Strengthening our equality laws

Assoc. Prof. Dominique Allen

Strengthening our equality laws

With her work driving more power to the victim, A/Prof Dominique Allen’s hands-on approach to research is making this sector of Australian law more effective.

An eye-opening trip to the birthplace of the American Civil Rights movement awakened A/Prof Allen to the potential for the law to be an instrument of change.

“Spending time in Alabama as a student, visiting historic civil rights landmarks and learning about American Constitutional and discrimination law, inspired my research in this area,” she says.

As Director of Monash Business School’s Labour, Equality and Human Rights research group within the Department of Business Law and Taxation, A/Prof Allen says Australian discrimination law is ineffective in achieving equality because it operates retrospectively and relies on the victim to take action.

“For example, if a person is denied access to a building due to their disability, the courts may compensate that individual, but they are very unlikely to fix the bigger problem and order the business to make the building accessible,” she says.

Her wide-ranging research has tackled the enforcement of anti-discrimination law, the impact of COVID-19 on workers with family responsibilities, pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, and the role of Alternative Dispute Resolution in resolving legal disputes. Her latest research project focuses on women's experiences using Victoria's anti-discrimination laws.

"I gather evidence about how the law is working 'on the ground' so that the law reforms I propose are realistic and achievable."

A/Prof Allen takes a hands-on approach to her research, interviewing lawyers, tribunal members and staff at statutory equality agencies about their experiences in dealing with these issues.

“I do this in order to gather evidence about how the law is working 'on the ground' so that the law reforms I propose are realistic and achievable,” she says.

She has worked with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Queensland Human Rights Commission and Anti-Discrimination New South Wales to conduct her research.

Her findings have been published in leading law journals and she has presented her research domestically and internationally to both academics and practitioners.

“My work has also featured in the media and has been used by law reform inquiries and equality agencies to inform their work,” she says.

A/Prof Allen says she is thrilled to receive the Monash Business School 2022 Dean's Award for Equity, Diversity and Social Inclusion Research Excellence.

“It’s wonderful to have the recognition for the work, and I hope to leverage the award to further my research,” she says.