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Self-Representation Toolkit: Making a Sexual Harassment Complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission

If you have been advised that you are eligible to make a sexual harassment complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), use this toolkit as a guide when filing your complaint.

REMINDER: You have 24 months from the date the sexual harassment conduct occurred to make your complaint.

 

  1. Make sure you are using the correct form

You can either complete the form online or print out a paper version to post or email to the AHRC.

There is no fee to make a complaint to the AHRC.

 

  1. Filling out the form

Part A – About you, the complainant

As you are the person making the complaint, you are the ‘Complainant.

Insert your details and contact information. You do not need to include your address if you are not comfortable doing so.

 

Part B – Who is the complaint about?

The organisation(s) and/or person(s) you are complaining about are called ‘Respondents’ as they will be responding to your complaint. This can be your employer (ie the company or business), individual manager(s) and/or the individual(s) who did the sexual harassment.

Insert the details of all the Respondents you want to include. For example, Respondent 1 – (Employer details), Respondent 2 – (individual’s details), etc.

 

Part C – What are you complaining about?

Select ‘I have been sexually harassed’. If you have experienced other discrimination, select other boxes that apply (eg if you were also discriminated against because of your race, disability, gender, etc.)

Victimisation is when a person has been treated unfairly because they made a complaint or tried to make a complaint. If this happened to you, select this box too.

Under ‘When did the alleged event(s) happen?’ insert the date or time period of when the sexual harassment occurred. In some cases, the AHRC may accept complaints for events that happened more than 24 months ago. If you are making a complaint more than 24 months later, you will need to explain why there was a delay in making the complaint. For example, if you were fearful of making a complaint, you were not aware of the time period or you were experiencing anxiety, trauma, etc. as a result of the sexual harassment.

Under ‘What happened?’ insert relevant details about what happened to you, including dates, names of individuals, locations, etc. Avoid long, complicated paragraphs. It is best to use headings, numbered paragraphs and dot points.

You can also create a separate document to answer this section and attach it to your complaint. If you do this, simply write, ‘Please see attached complaint summary’ under this section.

Include any documents that may support your complaint, including letters from you employer, text messages, screenshots and/or photos which evidence the sexual harassment.

Under ‘How do you think this complaint could be resolved?’ insert your preferred outcome(s). This can include: a letter of apology, compensation for financial losses you experienced because of the harassment (eg lost wages, medical expenses), compensation for stress, suffering or humiliation (non-economic loss), an agreement for the Respondent(s) to undergo relevant training or to change their policies and procedures.

 

Part D – Lodging the complaint

Once your complaint form is finalised and you have all your supporting documents together, you can submit the documents in one of the following ways (online or email is preferable):

 

  1. What happens once I submit the complaint?

A few days after submitting your complaint, you will receive an acknowledgement email from the AHRC.

There is currently a delay of at least 6 months for the AHRC to accept complaints. The time delay is usually listed in the acknowledgement email. There is no need to provide additional documents or submissions whilst your complaint is awaiting acceptance.

Once accepted, your complaint will then be allocated to a conciliator or investigator. They will contact you about resolving the complaint through a conciliation conference.

 

  1. Conciliation conference

A conciliation conference is a confidential meeting between the Complainant (you), the Respondent(s) and a Conciliator from the AHRC. Conciliators help parties communicate and guide discussion by raising questions and making suggestions to assist the parties in reaching a resolution. The Conciliator is impartial, does not take sides and cannot make any decisions.

Conciliations are conducted ‘without prejudice’, which means nothing that is said in the conciliation can be referred to in future proceedings if the matter does not resolve at conciliation.

Tip: Mark your calendar with the conciliation date

You will receive an email from the AHRC with details of the conciliation. This will include the date, time and location. Conciliations can be held online, in-person or over the phone. Typically, they occur via MS Teams.

It is important that you attend the conciliation as your complaint may be terminated if you fail to do so.

