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 Posted Saturday, April 3, 1999

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Courier-Mail, Brisbane, August 29, 1998

Jewish dating agency wins permission to discriminate

A MELBOURNE woman yesterday won the right to operate a dating agency exclusively for Jews.

The ruling handed down by the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal will allow Ann Ivamy-Phillips, who sought permission to exclude non-Jews from her agency, to pursue the business scheme designed to serve the Jewish community.

She delivered a one-line statement to reporters outside the tribunal yesterday.

"We would like to say that this is a pleasing result and it illustrates the true multicultural atmosphere that people of different cultures and backgrounds can enjoy in Australia," Ms Ivamy-Phillips said.

The ruling followed an earlier decision of the tribunal, which refused Ms Ivamy-Phillips's application to be exempt from the Equal Opportunity Act on the basis there was insufficient statistical backing for her case.

But in her decision yesterday, tribunal deputy president Cate Mckenzie said she had been convinced by the new weight of evidence brought before her that the dating service would allow Jewish people an equal opportunity to find a life partner.

"We're satisfied on the material before us that there is a clear need in the community for a service that this agency would provide," Ms Mckenzie said.

Earlier, the tribunal had received supporting affidavits from a prominent St Kilda rabbi and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

A spokesman for the Jewish community, Dr David Maddison, told the tribunal there were limited opportunities for Jews to meet other Jews because very few functions were organised specifically for singles.

Monash University professor Bernard Rechter presented a 1991 study which showed assimilation, intermarriage and loss of Jewish identity were the main concerns of the 600 Jews questioned.

Ms Mckenzie, referring to the survey, said the tribunal had heard that Jewish people of all ages and degrees of religious commitment shared the same concerns.

She said the small size of the Jewish population made it difficult for them to meet prospective marriage partners, and religious Jews in particular considered marrying a Jewish partner "vitally important".

Ms Mckenzie said the dating service was on the borderline of the scope of the Act, but the decision was necessary to assist Jews who were disadvantaged in finding a life partner.

"Other agencies cater for the population as a whole," she said. "This service will cater only for Jews and give them the same equality of access that the wider population has."

Ms Mckenzie said the decision should not be viewed by other racial groups as a precedent for segregating activities; any future cases would be decided on the evidence available.

The decision will not become operative until it is published in the Government Gazette and will then last for three years.

Our opinion
  DON'T do as I do, do as I say: we can hear our parents' mocking words. But many fine authorities agree with this particular Jewish privilege, for example Professor Deborah Lipstadt.
    We do however wonder what incentives were offered to the Australian tribunal to make this exception?

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