The former managing director of ABC has accused its chairman of sexually harassing her. Michelle Guthrie claimed that Justin Milne inappropriately touched her at a function in 2017 when he rubbed her back. She described it as being “icky”, “inappropriate” and “unprofessional”. According to her, it was “very, very clear” that board member Joe Gersh encouraged her to resign after she made the allegation. She further believes that her accusation played a part in her dismissal. Mr Milne has denied the accusations but Ms Guthrie says she has since avoided similar settings where such behaviour could recur.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions is seeking to review the process for sex harassment allegations in light of a recent survey. Although not yet complete, preliminary results of the online survey indicate that 61% of women and 35% of men have experienced workplace sexual harassment, while 64% of respondents have witnessed it. While 70% of respondents have been subjected to crude or offensive behaviour, 34% have been the victims of inappropriate physical contact. Under its recommendations, the Council is pushing to have allegations of sexual harassment heard by the Fair Work Commission, in an attempt to improve efficiency.
A British intimacy director is seeking to incorporate guidelines on intimacy into the national code of conduct. Ita O’Brien has been conducting seminars in Australia with the Equity Foundation, having paved the way for Intimacy on Set guidelines in the UK. She believes these guidelines, which set the boundaries for nudity, kissing and simulated sex scenes on film, could be incorporated into the Code of Conduct on Sexual Harassment implemented by Screen Australia in April of 2018. She said the guidelines were not censorship but rather established a framework in which actors could agree and consent to proposed scenes involving touching and intimate behaviour. The guidelines would allows for actors or their agents to discuss scenes involving intimate behaviour, require the presence of a third party and set parameters to allow for the stopping of action where necessary.
Public Sector Commission data indicates that there are cultural problems within the Rottnest Island Authority. According to a staff survey of the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions conducted by the Commission, the Rottnest Island Authority fared consistently worse than its Perth Zoo and Botanical Gardens and Parks Authority counterparts. More than half of staff respondents indicated they wanted to quit, with nearly 20% having been the victims of bullying. Around 1 in 8 respondents claimed to have witnessed discrimination, harassment, sexual assault or other indecent behaviour at work.
A rural women’s group has warned about the high prevalence of sexual harassment in rural workplaces. Jackie Jarvis, the CEO of the Rural, Regional, Remote Women’s Network of Western Australia (RRR Network), said animals’ welfare was often prioritised before that of female employees. In one of the stories she had heard, the middle-aged boss of a cattle farm told his male station-hands that the first to sleep with a female worker would receive a bonus of $1000. Ms Jarvis suggested that such “insidious, insulting comments were almost like a test”, in that they have to be passed to be able to live and work in regional areas. The RRR Network held an #UsToo event to raise awareness about the extent of sexual harassment in regional workplaces; however, the reality is that such behaviour causes many women to leave permanently.
A NSW Greens MP has called on her colleague to resign in the wake of sexual harassment allegations. Under parliamentary privilege, Jenny Leong made a speech in which she said she believed former Greens staffer Ella Buckland, who had previously accused Jeremy Buckingham of inappropriately touching her. Ms Leong also claimed that Mr Buckingham had behaved aggressively and in an intimidating manner towards her in passing. Mr Buckingham has refused to resign, pointing to an independent workplace investigation into the original allegations, which did not find any wrongdoing.