 

Preparing for conciliation

  • Review your own complaint and the Respondent’s response to your complaint. Be prepared to address or deal with any issues raised in the Respondent’s response.
  • Prepare a statement or notes for you to read from during your conciliation.
  • Have a proposal ready for how you would like to resolve the matter. Think about what you might be willing to negotiate on.
  • If your conciliation is held online or over the phone, make sure you are in a location with stable internet connection and your laptop or phone is fully charged.

 

During the conciliation conference

Private session

Before a conciliation begins, you will usually have a private session with the Conciliator so they can check in with you and explain the conciliation process. The Conciliator will then have a private session with the Respondent to do the same with them.

Joint session

Then, there will be a joint session with you, the Respondent and the Conciliator. The Conciliator will ask the Complainant (you) to say a statement explaining your case. Here, you can tell your story and have an opportunity to be heard. You can talk about the effect the sexual harassment had on you. Remember to concentrate on key points and provide relevant information that will support your complaint. Avoid long tangents and unnecessary information.

The Conciliator will then give the Respondent an opportunity to respond. Be respectful and do not interrupt others. If the Respondent says something you disagree with, do not assume the Conciliator agrees with them.

You can ask for a break at any time during this process.

Once the joint session is finished, the conciliation will break into private sessions again.

Private sessions

Then, the Conciliator will have a private session with you. The Conciliator may comment on the strength and weaknesses of your respective cases. Here, you should put forward your proposal for resolving the complaint.

The Conciliator will then have a private session with the Respondent and hear their response or counteroffer to your proposal to resolve the complaint.

The Conciliator will continue to go between the parties with the aim to reach an agreement and pass messages between the parties.

If you and the Respondent reach an agreement, the Conciliator can assist the parties to draw up a conciliation agreement. This is a legally binding and enforceable contract, so carefully review the terms before signing.

 

  1. What happens if the complaint is not resolved by conciliation?

If the complaint cannot be resolved by conciliation and the President of the AHRC is satisfied the complaint cannot be resolved, the complaint will be terminated.

Once terminated, you can take the matter to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia or the Federal Court of Australia. You must make an application to either Court within 60 days of the date your complaint was terminated.

You should seek further legal advice before starting a case in these Courts as the process can be lengthy and costly.

 

Contact the Working Women’s Centre on 08 8410 6499 to organise a legal advice appointment with one of our lawyers.

Speaking from Experience

The Australian Human Rights Commission has launched Speaking from Experience, a
landmark project that centres the voices of people with lived experience in workplace
sexual harassment reform.

Sexual harassment is still unacceptably prevalent in Australian workplaces, with one in
three people having experienced workplace sexual harassment in Australia in the last
five years. The Commission is inviting people who have been sexually harassed at work
to have their say about what they think needs to change to make workplaces safer. The
information gathered will help create resources that will help workers and employers
know how to make workplaces safer for everyone, as well as inform future law reform
priorities.

Through a user-friendly web portal hosted on the Commission website, people who
have been sexually harassed at work can submit written or audio submissions outlining
their recommendations on what needs to change to address workplace sexual
harassment.

Participation in the project is voluntary and open to all individuals in Australia.

You can view and share the web portal here: https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/sex
discrimination/speaking-experience

In addition to the online submissions, the Commission will conduct in-person
consultations across Australia to ensure the voices of marginalised groups are heard.
The consultations will prioritise input from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
workers, young people, culturally and racially marginalised workers, people with
disability, LGBTIQ+ workers, and other groups disproportionately targeted by
perpetrators of workplace sexual harassment.

If you would like to be a community partner for the in-person consultations, please read
the flyer attached and email speakingfromexperience@humanrights.gov.au

Album launch of Perfection 12: Migrant Women’s fight against workplace sexual harassment.

In a show of support and solidarity, the Working Women’s Centre attended the Bread and Roses / Bret Mo Roses album launch, spotlighting the courageous battle of a group of 12 migrant women, members of the United Workers Union, who are fighting back after surviving sexual violence in the glasshouses of Perfection Fresh company.

These women, known as the Perfection 12, have bravely taken their fight to the Federal Court of Australia, seeking accountability and systemic change at Perfection Fresh, a major supplier to Coles and Woolworths, for failing to provide a safe workplace for its employees, particularly women who endure sexual harassment and assault within its glasshouses.

