#MeToo sparks national inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplace

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 20 June 2018

Following the global conversation about sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement, a national inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces has launched.

Late last year the #MeToo movement emerged as a movement for action after the Harvey Weinstein scandal emerged. It was used as a way for others to share their experiences, show solidarity, and also display just how common sexual harassment is.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said the inquiry will involve an in-depth examination of sexual harassment in the workplace, nationwide consultation and extensive research.

Jenkins says a national inquiry demonstrates international leadership on this issue and she is not aware of any other country where a national inquiry or similar process has been established in response to #MeToo.

“Importantly, the inquiry will provide employees, employers and all members of the public with an opportunity to participate in developing a solution to ensure Australian workplaces are safe and respectful for everyone,” Jenkins says.

In March, more than 180 of the biggest names in advertising in the US came together to join the Time’s Up movement and hold advertising accountable, and in May, Australian female agency CEOs, ECDs and MDs announced a local movement.

The Australian Human Rights Commission is currently conducting the fourth national survey into workplace sexual harassment, with results expected to be released in August.

Jenkins says early indications show that rates have increased significantly since the last survey was conducted in 2012.

“The Commission will use the findings of the national survey to identify the scale and nature of the problem across a range of industry sectors,” she says.

“We will examine the current Australian legal framework on sexual harassment, including a review of complaints made to state and territory anti-discrimination agencies.”

Jenkins says in making its recommendations, it will consider the changing work environment and existing good practice being undertaken by employers to prevent and respond to workplace sexual harassment.

She says there is no doubt an appetite for change and a growing realisation that sexual harassment is not inevitable.

“It is unacceptable and it is preventable,” she adds.

“We need to continue working to create a society where this kind of conduct is unthinkable, and where sexual harassment at work is not something people simply have to put up with. I believe this national inquiry is a huge step in the right direction.”

After the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations made news, Australian newsreader, journalist and advocate Tracey Spicer announced that she was investigating powerful Australian men in the media and has become a vocal #MeToo campaigner.

Following news of the national inquiry Spicer took to Twitter to say: “Thanks to @KellyODwyer and @AusHumanRights for taking charge to create structural change in the wake of the #metoo movement. This is something I've been privately agitating for since October. Bravo.”

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