What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 18 – 25 April 2021

‘Bizarre’: Government’s ‘Milkshake’ Sex Consent Video Slammed

Politicians have ridiculed the federal government’s new sex education and consent campaign, claiming the “tortured metaphors” of milkshakes, tacos and sharks are too confusing to lead to any real change on assault. It comes after weeks of sustained pressure of the Morrison government over its handling of a rape allegation made by former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins, as well as wider conversations about sexual assault harassment and misogyny in politics and wider society. Federal Greens senator Larissa Waters called it the “worst piece of consent education I’ve ever seen”, while Labor’s Tanya Plibersek said it was a “waste”. The education material, commissioned by the Morrison government as part of the Respect Matters program, includes a collection of videos that have been slammed on social media. In one video about consent, a man with a spear gun tries to convince a woman scared of sharks that she should swim at a beach. In another, a woman smears milkshake on a man’s face in a lesson about respectful relationships. Rape prevention advocates have slammed the government’s new school resources platform, titled ‘The Good Society’, as basic, confusing and inaccurate. Alan Tudge, the Federal Education Minister, has defended the program as being created and reviewed by experts.

‘Milkshake Consent Video’ Pulled Amid Mounting Political Backlash Over ‘Woeful’ Campaign

The federal government has removed the milkshake consent video following widespread criticism from both Liberal and Labor education ministers. The now-deleted video formed part of a new campaign called “Respect Matters”, which aims to provide educational material for schools to teach children about consent and boundaries. As well as deleting the widely criticised “milkshake consent” video, a video that discussed coercion using the metaphor of entering shark-infested waters was also removed. But videos that use tacos to illustrate the importance of “stopping, asking and listening” in relationships are still active on the campaign’s website.

Sexual harassment an ‘Open Secret’ in Victoria’s Legal Profession

A “stunning lack” of process has failed to protect those working in Victorian courts against sexual harassment from judicial officers, including judges and senior lawyers. Former human rights commissioner Helen Szoke has called for changes to how judges are appointed and policed after her review exposed stark instances of sexual harassment in Victorian courts. The review was sparked by a separate inquiry that found former High Court justice Dyson Heydon harassed six associates while he worked there. Mr Heydon has denied the accusations. Supreme Court chief justice Anne Ferguson, said in response: “Sexual harassment is harmful, unlawful and wrong. It goes against everything our justice system is built on. I want to make it clear that we will not put up with any form of wrongful conduct in our courts or VCAT. There will be zero tolerance for sexual harassment.” While the report stated sexual harassment was frequently reported as being perpetrated and experienced by barristers, of the 36 court staff who detailed incidents, most were tipstaff, clerks or judges’ associates – coveted positions often awarded to young lawyers straight out of university to work one-on-one with judges and magistrates. In the Victorian report, Dr Szoke made 20 recommendations, including the establishment of a formal internal complaints process, which included independent investigations, and changes to the working arrangements for roles such as judges’ associates so they have different people they can report to.

Harassment ‘Rife’ in SA Legal Profession

Sexual harassment is widespread within the South Australian legal profession with incidents involving senior lawyers and members of the judiciary, a report has found. An investigation by Acting Equal Opportunity Commissioner Steph Halliday also found much of the unwanted behaviour went unreported with victims fearing their careers would suffer if they spoke up. After taking more than 600 survey responses and other submissions, Ms Halliday said 42 per cent reported experiencing sexual or discriminatory harassment with 69 per cent of those opting not to report the incidents. The unwanted behaviour ranged from suggestive comments or jokes to touching, hugging and kissing and even pressure for sex. Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said the report, which included 16 recommendations, would provide a blueprint for reform by both the government and the profession.

SA Chief Justice Offers to Meet With Sexual Harassment Complainants After Damning Report

South Australia’s Chief Justice Chris Kourakis has committed to personally oversee sexual harassment complaints from members of the legal profession after it was revealed claims have been made against a sitting judicial officer. Equal Opportunity Commissioner Jodeen Carney said a correction had been made to the report released by the Equal Opportunity Commission after a survey respondent let her know the allegations she made were against a sitting judicial officer. Mr Kourakis said he was “very disappointed” to hear complaints had been made to the inquiry about serving and retired judicial officers. He said complainants could be accompanied by a support person of their choice and to ensure confidentiality, the meeting could be arranged at a place away from the courts.

