 26 February 2003.

The Equal Opportunity Tribunal in the District Court, to my satisfaction, had dealt with that previous complaint, the 2003 complaint. However, had the Commissioner dealt with it appropriately, Court action would not have been necessary.

Be aware that under the legislation you are permitted to lodge a victimisation complaint provided you can link that behaviour to a previous EOC complaint.

AND, also be aware that if the Commissioner brushes aside your complaint, you do have the right to request it be referred to the Equal Opportunity Tribunal within the District Court. I had to do that!

On page two of my 2005 complaint, I named, in section A, the Office of the Public Trustee as the organisation I was making a complaint against.

On page two of my 2005 complaint, I named, in section B, an Executive Officer of the Office of the Public Trustee I was making a complaint against.

The Form clearly states: ‘...I am complaining about:...’, and ‘...I am also complaining about:...’


What struck me as bizarre from the onset, was that Public Trustee staff trotted across the way to the EOC and sought (and got) assistance with putting together a response to my complaint. Eh???

Can you imagine: "Hi, this is Joe from Joes Chip Shop. You guys sent me this complaint asking for a response within 21 days. Can you help me put it together?'.

During December of 2005, a conciliation conference had been organised by the EOC and attended by me and a proxy for the Public Trustee. Note: the Public Trustee, the ‘...I am complaining about...’ bit.

An agreement was signed. I was happy to release the organisation from my grip.

It was around this time I was sent home, apparently for my own safety. A full-on investigation began, immediately, and for the next three years, everything hit the fan. Investigations, Inquiries, and then a Parliamentary Inquiry.

During all of this time, albeit somewhat distracted, I continued to wait for the EOC to address the other part of my complaint, the ‘...I am also complaining about...’ bit.

On 18 July 2007, I wrote to the then Commissioner, Ms Linda R Matthews.

I received a response dated 26 July 2007. It said:

‘...I refer to your letter of 18 July 2007 requesting information about the progress of complaints against Ms Cath O’Loughlin (the then Public Trustee) and Mr X (I won’t shame the poor bugger anymore) of the Public Trustee...’

‘...I do not have any record of a request to consider your complaint against any individual respondents other than the Public Trustee, nor do I understand that you asked for your complaint to be considered against individual officers...’


I really, really, really hope I am not the only one bewildered here. It is possible that Ms Matthews was in wind-down mode as she drifted toward her exit from the EOC in 2010. Who knows!

One thing I do know, with absolute certainty, is that Ms Matthews was wrong!

The only question worthy of an ask is; ‘WHY?’

It is worthy of mention that there are plenty of media-reported cases of small business operators copping it fair & square for a helluva lot less than the years of crap I went through in the public service.

Should I mention that the EOC, the Public Trustee, the Attorney-General’s department, the State Ombudsman, the Government Investigations Unit, et al, all live inside the Department of Justice tepee?


From my experience, not worth the paper they are written on. I had an agreement I signed-off on in December of 2005. It included a date for my return to Public Trustee, hopefully after the investigation was over.

On 30 November 2006 I wrote; ‘...the 12-month assignment, as per my Settlement, expires in less than a fortnight...’ In other words, tally-ho, get my desk ready.

Four hours later, a response, ‘ will not be returning to Public Trustee...’

Not long after I contacted the EOC. I wanted that Agreement enforced. Ooppss...sorry, no can do. The tootthless tiger had spoken.

So much for Conciliation. So much for the EOC.

The three mandates? Maybe just stick to Information and Education. The rest just doesn’t work, well, not for me!


Anonymous said...

I must say i liked this posting. You have mentioned a number of crucial factors on this page

Anonymous said...

wish you well in your endevours for you and yours. think of you often

adelcomp said...

Thank you.
My email is available from within View Profile if you care to drop a line.
Cheers, Rob

public servant said...

Unbelievable. A real eye opener of a story. I have no doubt what you say is truthful. I know you heavily rely on documentation to prove your points and this is certainly one time when the evidence is flawless. It is so disappointing to hear these things though and it does sadden me. I wish you well Robert.