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Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School - Green Background

Country Details

Australia

  • NSW Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages v. Norrie, Australia, High Court, 2014.
    After undergoing a sex affirmation procedure, Norrie registered as “non-specific” with the NSW Registrar. After initially approving this registration, the NSW informed Norrie that the registration was invalid. The Administrative Decisions Tribunal of New South Wales agreed with this determination, and the Tribunal’s appeal panel dismissed Norrie’s appeal. At this point, Norrie appealed to the Court of Appeal of New South Wales, which remitted the matter to the Tribunal for determination of Norrie’s sex classification. The Registrar appealed to the High Court. The issue on appeal to the High Court was whether the NSW Registrar was in fact confined to registrations of “male” or “female,” which would preclude Norrie’s registration as “non-specific.” The High Court noted that the Transgender (Anti-Discrimination and Other Acts Amendment) Act of 1996, which amended the Births, Deaths, and Marriages Registration Act of 1995, recognized “ambiguities.” Furthermore, the Court pointed to its holding in AB v. Western Australia, where it stated that "the sex of a person is not ... in every case unequivocally male or female." On this basis, the High Court held that individuals do not have to affirmatively select “male” or “female” following a sex affirmation procedure, and may instead register as “non-specific” with the NSW Registrar.
  • Richardson v. Oracle Corporation Australia Pty Ltd, Australia, Federal Court of Australia, 2014.
    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.
  • PGA v. The Queen, Australia, High Court, 2012.
    This case concerns charges of assault and rape brought against a husband, the appellant, for the rape of his wife in 1963. In an appeal to the High Court, the appellant sought immunity for the rape of his wife, arguing that marital rape was not illegal at the time the events took place. The appellant argued that his wife gave irrevocable consent to sexual intercourse upon their marriage in 1962 pursuant to the era’s common law. The Court considered existing laws and writings from the time period in question, questioning whether the aforementioned immunity ever actually existed and ultimately deciding that “if it did, it had ceased to do so sometime before 1963.” On the basis of this analysis, the Court dismissed the appeal.
  • Ayoub v. AMP Bank Limited, Australia, Court of Appeal, 2011.
    Ms. Ayoub claimed harassment and discrimination following a performance appraisal after which her position was made redundant. She also sought worker’s compensation for anxiety/distress caused by the alleged conduct. An arbitrator found for Ms. Ayoub on the basis that the company had failed to consult her on the redundancy decision and mishandled the performance appraisal and these actions caused her mental injuries. A court overturned the arbitrator, finding that first, while it would be unreasonable for an employer to inform a worker of her redundancy in a callous way, the redundancy decision was unrelated to Ms. Ayoub’s performance, and second, Ms. Ayoub’s position was such that she did not legally have to be consulted ahead of time. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Acting Deputy President’s decision, finding no error of law.
  • Phillips v. The Queen, Australia, High Court, 2006.
    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.
  • SZAIX v. Minister for Immigration & Multicultural & Indigenous Affairs and Refugee Review Tribunal, Australia, Federal Court of Australia, 2006.
    A citizen of Indonesia sought protection on the basis that she feared persecution on the grounds of race, religion and membership of a particular social group, alleged to be either Indonesian women or Chinese Christian women in Indonesia. The appellant was raped in Indonesia. The Refugee Review Tribunal concluded that perpetrators of sexual assault in Indonesia do not engage in rape as a means of persecuting ethnic Chinese women (or women) as a particular social group. The court found that the Tribunal did not fully consider the applicant’s arguments that she feared persecution from local authorities for reporting the rape and the applicant was granted leave to amend her application to raise that ground and any other new grounds.
  • SZEGN v. Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Australia, Federal Court of Australia, 2006.
    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.
  • SYLB v. Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Australia, Federal Court of Australia, 2005.
    A married couple, citizens of Yugoslavia and ethnic Albanians, sought protection on the basis that the wife feared persecution in Kosovo. The wife was raped by a Serbian soldier. The Refugee Review Tribunal concluded that the applicants each had a well-founded fear of persecution in Kosovo at the time they fled, but that those conditions no longer existed. The court concluded that the Tribunal misunderstood the legal test to be applied for the purpose of determining whether the female applicant was unwilling, due to a well-founded fear of persecution, to avail herself of the protection of her country.