Brittany Higgins Meeting With Morrison and Albanese Finally Locked In

Former government adviser Brittany Higgins will meet Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday, more than two months since she went public with shocking allegations that she was raped in Parliament House. The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age has also learned Ms Higgins will also hold a separate face-to-face meeting with Anthony Albanese after the Opposition Leader made contact with the former Liberal adviser. The back-to-back meetings will take place in Sydney next Friday and Ms Higgins will bring a series of proposals, including changes to the Members of Parliament Staff (MOPS) Act under which political staffers are employed to make it harder for political staffers to be arbitrarily fired. Ms Higgins said she wanted the meeting to focus on securing improved conditions for political advisers who “have very few protections, resources and confidential reporting mechanisms to address any workplace issues”. Ms Higgins will not discuss her rape allegations with the Prime Minister because it is the subject of an ongoing police investigation in the ACT.

100 CEOS Sign Public Pledge to Stamp Out Sexual Harassment

Many of Australia’s leading businesses have publicly signed a pledge to stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace.
Coordinated by the Diversity Council of Australia, the zero-tolerance for sexual harassment pledge has been signed by more than 100 CEOs of major companies and organisations, including leading banks, professional and services firms, resource companies, multinational organisations, not for profits and universities. The #IStandForRespect pledge asks the businesses who sign on to do two things:
1. Stand against gendered harassment and violence in all its forms
2. Commit to taking steps in their organisation to address sexual and sex-based harassment, to make the workplace safer for everyone
CEOs from more than 100 organisations including Salesforce, Crown Resorts, Hall & Wilcox, IKEA, Origin Energy, Network 10, Westpac, PepsiCo, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, and the University of New South Wales have signed on to the pledge.

Worker Fired for Refusing Vaccine Loses Appeal

An Australian childcare worker who had a “conscientious objection” to receiving the flu vaccine has lost her unfair dismissal appeal. The worker Bou-Jamie Barber, who had worked at Goodstart Early Learning since 2006, brought her unfair dismissal case to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) after she refused to get a flu vaccine in April 2020. She had claimed a “sensitive immune system” and previous negative experiences with the flu vaccine, but the commission said her evidence provided of this was “vague”. FWC deputy president Nicholas Lake said the childcare sector is one in which “safety is of paramount importance”, and as such it was “logical and necessary” for centres to require vaccinations. The FWC’s decision comes amid another high profile dismissal case involving a nurse who refused to take a flu vaccine.

Long-Serving Qantas Captain Wins Age Discrimination Injunction

A pilot who has worked for Qantas for 32 years has won an injunction to stop the airline from terminating his employment because he has turned 65. The Federal Court said while Captain Paul Summers doesn’t have a strong argument, he must remain stood down until the Human Rights Commission can consider the case. In aviation, many countries, including Australia, ban pilots over the age of 65 from flying long-haul international routes. The case is complicated because, as an A330 captain, Captain Summers was tasked with flying both short and long-haul routes and also because COVID halted international, but not domestic, flights. Captain Summers was among 55 pilots offered a special early retirement package last year because he was turning 65 before 1 July 2022. The deal was worth three-times more than a traditional voluntary redundancy deal. Qantas has argued keeping him on would involve a major overhaul of its current rostering system. The full case will be heard in the coming weeks.

Barrister Reprimanded for Sexual Harassment of Young Solicitor

A NSW barrister who claimed to have “attempted chivalry” has admitted to sexually harassing a young female solicitor in a Supreme Court conference room. Longstanding barrister David Raphael has been reprimanded and ordered to attend eight hours of counselling after the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) found he had sexually harassed a younger solicitor with “wholly inappropriate” physical contact and comments inside a Supreme Court conference room. In his affidavit, Mr Raphael explained his conduct was “attempted chivalry” and states he did “not consider at the time that there was the slightest sexual aspect”. On reflection, he characterised the events as a “misguided attempt… to console a younger female solicitor, and to try and help her”. The tribunal accepted that he did not intend to distress, upset, humiliate or embarrass the solicitor and that he was “apparently totally ignorant” of the likely effect it could have on her. This lack of understanding is of a “considerable concern”, especially considering extensive media coverage and comments by his friends.