The Bread and Roses album, featuring the voices and stories of the 12 migrant women union members, marks a significant moment in the ongoing struggle, particularly highlighting the sacrifices that seasonal workers make for their families and their isolation from their communities for years, as well as their pursuit for justice and safety in the workplace. The title track, Bread and Roses (Bret Mo Roses) is an old union song that has been adapted by the women to reflect their own fight for respect.

Caterina Ciananni, Executive Director of the United Workers Union, standing on stage and speaking into a microphone during her speech at the Semaphore Workers Club's at Bread and Roses event. She is wearing glasses, a white t-shirt with various prints, and dark jeans. A drum set is partially visible in the background, along with other decorative items.

During her speech at the Semaphore Workers Club event, Caterina Cinanni, executive director of the United Workers Union, emphasised the urgency of their fight for change. “The Perfection 12 are brave women fighting for justice, respect, and safety not just for themselves, but for every single woman working in that glasshouse. Perfection Fresh is the wealthiest and largest tomato glasshouse corporation in Australia.”

Abbey Kendall, director of Working Women’s Centre, underscored the importance of safe workplaces for all workers “Seasonal work must be safe, regardless of their background, identity, or job type. That is the benchmark of Australian workplace laws,” she added. 

As the Perfection 12 continue their legal battle, supporters can amplify their message by spreading awareness and advocating for accountability from companies like Perfection Fresh. The Bread and Roses album serves as a testament to their resilience and determination, inspiring solidarity, and action among all who seek justice in the workplace.

 

The image displays the lyrics of "BREAD AND ROSES" prominently in bold, capitalized letters at the top. Beneath the title, the word "ENGLISH" specifies the language of the following lyrics. The lyrics read: “As we go marching, marching, our home so far away, a million darkened fields, glasshouses dim and grey, are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses, for the people hear us singing: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!”

For more information on how to support the Perfection 12 and their campaign, visit Bread and Roses – Full Album – Rotten Perfection

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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Information on Your Business’ Liability for Sexual Harassment

 

Background

On 5 March 2020 the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, released a report called ‘Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report’, in which the Commissioner made 55 Recommendations for the elimination of workplace sexual harassment.

The Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation (Respect@Work) Bill passed Parliament and received Royal Assent on 12 December 2022. It implemented the remaining Recommendations of the Respect@Work report.

Effective from 13th December 2022, employers have a legislated positive obligation to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation, as far as possible.

The significance of this amendment in terms of liability, is that an employer is now not only vicariously liable under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 for Sexual Harassment in the workplace, but they now also have a positive obligation to be proactive and take preventative action to stop sexual harassment from occurring in the workplace.

 

How to Comply with Your Positive Obligation

Your obligation as an employer is to ensure the health and safety of your workers. A workplace is a dynamic place where people with different life experiences, different levels of power and responsibilities interact to create what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in that space. Because of this, all workplaces need to be continually and actively reviewing and ensuring that the space they are creating is safe and inclusive.

 

Image courtesy of AHRC.

 

There are various actions an employer can take to ensure they are meeting their positive duty.

  • Develop a Sexual Harassment Policy that clearly outlines the definition of sexual harassment and explains that it is unlawful. The policy should indicate that the organisation has a zero tolerance for sexual harassment and clearly sets out a complaints procedure and process that includes the organisation promptly investigating any allegations of sexual harassment. The policy should include a statement that sexual harassment at work is a form of serious misconduct and can be a valid reason for dismissal under the Fair Work Act 2009. 
  • Provide ongoing training to all staff members about their rights and responsibilities as set out in the policy.
  • Display this policy in a common area and ensure it is easily accessible for all employees and/or management.
  • Conduct workplace training on the causes of sexual harassment and how to prevent it. This training should only be conducted by experts in the field (like the Working Women’s Centre SA Inc). Repeat the training as new employees join the organisation and encourage long-term employees to refresh their knowledge every few years or as the organisation’s policies and practices evolve.
  • Assess any risk factors specific to each industry and/or business (for example: live-in arrangements, male-dominated industries, geographic isolation of work, and work performed in close physical proximity to people etc.).
  • Medium and large employers should undertake regular audits to monitor prevalence and/or occurrences of sexual harassment in their workplaces.
  • Develop and adopt a Gender Equity Policy to promote and improve gender equality. The policy should outline your organisation’s commitment to promoting a culture that embraces gender equality and should include commitments to promote more women to leadership roles.

