‘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


ALP to tackle homelessness rise among older women

12_housing_0The National Older Women’s Housing and Homelessness Working Group recently released an important paper on the growing homelessness crisis affecting older women.

Retiring into Poverty – A National Plan For Change: Increasing Housing Security For Older Women was presented by the Parliamentary Friends of Homelessness and Housing Affordability.

Recent ABS figures show a 31 per cent rise in homelessness among older women between the 2011 and 2016 Census. The paper looks at the issues underpinning this alarming rise including a lack of affordable housing, low levels of superannuation and deficiencies in the social security system.

Shadow Housing and Homelessness Minister Doug Cameron said governments cannot continue to ignore the gendered determinants of housing insecurity and homelessness for women, which he said stem from gender inequality. “These factors include the gender pay gap, the unequal division of caring responsibilities and its impact on things such as workforce participation and outcomes in superannuation.”

“This report does a very good job of drawing attention to some of these key issues and how they are manifesting in greater housing insecurity and homelessness for older women.” This includes the insightful observation that: “The root cause of all homelessness is poverty. Older women are more likely to be living in poverty than older men due to a lifetime of discrimination that included unpaid or under paid work.”

Mr Cameron said a Shorten Labor Government will address the gendered components of homelessness, including long-term and structural economic disadvantage experienced by women.

Labor will also:
• Pursue a comprehensive suite of housing affordability and supply reforms – including our commitments to restrict negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions.
• Develop and implement a national plan to reduce homelessness through the Council of Australian Governments.
• Reinstate a Minister for Housing and Homelessness, and re-establish the National Housing Supply Council, and
• Provide $88 million over two years for a new Safe Housing Fund to increase transitional housing options for women and children escaping domestic and family violence, young people exiting out-of-home care and older women on low incomes who are at risk of homelessness.