What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment,  Discrimination and Bullying from 4 March 2024 – 10 March 2024 

Mental Health Commission Fails to Offer Psychological Safety Internally 

SafeWork NSW found the state’s Mental Health Commission has breached workplace health and safety legislation over its management of bullying and other issues of the organisation’s culture. 

A SafeWork NSW spokesperson said on Wednesday: “SafeWork NSW last week issued three improvement notices to the Mental Health Commission regarding the management of psychosocial hazards in the workplace including bullying, job and role clarity and work over- and under-load. SafeWork’s enquiries are ongoing and further comment is not available at this time.” 

Former Female Staff at Sydney’s Elite Cranbrook School Warn Of ‘Toxic’ Culture as it Prepares to Go Co-Ed 

Teachers given fluffy handcuffs. Wolf-whistling and orgasm noises on playground duty. An attempted blackmail for nudes. Being told you can expect to be sexually harassed because you’re good-looking. Victimisation, a toxic culture, a boys’ club. These allegations by former female teachers and staff at Sydney’s elite Cranbrook School for boys paint a devastating picture of their workplace. 

Ms Hyde, a law graduate with a degree in pure mathematics, started at Cranbrook in 2018. She was looking forward to a “long, fulfilling career” at the school, but her excitement was short-lived. 

“Over time, my self-esteem at Cranbrook was diminished,” Ms Hyde told the commission. “I started to feel unsafe.” It was a meeting at a harbourside cafe that really upset Ms Hyde. Cranbrook headmaster Nicholas Sampson and his deputy Bob Meakin invited her to nearby Rose Bay to discuss her concerns. She said she was taken aback by Mr Meakin’s response. “Bob Meakin … said that because I’m young and, ‘I’m just going to say it – attractive,’ it’s not [surprising] that I’ve received attention from the boys,” Ms Hyde said. 

The Australian Human Rights Commission did not have the power to make determinations about sexual harassment by minors. It did uphold Ms Hyde’s complaints about sexual discrimination — including that the school did not provide a car space when she was pregnant or breastfeeding facilities. 

Legal Authorities in SA are Reviewing Their Response to 2021 Findings of Widespread Sexual Harassment, Bullying And Discrimination

Three years after revelations of widespread sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination rocked the legal profession, South Australia’s Chief Justice Chris Kourakis has expressed concern that victims are still not being sufficiently supported to speak out. 

A 2021 review by the state’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner revealed fundamental culture problems including an “entrenched gender bias”, a patriarchal hierarchy and a lack of cultural diversity throughout the sector. Forty-two per cent of the more than 600 respondents reported they had experienced sexual or discriminatory harassment at work, one-third of whom experienced it more than once. 

The findings, which prompted 16 recommendations for change, were described at the time as “deeply disturbing” and have now led to a follow-up review to examine the effectiveness of the response. As part of that review, lawyers, clerks, paralegals, administrative staff, students and others in the sector are being encouraged to respond to a survey which will provide another snapshot of the current status quo and the current standards of behaviour. “Much work has been done in the profession and now it’s time to measure it,” Equal Opportunity Commissioner Jodeen Carney said. 

Manager Sent Hundreds of Sexually Explicit Messages to Consultant 

Auto repair giant AMA Group has been hit with a lawsuit by a sales consultant who says she was sexually harassed by a manager to the point of a psychological breakdown and directed to attend work at an all-male wrecking yard after she complained about the harassment. 

In a suit filed in December last year, the sales and business development consultant at ACM Parts, which was acquired by AMA Group in October 2019, alleges that after she complained about being harassed by the manager, who allegedly sent her hundreds of “sexually explicit” messages, she was directed to work two days a week at a wrecking yard, where she was likely to face further sexual harassment. 

The consultant, a single mother and primary caregiver for a child diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder, alleges AMA and ACM Parts are vicariously liable for the alleged sexual harassment. She claims the companies victimised her for complaining about the harassment and discriminated against her on the basis of her sex and family responsibilities by threatening to revoke her working from home arrangements and directing her to work onsite two days per week. 

The companies are also accused of engaging in unlawful disability discrimination in contravention of the Disability Discrimination Act. 

Dedicated 24/7 Reporting Line Set Up to Combat Predators Behind the Badge 

A string of damning reviews and high-profile sexual abuse cases has prompted WA Police to open a 24/7 helpline to report sex pests within the force. 

The line, launched in July, links victims and witnesses to investigators in the force’s dedicated “sexual misconduct team”. 

Almost 100 WA Police employees have been subject to criminal and internal investigations between 2020 and 2023. 

Defence’s Data Base for Sexual Offences not ‘Reliable’ 

The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran is currently sitting. In a recent discussion it was identified that defence does not have a reliable data system for sexual misconduct and cannot understand the scale of the issue without one. 

The royal commission’s final report was originally due in mid-June, but a three-month extension was granted. It will now be handed down in early September. 

75 Percent of Legal Practitioners Have Never Resolved a Sexual Harassment Complaint Without a Strict NDA 

A new report by Social Justice Practitioners-in-Residence at the University of Sydney Law School finds NDA overuse disadvantages and discriminates against women and calls for major reform from the legal profession. 

Rates of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces are high – one in three people have been sexually harassed in the last five years – with women experiencing rates much higher than men. What is perhaps less known is the impact of NDAs on these figures, as well as the conditions for their implementation and variety of forms they can take. 

The use of NDAs to conceal sexual harassment and protect perpetrators is an internationally recognised problem. The report sheds light on how the legal profession has responded to broader discussions on workplace sexual harassment and NDA use. 

Australia’s First Female Marine Engineer Reveals all 

Stephanie Zank battled prejudice and abuse from her cadetship and throughout her maritime career, which ended in 2014 when she was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. Her story is one that’s normally stays untold or swept under the carpet but occasionally it bubbles to the surface, like the story of Hope Hicks, better known as midshipman X, in 2022. 

“A lot of crew members would make comments, such as ‘you’re stealing men’s jobs’, which was a fairly common one or ‘I hate you because you’re a woman taking a man’s job’, but more importantly, I hate you because you’re small,” she told Lloyd’s List. She recounted two incidents when she was sexually harassed and sexually assaulted, and the lack of support and policies in place to deal with such events. 

40 Percent of Workplace Racial Discrimination Complaints were Received from Indigenous People 

More than 40 per cent of workplace racial discrimination complaints received by Respect at Work Legal Service in NSW were received from Indigenous people, the organisation reported on Wednesday. 

To date, much of the support provided by the new service has been for women needing help with sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace because of pregnancy, sex and disability. New data shows complaints of workplace sexual harassment and discrimination continue to be a concern, with more than 800 workers seeking help and 1153 advice and representation services provided since last January. 

Of those services, 71 per cent were for female clients with the most common complaints being disability discrimination (27 per cent) followed by sexual harassment (20 per cent) and sex discrimination (14 per cent). Of the advice provided, six per cent related to racial discrimination and of those people who contacted RAWLS, 42 per cent of those seeking help were First Nations people. 

“We know racial discrimination is widespread with 16 per cent of Australians experiencing it, so we really encourage more people to seek help,” RAWLS solicitor Fiona Pace said.