Victoria Legal Aid has won a discrimination claim for a man with multiple disabilities who had been banned by Manningham City Council from entering all of its buildings, diminishing his right to participate in public life.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) found that the council’s decision to maintain the ban constituted direct discrimination and was also a breach of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.
Victoria Legal Aid Equality Law Program Manager Melanie Schleiger said although the council had concerns about the behaviour of Paul Slattery, 66, it had other options than simply banning him from more than 200 council owned, operated or managed buildings in the City of Manningham.
‘For over four years he hasn’t been allowed to attend public information sessions run by the council, or to engage with local government on issues important to the community.
‘He’s missed out on things like taking his grandchildren to the swimming pool, and said he feels like a second-class citizen because he hasn’t been able to use public toilets or go to the local library,’ Ms Schleiger said.
Mr Slattery made a complaint of disability discrimination against Manningham City Council to VCAT.
He has multiple disabilities and in April 2009 was banned from all buildings owned, operated or managed by Manningham City Council – in part because it alleged he was disruptive at local council meetings and abusive towards staff.
The council also refused to correspond with Mr Slattery on any issues it considered did not directly impact on him and would not accept his phone calls.
‘This case shows how someone can be discriminated against because their behaviour – caused by their disabilities – is misinterpreted and misunderstood, and then inappropriately responded to,’ Ms Schleiger said.
Mr Slattery’s disabilities include diagnosed bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, compulsive disorder, an acquired brain injury which resulted from a stroke, and a hearing impairment.
Manningham City Council and Mr Slattery have been ordered to attempt to agree on appropriate remedies before VCAT considers making orders.
Ms Schleiger said that the council had other options for dealing with Mr Slattery’s behaviour, and that Victoria Legal Aid was looking forward to resolving a position with the council.
VCAT’s decision also provides clarity around section 8 of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010.
‘Its interpretation makes it easier for applicants to prove discrimination because they no longer have the complex task of proving that a person without their disability who behaved in the same way would have been treated differently,’ Ms Schleiger said.
Reviewed 01 April 2022