Women Speak Tasmania is disappointed that Anti-discrimination Commissioner Sarah Bolt has referred our complaint against former Anti-discrimination Commissioner Robin Banks to the Ombudsman for investigation.

We submitted our complaint against Robin Banks when our organisation was no-platformed last year at a public forum in Human Rights Week organised by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

We were no-platformed as a consequence of an email received by WILPF from Robin Banks’.

On 30 November 2018, Ms Robin Banks, emailed WILPF with the following –

‘I am writing out of concern for WILPF, having just seen the invitation to your human rights week event at which you have Women Speak Tasmania as the speakers.

I anticipate that the reason you have invited this group is their apparent promotion of women’s rights. Sadly, this is not a group that support human rights for all.

They have, at present, a nasty and untruthful campaign targeting members of Tasmania’s gender diverse community. They do not support the human rights of people who are gender diverse. Indeed, they deny their very humanity and existence.

The giving to this group a https://tasmaniantimes.com/2017/06/fake-hate-speech-on-agenda-in-tasmania/platform for their hateful views by WILPF will be seen by many in the LGBTIQ community as an endorsement by WILPF of those views. This is the very real potential to damage the reputation of an extraordinary and compassionate long-standing human rights group.

If there is any way that I can help you to negotiate what I think is a very difficult situation, I am happy to do so

Robin Banks’

Following submission of our complaint to Equal Opportunity Tasmania, the Commissioner, Sarah Bolt, advised it had been referred to the Ombudsman for determination.

Ms Bolt advised as follows –

‘My decision to delegate your complaint to the State Ombudsman was made on the basis that; 

  • Ms Banks previously held the position of Anti-Discrimination Commissioner
  • All the current conciliation and investigation officers worked with Ms Banks
  • As the current Commissioner I chttps://tasmaniantimes.com/2017/06/fake-hate-speech-on-agenda-in-tasmania/onsider it inappropriate for me to be the decision maker in relation to a complaint against a former Commissioner
  • The Ombudsman is independent of this Office and as such the potential for either party to perceive or allege bias or conflict interest in relation to the decision making process is removed’.

It is disappointing the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner does not perceive her office as capable of conducting an impartial investigation into a straightforward complaint such as we have submitted.

Women Speak Tasmania has had no contact from the Ombudsman.  We are very concerned the complaint will not be dealt with in the same time frame for complaints handling at Equal Opportunity Tasmania.

The Office of the Ombudsman has an unacceptable backlog of Right to Information Requests with delays of over 230 days in getting decisions out.

We do not think our matter will be handled with the expediency it deserves, given the severity of our complaint against Robin Banks.

Our complaint needs to be handled in a timely manner so we can receive redress for Banks’ discriminatory actions and the damage she has caused our reputations.  These are serious public interest matters considering the current transgender debate in Tasmania.

More:  https://tasmaniantimes.com/2018/12/robin-banks-attempts-to-no-platform-women-speak-tasmania/

Bronwyn Williams is a retired lawyer and social worker

Isla MacGregor is a women’s human rights and free speech advocate

Women Speak Tasmania is a network of women and their supporters based in Tasmania. We operate as a secular group. We are not aligned with any political party or ideology. We share research and information on a broad range of women’s rights issues. These include – female only spaces, services, groups and facilities; the sexualisation of girls and women; pornography/prostitution and the harms of the global sex trade; surrogacy as a violation of women’s human rights; and ending male violence against girls and women. We understand that sex-based oppression affects all women, and underlies all abuses of female rights. We support the right of women to speak freely about the inequities and discrimination they experience. We aim to give a voice to girls and women in the pursuit of justice, peace and security. We support full autonomy and personal freedom for all women.