 

Risk to Your Business

The government has made it clear with these legislative amendments that Australia has a no tolerance policy to sexual harassment in the workplace. This attitude is reflected in the cultural change we have seen in the media and wider communities.

As of 13th December 2022, a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) is exposing themselves to risk of legal action by failing to take preventative measures to prevent sexual harassment. If sexual harassment happens in connection with one of your employees, then you could be faced with one or more of the following outcomes:

  1. Loss of talented employees.
  2. Responding to a Sex Discrimination Claim.
  3. Responding to a sexual harassment dispute in the Fair Work Commission.
  4. Responding with a worker’s compensation claim.
  5. Respond to an enquiry initiated by the Australian Human Right’s Commission.

As a part of an employer’s positive obligation to prevent sexual harassment, the organisation or business should proactively educate leaders, and other staff members in management, on the recent law reform and new obligations.

 

Powers of Australian Human Rights Commission
From 13 December 2023, the Australian Human Rights Commission will have regulatory powers to monitor and enforce compliance of this positive duty. These powers include conducting inquiries and applying to the federal courts for orders to be made against businesses.

To protect your workers, lower your liability of legal risk, and protect the reputation of your business, it is essential that you inform yourself of this positive obligation and what is required of you to satisfy this obligation.

 

Workplace Training on Sexual Harassment

The Working Womens Centre SA offers free and fee for service training for workplaces to educate them on their legal obligations under workplace and discrimination legislation. Our goal is to provide workplaces with the practical tools to support their staff through training, policy development and ongoing consultation.

 

Training Package – Preventing and Addressing Sexual Harassment

This training is for organisations and businesses to increase knowledge of what sexual harassment in the workplace is according to current legislation, including recent amendments that put a positive obligation on employers to prevent sexual harassment.

Employers will learn practical strategies to prevent sexual harassment at work, dealing with sexual harassment and discrimination complaints, and learn how to create a positive workplace culture free from inappropriate behaviours.

We work with you to tailor our packages to suit your specific context/industry and can tailor training for different people with varying responsibilities within your organisation.

 

This training package covers the following:

  • Defining and identifying types of harassment and discrimination that may be encountered at work.
  • Handling disclosures and managing complaints. Learn how to identify and manage bullying, discrimination, and harassment issues.
  • Workplace laws relating to sexual harassment and discrimination and understanding employer obligations.
  • Understanding of the impact of sexual harassment on the workplace.
  • A summary of sexual harassment cases.
  • Bystander awareness.
  • Cultural context and community opinion.
  • Understand the difference between direct and indirect discrimination.
  • Understand and implement risk mitigation and grievance procedures.
  • Understand the cost of harassment and the employer’s responsibilities.
  • Learn how to manage risks associated with bullying, discrimination, and sexual harassment.

For any enquiries or to book a training session today, contact our office of 8410 6499, make an online enquiry, or email us at training@wwc.org.au.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Background

After much campaigning by Working Womens Centres, unions, feminists, and activists, significant changes have been made to Australia’s workplace laws in relation to sexual harassment as of December 2022. 

The Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, released a report in 2020 of which the Commissioner made 55 recommendations for the elimination of workplace sexual harassment. 

Some notable recommendations which have now been legislated by parliament to form part of Australia’s employment laws are the following:
 

  • Recommendation 17: From 13th December 2022, all employers and persons conducting a business or undertaking now have a positive obligation to take reasonable proportionate measures to eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and victimisation, as far as possible. 
  • Recommendation 29: The Fair Work Commission can now make orders to ‘stop sexual harassment’ upon application.
     
