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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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."