  • VWFG v. Minister for Immigration & Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Australia, Federal Court of Australia, 2005.
    A citizen of Ghana sought protection for fear that she would be subject to arranged marriage and female genital mutilation. The Refugee Review Tribunal found the applicant to be not credible, in part because she could not identify the ethnic group that the proposed husband came from. The court found these factual conclusions satisfactory and affirmed.
  • Olga Dranichnikov v. Australia, Australia, Human Rights Committee, 2004.
    HRC held sex discrimination claim inadmissible for non-exhaustion of domestic remedies because of High Court judgment in petitioner's favor.
  • SVFB v. Minister for Immigration & Multicultural & Indigenous Affairs, Australia, Federal Court of Australia, 2004.
    A citizen of Nigeria sought protection for fear that she would be subject to female genital mutilation. The Refugee Review Tribunal found that female genital mutilation constitutes serious harm amounting to persecution, but that on the facts, there was no real risk that the applicant would be subjected to female genital mutilation.
  • VSAI v. Minister for Immigration & Multicultural & Indigenous Affairs, Australia, Federal Court of Australia, 2004.
    A citizen of Eritrea sought protection on the basis that she feared persecution in Eritrea, where she would either be (i) conscripted into, and subject to rape and abuse by, the army or (ii) prosecuted for failure to report for conscription. Although she presented evidence that rape, sexual abuse and impregnation by military officers was committed against draftees, including at the camp to which she would be assigned, as well as evidence showing incidents of parents killed whilst resisting the drafting of their daughters, a delegate of the Refugee Review Tribunal denied the application. The court found that the Tribunal misdirected itself by not asking whether rape, sexual abuse and impregnation by military officers was deliberate or pre-meditated conduct, exposure to which the applicant could not be expected to tolerate. The court set aside the Tribunal’s decision and the matter referred back to the Tribunal.
  • Kumar v. Minister for Immigration & Multicultural Affairs, Australia, Federal Court of Australia, 2002.
    A married couple, both of Indian ethnic origin and citizens of Fiji, sought protection for fear of persecution on the grounds that the wife was abducted and raped because of her Indian ethic origins and because of her husband’s local political activity. The Refugee Review Tribunal did not accept that the wife was raped for reasons of her Indian ethnic origins, nor her husband’s support for the FLP. The court affirmed.
  • Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs v. Khawar, Australia, High Court, 2002.
    A Pakistani citizen and her children applied for protection visas in Australia. The issue was whether Pakistan failed to provide protection against domestic violence and if this failure can be considered persecution (allowing refugee status). The Court found that the woman could be considered a part of a persecuted "social group" because women are a "distinct and recognizable group" and that failure to protect can be persecution if there is 1) "criminal conduct of private citizens" and 2) "codonation [sic] of such conduct by the state or its agents, in circumstances where the state has a duty to protect against such harm."
  • Weheliye v. Minister for Immigration & Multicultural Affairs, Australia, Federal Court of Australia, 2001.
    A citizen of Somalia sought a protection order on the basis that she feared persecution due to her status as young, a Somali and a woman. The application asserted that she had been sentenced to death by stoning for adultery in Somalia. The Refugee Review Tribunal denied the application, finding the applicant not credible and holding that neither married nor divorced Somalia women constituted a protected group. The court held that the Tribunal erred because it did not examine whether the law against adultery was applied and administered in Somalia in a discriminatory manner.
  • Minister for Immigration & Multicultural Affairs v. Ndege, Australia, Federal Court of Australia, 1999.
    A citizen of Tanzania sought protection on the basis that she feared persecution as a married woman in Tanzania. The applicant had been raped by her husband and argued that Tanzanian authorities were unwilling or unable to protect female citizens. The Refugee Review Tribunal denied the application because there was no evidence that the husband’s violence was related to any protected status. The court affirmed, but nevertheless remitted to the Tribunal to consider whether the husband’s violence against the applicant had been motived by a Convention related reason, such as race, religion, nationality, political opinion or of her membership in a particular social group.