  • Recommendation 31: Sexual Harassment is now classified as serious misconduct under Australia’s national employment laws. This means perpetrating sexual harassment is a valid ground for immediate termination of employment. 

 

What does this positive obligation mean for me at work? 

Positive obligation means that your employer, or person who is conducting a business or undertaking that you work for, has a responsibility to prevent sexual harassment from occurring in the workplace. This is a shift from employers previously only being legally liable on behalf of a sexual harasser, after the sexual harassment has occurred. These new laws means that an employer or person conducting a business or undertaking must be proactive and take preventative action to stop sexual harassment from occurring in the workplace.  

This obligation on a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to prevent sexual harassment extends beyond harassment perpetrated by colleagues and/or management internally. This extends to perpetration externally from customers, sales representatives etc. 

 

What is a PCUB? 

A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) has a primary duty of care to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers. This is a term often used in Work Health and Safety laws. Some PCUB’s are not always employers so the use of both terms captures a wider group of responsible people.  

 

What should my employer or a PCUB be doing to prevent sexual harassment?  

There are many steps your employer can take in order to prevent sexual harassment. This will depend on the size of the business as to what is considered a ‘reasonable step’. Some of those steps are:
 

  1. Develop a policy that has a 0 tolerance for sexual harassment and clearly sets out a reporting mechanism and process for the discipline and dismissal of sexual harassment perpetrators. The policy should state that sexual harassment is unlawful, provide a definition and or examples of sexual harassment.
     
  2. Provide training to all staff members about their rights and responsibilities as it pertains to their specific roles within the organisation  as set out in the policy.
     
  3. Display this policy in a common area and ensure it is easily accessible for all employees and/or management.
     
  4. Conduct workplace training on the causes of sexual harassment and how to prevent it. This training should only be conducted by experts in the field (like the Working Women’s Centre SA Inc).
      
  5. Assess any risk factors specific to each industry and/or business (for example: live in arrangements, geographic isolation of work, work performed in close physical proximity to people etc.).
     
  6. Medium and large employers should undertake regular audits to monitor prevalence and/or occurrences of sexual harassment in their workplaces. 

 

What can I do if I am sexually harassed at work? What do I do if my employer breaches their obligation? 

 

Options Before 6 March 2023 

If you experience sexual harassment (one or more incidents) before 6 March 2023, you could if comfortable and safe do the following:  

  1. Make an internal complaint about the incident. Before you make a formal complaint, we suggest that you familiarise yourself with sexual harassment, gender equality or work health and safety policies. It is always a good idea to understand the process your employer will take when they are receiving and responding to your complaint. If the perpetrator is your supervisor or in a management role, we recommend that you seek advice about the risks of making that complaint.  
     
  2. If the sexual harassment has caused you to suffer from a workplace injury and you have no or restricted ability to work, you could make a worker’s compensation claim. For information about this process, please read our fact sheet here:  https://wwcsa.org.au/resources/sexual-harassment-at-work-should-you-make-a-workers-compensation-claim/  
     
  3. You can make a sexual harassment and discrimination complaint to the Australian Human Right’s Commission.  Alternatively-  
     
  4. You could lodge a sexual harassment and/or discrimination complaint/dispute in the South Australian Equal Opportunity Commission.  
      
  5. You can apply to stop the bullying or sexual harassment in the Fair Work Commission. 
It is important to remember that generally you cannot ‘double dip’ when deciding what claim to make. This means you can only file an application in one of either the AHRC or EOC. Compensation can only be received in one Commission. You can make a worker’s compensation claim and lodge a claim in either the AHRC or EOC. There are some exceptions to the double dip rule, so if you have questions about this, please get in contact with us.  

 

For more information about these options please read our fact sheet about sexual harassment in the workplace: https://wwcsa.org.au/resources/sexual-harassment-legal-options/ or give our Centre a call and book an appointment for legal advice.  

 

Making a Sexual Harassment Dispute Fair Work Commission 

If you have experienced sexual harassment in connection with your workplace, on 6 March 2023 or after you will be able to lodge a dispute with the Fair Work Commission.  

