On Sunday 6 March, a dozen Australian, female leaders were featured in a letter and video addressed to the Australian public. Among the leaders were Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins. The message was that it is time to end injustice and inequality. This is paired with the launch of a campaign that demands action from leaders to improve the treatment and safety of women. The video includes nine steps to address inequality in Australia.
The Australia Human Rights Commission released a statement on March 6 that it will be conducting a survey into consent education across secondary schools in Australia. The initiative was welcomed by Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, and National Children’s Commissioner, Anne Hollonds. The Commission has been conducting regular studies into sexual harassment in Australia since 2002 due to the prevalence in the national workforce. The survey will be used to provide a benchmark for the revised Australian Curriculum, estimated to be released in 2023.
The Human Rights Committee and Employment Law Committee have submitted a submission to the Law Council of Australia to support amendments to the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth). The amendments would create a provision for equal access for sex discrimination complainants. The amendments aim to encourage employers to prevent harassment and discrimination in the workplace. The provision would reduce risk of adverse cost orders.
A former Bunnings employee is suing the company for firing him over a sexual harassment incident that occurred a decade prior. Claudio Vergara was an accountant at Bunnings. He seeks $167,000 in damages at the Federal Circuit Court, stating he was unlawfully dismissed. In 2009, Mr Vergara made unwanted sexual advances towards a colleague at Living and Leisure Australia. He then had “unwelcomed sexual intercourse” with the colleague after a function. He claims that Bunnings hastily fired him. The Victorian Supreme Court rejected Mr Vergara’s previous claim of unfair dismissal. Bunnings has applied to throw out the lawsuit.
Westpac executive, Christine Parker, has said that companies need to move away from reactive, complaints-based systems to deal with sexual harassment. She wants corporate companies to pave the way in creating protection measures for women in the Australian workplace. She said that complaints only go so far in tackling sexual harassment as people are scared of the repercussions.
Australian finance company, AMP has been transparent about its 10 sexual harassment complaints in the last 2 years. The revelation has come after AMP received backlash for its handling of allegations against a former executive. Three of the complaints were substantiated which led to formal warnings and consequences. The remaining seven incidents were unsubstantiated due to lack of evidence. None of the complaints mentioned related to former executive, Boe Pahari.
New research was released on International Women’s Day by the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership that showed Australian men have “some of the most sexist views in the Western world.” One quarter of respondents to the survey believed that feminism did more harm than good. One in five male respondents believed men had lost status or power due to feminism. This included power and status in the workplace. 15 per cent of respondents felt that victims of violence against women had provoked or exaggerated claims of abuse or sexual assault. The research showed that Australia has some “real issues” in relation to gender bias and equity.