Power to Prevent: Urgent Actions Needed to Stop Sexual Harassment at Work

Redfern Legal Centre is a proud signatory to a joint statement calling for urgent action from governments and employers to prevent sexual harassment in workplaces.

Joint statement

We are a group of diverse organisations, unions, researchers, peak bodies, health professionals and lawyers who have come together to say we need to do more to stop sexual harassment in workplaces.

Our organisations and research efforts see the effects of sexual harassment on people around Australia every day and how our systems are not working to respond to the issues. Everyone deserves to be safe at work and in their community. Yet the rates of sexual harassment in Australia are alarming, particularly for women, with 85% having experienced it in their lifetime.

Sexual harassment is about more than just individual behaviour. It is a problem that is deeply entrenched within our society and occurs because gender inequality is ingrained in our social and cultural norms, structures and practices. It’s time that employers and workplaces stamp out sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment causes significant harm to individuals, workplaces and society. We know what the solutions are, but we need governments and employers to implement them. We need strong action to prevent and respond to sexual harassment, and we need it now. We call on State, Territory and Federal Governments across Australia to take urgent and coordinated action to implement the following solutions.

  1. Dedicated prevention efforts to address the underlying gendered drivers of sexual harassment, which should be part of a holistic strategy to prevent violence against women and promote gender equality in line with Change the story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia.
  2. Stronger and clearer legal duties on employers to take proactive steps to prevent sexual harassment at work, and strong and effective regulators that have the full suite of regulatory tools and resources necessary to effectively tackle sexual harassment, including as a cultural, a systemic and a health and safety issue.
  3. Access to fair, effective and efficient complaints processes, including a new right of action under the Fair Work Act, extended time limits, increased transparency of conciliation outcomes where appropriate, and other amendments and resources necessary to address the unique barriers that currently prevent workers who experience sexual harassment from taking effective legal action.
  4. Appropriate advocacy and support for workers who experience sexual harassment, including access to information, counselling and legal services that are appropriately resourced and coordinated.
  5. Accessible reporting tools, including piloting an online reporting tool that assists people to report and address problem behaviour and seek support, and identifies trends to assist with prevention and enforcement efforts.

We stand together to call for change to create sexual harassment free workplaces.

List of Signatories (as at 28 February 2019)

1. Alice Springs Women’s Shelter

2. Annie North Inc

3. Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union - Victoria Branch

4. Australian Council for International Development

5. Australian Council of Social Service

6. Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)

7. Australian Discrimination Law Experts Group, Academic forum

8. Australian Education Union - Victoria

9. Australian Lawyers’ Alliance

10. Australian Manufacturing Worker’s Union Victorian Branch

11. Australian Services Union Victorian and Tasmanian Authorities & Services Branch

12. Australian Women Against Violence Alliance

13. Basic Rights Queensland

14. Centres Against Sexual Assault Forum

15. CFMEU Construction and General Division Victoria and Tasmanian Branch

16. Community and Public Sector Union - PSU Group

17. Community Legal Centres’ NSW

18. Disability Discrimination Legal Service

19. Djirra

20. Domestic Violence NSW

21. Domestic Violence Victoria

22. Dr Alysia Blackham, Academic

23. Dr Belinda Smith, Associate Professor of Sydney Law School, University of Sydney

24. Dr Cristy Clark, Legal Academic

25. Dr Dominique Allen, Legal Academic

26. Dr Karen O’Connell, Associate Professor of Faculty of Law, University of Technology, Sydney

27. Dr Paula McDonald, Legal Academic

28. Dr Sara Charlesworth, Legal Academic

29. Drummond Street Services

30. Emeritus Professor Margaret Thornton of Australian National University College of Law

31. Emma Coetsee, Human Rights Consultant

32. Equality Rights Alliance

33. Fair Agenda

34. Federation of Community Legal Centres

35. Finance Sector Union of Victoria

36. Fitted for Work

37. Gender Equity Victoria (GEN VIC)

38. Gippsland Sexual and Reproductive Health Alliance

39. Gippsland Women’s Health

40. Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand

41. Gordon Legal

42. Health and Community Services Union

43. Human Rights Law Centre

44. Independent Education Union Victoria and Tasmania

45. International Women’s Development Agency

46. Job Watch

47. Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, UTS

48. Justice Connect

49. Karen Willis, Executive Officer, Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia

50. Kingsford Legal Centre

51. Liam Elphick, Legal Academic

52. Maritime Union of Australia

53. Maurice Blackburn

54. Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance

55. Minus18

56. National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC)

57. National Working Women’s Centres

58. Not in My Workplace

59. NOW Australia

60. NT Working Women’s Centre

61. Professor Beth Gaze, Academic

62. Public Health Association of Australia

63. Public Interest Advocacy Centre

64. Rail Bus and Tram Union

65. Redfern Legal Centre

66. RMIT Centre for People, Organisation & Work (CPOW)

67. Ruby Gaea Darwin Centre Against Sexual Violence

68. Sexual Assault Support Service Inc

69. Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) National

70. St Kilda Legal Service

71. Switchboard Victoria

72. Thorne Harbour Health

73. Unions NSW

74. United Voice

75. University of Melbourne Students Union

76. Victoria Legal Aid

77. Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service

78. Victorian Council of Social Service

79. Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC)

80. Victorian Women’s Lawyers

81. Victorian Women’s Trust

82. Villamanta Disability Rights Legal Service Inc.

83. WestJustice

84. Women in Adult and Vocational Education (WAVE)

85. Women with Disabilities Victoria

86. Women’s Electoral Lobby

87. Women’s Health and Wellbeing Barwon South West

88. Women’s Health Goulburn North East

89. Women’s Health in the South East (WHISE)

90. Women’s Health NSW

91. Women’s Health Victoria

92. Women’s Health West

93. Women’s Legal Service NSW

94. Women’s Legal Service Victoria

95. Women’s Legal Services Australia

96. Women’s Property Initiatives

97. Working Women Queensland

98. Working Women’s Centre South Australia Inc

99. Youth Affairs Council Victoria

100. YWCA Australia

101. Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission

The joint statement is being submitted to the Australian Human Rights Commission National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces.

Further information: Change the culture, change the system – end sexual harassment at work (Victoria Legal Aid, 28 February 2019)

Download Joint Statement (28 February 2019)