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The Tasmanian Discrimination Civil and Administrative Tribunal has ordered the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) to allow men into its women’s-only exhibit upon a finding that the Ladies Lounge was discriminatory.  

The Ladies Lounge is said to consist of a personal concierge, butlers and several artworks of significant value for the viewing of ladies only. The creator of the lounge, Ms Kaechele, described the art piece as ‘a response to the lived experience of women forbidden from entering certain spaces throughout history’.[1]

The art exhibit became the topic of legal proceedings after a male tourist, Jason Lau, was denied entry to the Ladies Lounge on the basis of his gender when visiting MONA. Mr Lau’s experience prompted him to file a gender discrimination lawsuit against MONA, of which he was recently successful.

MONA argued that if their conduct was discriminatory to Mr Lau, the exception of equal opportunity under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1984 (the Act) would apply, permitting MONA to refuse entry. This argument was based on the notion that women are disadvantaged through access to spaces. 

In his judgement, Mr Grueber was not satisfied that sufficient evidence had been presented to establish that women are disadvantaged in the form of access to areas. It could not be accepted that the lounge exists to promote equal opportunity as there is no disadvantage to address. Mr Grueber elaborated on this point, stating that even if he was satisfied that women were disadvantaged in the manner argued, the act of prohibiting Mr Lau from accessing the lounge would not promote equal opportunity. It was concluded that the Ladies Lounge did not fall under this exception and was in breach of the Act.

The Court found that the refusal to allow Mr Lau into the Ladies Lounge at MONA amounted to direct discrimination on the grounds of gender and that the exception argued did not apply.

[1] Lau v Moorilla Estate Pty Ltd [2024] TASCAT 58, 17.