What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 24 July 2023 – 30 July 2023

Western Australian Government Launches ‘Zero Tolerance’ Project

The State Government has granted $100,000 to the Multicultural Services Centre of Western Australia (MSCWA) to deliver a Zero Tolerance program. The program is designed to promote “safe, respectful and inclusive workplaces for culturally and linguistically diverse women.” According to the article, the program will include training that will aid in raising awareness, reduce barriers for reporting incidents in the workplace and prevent gender-based violence in the community. Additionally, Zero Tolerance will “provide free access to interpreters whose first language is not English if they are involved in a workplace sexual harassment complaint.” Zero Tolerance will further provide training for MSCWA staff to provide information in relation to worker’s rights, including workplace sexual harassment. The project aligns in accordance with the Australian Human Rights Commission Respect@Work inquiry report conducted in 2020, which found that 39 per cent of women had experienced workplace sexual harassment in the past five years. Further, the Respect@Work report found that “migrant and refugee women were more likely than the general population to experience sexual harassment.” The Multicultural Services Centre of Western Australia constitutes one of 14 community groups that will receive funding from the Women’s Grants for a Stronger Future program this year.

Internal Report Finds Long Work Hours and Bullying at Ernest & Young

A recent internal report conducted by former sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick has found that two in five staff have considered quitting Big 4 firm, Ernest & Young (EY). The landmark report identified “a culture of overwork and found workers were too scared to report bad behaviour.” The report was ordered after an EY employee died by suicide at the Sydney office in August of last year. While the report found that the majority of the 11,000 staff at EY felt safe within the workplace, 15 per cent of workers has experienced “bullying, sexual harassment or racism at work.” Further, the report found that overwork was a “critical issue,” with junior staff reporting “significant distress” and that their health had been affected due to pressure from senior management. According to the report, “Oceania’s people believe that many of these issues – in particular, long working hours and, to a lesser extent, bullying – have their origin in the firm’s business model, which they perceive as a driving focus on profit and delivery over people.” Managing director David Larocca stated that the findings of the report were “distressing and completely unacceptable,” declaring that EY would endeavour to become “a more respectful and inclusive workplace, where everyone feels empowered to speak up.” EY has stated that it will implement all 27 recommendations of Ms Broderick’s report to improve the workplace. According to the article, EY will also commence several pilot initiatives to relieve stress in the workplace, including “assessing partners on revenue measures rather than profit margin to ensure sufficient resources are allocated to jobs, increasing time off in lieu, and rewarding contributions to diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.” The report was prepared following an online survey completed by almost 4,200 workers as well as 216 interviews with current and former staff and partners.

New South Wales Government Approves $15 Million Anti-Bullying and Sexual Harassment Reforms

This week, the New South Wales cabinet approved a $15 million plan to implement reforms that were recommended from a 2022 report. According to the article, the report revealed “systematic bullying, five alleged sexual assaults and widespread harassment within the state’s parliament.” Further, the report found that “sexual harassment and everyday sexism occurred at unacceptable rates.” The funding will reportedly cover expenses relating to the training of 10 staff, as well as support services and progress monitoring. The decision follows an investigation commenced by the Liberal Party in relation to allegations surrounding upper house member Taylor Martin. It has been alleged that Taylor Martin “sent offensive text messages to a woman.” Further, it has been reported that an independent reporting office has received eight complaints in the past nine months, of which two related to bullying, harassment or inappropriate conduct. The 2022 Broderick report called for a “parliamentary advisory group” with the aim of involving staff and victim-survivors in introducing recommendations. However, despite the group meeting several times in 2022, it has not held any meetings with parliamentary officials since the election. Premier Chris Minns stated that “the failure to consult with the broad and diverse groupings within parliament is contrary to the Broderick report.” Further, Minns stated that “it is easy to throw money at a problem but it’s much harder to do the long-term, often messy, structural and cultural change work that’s actually required.”