‘Cultural and societal change needed’: sexual harassment report

sexual harrasmentThe Australian Human Rights Commission Report into Sexual Harassment in Australia shows that cultural and societal change is needed in every sector, at every level, to end sexual harassment.

The report made some very sobering findings which illustrate the prevalence and pervasiveness of sexual harassment. It really is an epidemic. Almost two in five women and one in four men said they have been sexually harassed at work in the past five years.

Seventy-two per cent of Australians have been sexually harassed at some point in their lifetimes – 85 per cent of women and 57 per cent of Australian men over the age of 15. LGBTIQ people, First Nations people and people with disability were also more likely to be sexually harassed. This report shows a need for a fundamental shift in cultural attitudes and behaviour, in particular towards women and members of the LGBTIQ community.

Low reporting rates show that many workers do not feel comfortable seeking support in their workplaces.

Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment for their employees. They have a responsibility to ensure staff and colleagues are able to seek support, and that inappropriate behaviour is properly addressed.

Sexual harassment does not need to involve malice or ill-intent. No sexual harassment should be “part of the job”, or dismissed as “just a joke” or “compliment”.

Every sector – from retail and hospitality, to corporate boardrooms, media, and government – everyone should be free of harassment in their workplace. Labor’s National Strategy for Gender Equality identifies preventing sexual harassment as a key national priority.

The Australian Labor Party has indicated that it remains strongly committed to placing a national focus on the prevention of sexual harassment in our workplaces, on our university campuses, residential colleges, and online.

Labor has announced that it will work to ensure that victims of sexual harassment are supported through our court system. Labor has also expressed its commitment to ensuring that individuals who are disproportionately vulnerable to sexual harassment – including migrant women, First Nations women, women with disabilities and members of the LGBTIQ community – have access to support.

Anyone experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace can call the Australian Human Rights Commission Information Service on 1300 656 419. Members of the public are also invited to make a submission to the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces at https://www.humanrights.gov.au/submissions-national-inquiry-sexual-harassment-australian-workplaces

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