What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 18 February to 6 March 2022

Boards Central to End Sexual Harassment

On 2 March 2022, Kate Jenkins spoke to the importance of boards in preventing sexual harassment in a company. Ms Jenkins is the Sex Discrimination Commissioner. She spoke at the Australian Governance Summit, noting that only 19% of Australian companies recognised the role of the board in being central to responding to sexual harassment. In her speech, Ms Jenkins emphasised that diversity is also important in ensuring that the right issues were being addressed on company boards. Ms Jenkins also announced that the most recent findings of a Sex Discrmination Commission’s survey will be published in late 2022.

ANU Cites Awareness of Online Reporting System as Reason for Jump In Sexual Misconduct Disclosures

A report from the 2 March has shown that sexual assault complaints at the Australian National University (ANU) had increased by 50 per cent. In 2019, ANU introduced a Sexual Misconduct Disclosure form as part of a broader strategy to tackle sexual violence on campus. The Sexual Violence Prevention Strategy was made in response to a Human Rights Commission report that found 40 per cent of ANU students had been sexually harassed in a one-year period. In the last 2 years, disclosures increased from 250 to 366. ANU has said that awareness of the disclosure form has led to the increase rather than a high presence of sexual violence on campus. Majority of the identified perpetrators had been dismissed from the University.

University of Melbourne Accused of Ignoring Female Students Allegedly Harassed In Class

Staff members of the University of Melbourne have allegedly ignored complaints of sexual harassment and assault in their classes. Three former students of the Victorian College of the Arts have come forward to share their experiences at the University. Mia Boonen alleged she was groped during class and later pressured to not make a formal complaint. A teacher said the complaint would ruin the male student’s life. Two other students, Antoinette Tracey and Sinead Fernandes also came forward to report that a male student had sexually and racially harassed them. The incident made the women cry, to which a teacher responded by asking whether the girls were on their period. The University has responded by stating it will address the allegations under the Student Conduct Policy.

Australia Should Join Push for New UN Convention on Rights of Older Persons

This week the co-chair of the EveryAGE Counts campaign, Robert Tickner, called for the Australian Government to support a new UN Convention on Rights of Older Persons. Robert Tickner made this announcement on 3 March – the international day of action in support of a new convention. Mr Tickner specifically cited the need for greater protections for older Australians seeking employment. Thirty per cent of Australian employers have said they are reluctant to employ people ‘over a certain age’. The chief executive of Older Persons Advocacy Network also voiced support for a new convention.

Sexual Harassment in The Legal Profession?

On 2 March, Lawyers Weekly published an update on the Law Institute of Victoria Panel (LIV Panel) that took place on 22 February. The LIV Panel was held to discuss the persistent nature of sexual harassment in the profession. The event resulted in the publication of a report titled Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession. What can we do about it?. The Panel discussed the importance of cultural change, the need for zero tolerance policies and shifts in society.

Body Shaming Needs to Be Stamped Out: AFLW Milestone Marvel Marinoff

Adelaide AFLW player, Ebony Marinoff, has called out remarks made about Sarah Perkins. The online comments were body shaming Ms Perkins after she apologised to fans for missing a goal. Ms Marinoff called to “stamp out” body shaming from football. Ms Marinoff commended the AFL for having a sporting code against body shaming. Cricket Australia adopted a similar approach in its anti-harassment policy.

Women In Spotlight: 1 In 3 Women Abused Online in Work Context

The Women in the Spotlight report is due to be released ahead of this year’s International Women’s Day. The report is said to address women’s experiences with online abuse in their working lives and the experiences of women who have a strong professional media presence. eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, has already commented on the findings. She stated it was troubling that 35% of the women surveyed had experienced online abuse in a professional context. These numbers for significantly higher among the younger population and women who either had a disability or identified as LGBT+. Many of the incidents involved comments on gender, physical appearance and motherhood.

‘I Regret My Words’: Treasurer Tim Pallas Apologises

Treasurer Tim Pallas has apologised to Kaushaliya Vaghela for questioning her mental state. Mr Pallas made these comments in response to Ms Veghela’s allegations of bullying within the Victorian government. Mr Pallas specifically apologised for his “choice of words”. He initially stated that the government could assist in helping Ms Veghela with her “state of mind”. Ms Veghela has alleged that she has experienced bullying from the day she was elected.

Paid Family and Domestic Leave – We’ve Waited Long Enough

On 28 February, Australian Unions announced that it would be running the We Won’t Wait campaign. This campaign calls for a minimum of 10 days paid leave for people experiencing family violence – Family and Domestic Violence Leave. One third of employers currently offer this type of leave. Australian Unions hopes to create national consistency in employment protection nationally. Australian Unions criticised the Morrison government on remaining silent on the issue of domestic violence and how it affects Australian women and workers.

Samoan Farmworkers Told to Quit ‘White People’ Unions

A senior government official in Samoa, Aufa’i Fulisiailagitele Saleuesile, has pressured Samoan farm workers working in Australia to quit a union. The official said that the workers should not “test him” because he was giving an “order” from home. The comments are in breach of the Fair Work Act, which precludes people from coercing workers to quit or join unions. Aufa’i Fulisiailagitele Saleuesile said that unions were only for “white people” and promoted destruction. The official has made similar statements in both North Queensland and Tasmania.

Greens To Push For $12 Billion Over 12 Years to Tackle Domestic Violence

The Greens party has called for $12 billion to be invested into a 12 year funding package for national domestic violence services. Part of the proposal is for $477 million to be used in the next 4 years to prevent domestic violence. This would include giving $10,000 “survivor grants” and 10 day leave for people fleeing domestic violence. As the Greens are unlikely to implement the policy on their own, the party has said it will try to negotiate with Labor on different policies.