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Foreword - Working without fear: Results of the Sexual Harassment National Telephone Survey (2012)

Discrimination Sex Discrimination
Friday 14 December, 2012

Working without fear:

Results of the Sexual Harassment National Telephone Survey



Foreword

I am pleased to present Working without Fear: Results of the 2012 Sexual
Harassment National Telephone Survey
, which outlines the findings of the
Australian Human Rights Commission’s latest survey on the prevalence,
nature and reporting of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. This is the
third such survey undertaken by the Commission and, importantly, it provides the
only national and trend data on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.

Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that a reasonable
person would anticipate could make the person harassed feel offended, humiliated
or intimidated. It is unlawful in Australia.

Yet, the survey shows, once again, that sexual harassment is widespread in
Australian workplaces. Just over one in five people (21%) over the age of
15
years experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the past five years.
Sexual harassment is a particular problem for women.
A quarter of women
(25%) experienced sexual harassment in the workplace during this period, 90% of
whom said they were harassed by a man. But sexual harassment is not confined to
women as targets: one in six men (16%) experienced sexual harassment in the
workplace in the past five years.

One of the most concerning findings of the 2012 National Survey is that
progress in addressing workplace sexual harassment has stalled in this country.
Another concerning finding is that there have been limited advances in improving
awareness and rates of reporting.

This has happened in spite of stronger legislative protections against sexual
harassment and the steps taken by many Australian workplaces to prevent and
address sexual harassment.

It is time to renew our commitment to eradicating sexual harassment from all
our workplaces. It is also time for all of us – employers, employees,
unions, employer associations and other concerned individuals – to take a
stand, to play a part in ensuring that sexual harassment has no place in
Australian workplaces. Women and men must be able to work without fear. After
all, being safe at work is a basic human right.

As previous waves of the survey have identified, eradicating sexual
harassment will require measures to ensure that employees have a solid
understanding of sexual harassment and their rights and obligations in the
workplace. It will also require employers and unions to create workplaces where
employees are supported to make complaints and feel confident that employers
will deal with their complaints effectively and efficiently.

We also need to look at new and innovative approaches to addressing sexual
harassment. One such approach – explored in a recent Commission report
entitled Encourage. Support. Act! Bystander Approaches to Sexual Harassment in the Workplace – is to enlist the help of bystanders (ie individuals who witness
sexual harassment in the workplace or are informed about it later). This has
been one area where I have heard many positive stories about the impact of
standing up against sexual harassment.

The 2012 National Survey shows that 13% of the Australian population aged
15 years and older are bystanders and a majority (51%) of bystanders have
taken action to prevent and reduce the harm of workplace sexual harassment.
Given that bystander intervention is a potentially invaluable component of
sexual harassment prevention in the workplace, it is important that bystanders
are supported and empowered to take action. This will require a substantial
shift in organisational culture. We need to send a clear message that sexual
harassment ruins lives, divides teams and damages the effectiveness of
organisations.

The results of the 2012 National Survey will improve understanding of sexual
harassment in Australia. However, by itself, the National Survey is not enough.
Eradicating sexual harassment from our workplaces and ensuring that women and
men can work without fear will also require everyone to play a part. Together we
can prevent and reduce the harm of sexual harassment and take immediate and
effective action when it occurs.

Elizabeth Broderick
Sex Discrimination Commissioner
Australian
Human Rights Commission

October 2012

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