 

Who can lodge a dispute? 

If you are being sexual harassed and you are  

  • a worker in a business or undertaking   
     
  • seeking to become a worker in a particular business or undertaking or  
     
  • a person conducting a business or undertaking and the harassment occurs or relates to a workplace or business.  

and 

The first or only incident of sexual harassment occurred on or after 6 March 2023, then you can lodge a dispute in the Fair Work Commission.  

 

Who do you lodge the dispute against?  

You can lodge the dispute against the person(s) who sexually harassed you and the employer that you’re both employed by. You can also lodge a claim against a PCUB. It might be that you say your employer and or the PCUB should have prevented the harassment or they did not respond to it well.  

 

Forms 

To lodge a dispute, you need to complete the f75 form. and you can find it here https://www.fwc.gov.au/apply-resolve-sexual-harassment-dispute-form-f75. After you lodge a dispute,  you will receive a phone call from the Fair Work Commission confirming that they have received your application. At this point, with your consent, your application will be sent to the people and/or employers named in your application. 

The perpetrators and employer will have an opportunity to provide a written response to your application. This is also a FWC form, and this response will be sent to the FWC and then it will be sent to you.  

 

Conciliation stage  

At this stage, a confidential conciliation conference will be held. The way this conference is conducted will be a matter for the FWC member, however the member will contact you and ask you about your preferences and take care to keep all parties safe. This might mean that you won’t see the employer or perpetrator at the conciliation, and you will be in separate rooms for the entire period. It might mean that the conciliation conference is conducted on the telephone, or it might be that no conciliation conference is listed, and the matter is listed for a hearing. The FWC is taking steps to be victim centric and so your opinion and preference will be considered.  

 

What can you ask for?  

At the conciliation stage, you can make settlement offers based on what could be ordered if you were to go to a hearing and win. You can ask for 

  • Payment of compensation (pain and suffering) to an aggrieved person in relation to the sexual harassment  
     
  • A payment for lost wages (historical or in the future) 
     
  • That the employer and perpetrator act in some way. This might be that you ask the employer has training or implements a prevention of a sexual harassment policy.  
     

Hearing 

If you dispute does not settle at conciliation, and all parties agree for it to stay at the FWC then your dispute will be listed for a hearing. This means that a member of the FWC will preside over a hearing about your dispute. A hearing will call for witness statements, submissions about how the law works and applies to the facts in your witness statement, and cross examination of both parties’ witnesses.   

 

What is the different between a Stop Sexual Harassment Order and Sexual Harassment Dispute?  

A stop sexual harassment order’ is intended to prevent any future harassment, while an application for the FWC to otherwise deal with the dispute is intended to remedy past harm caused by sexual harassment. You can make both a stop sexual harassment application and lodge a sexual harassment dispute at the same time. 

 

Stop Sexual Harassment Claim  

If you are still in employment and the sexual harassment continues, then you can make an Application in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to ‘Stop Sexual Harassment’. The matter will be listed for a Conciliation where the parties will have the opportunity to negotiate an agreement facilitated by a conciliator. 

If this conciliation is unsuccessful and the parties are unable to reach an agreement, there are two avenues to further pursue the claim: 

  1. With consent of both parties, proceed to Arbitration in the FWC. Arbitration gives power to the FWC to award compensation and/or make an order for sexual harassment to stop; or 
  2. If consent is not obtained from both parties, the Applicant request a certificate from the FWC to file proceedings in the Federal Circuit Court within 14 days. 
  • It is important to note that these changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 (cth) have no effect on State/Territory WHS or discrimination laws 

These changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) commence on 6 March 2023.  It is important to note that conduct that has occurred before 6 March 2023 will not be covered unless the conduct is ongoing. 

 

How do I make a Stop Sexual Harassment Application in the FWC?  

To file a Stop Sexual Harassment Application in the Fair Work Commission, you need to file a Form F72 in the Fair Work Commission. There is a fee of $77.80 to make this application, however, you can apply for a fee waiver if it would cause financial hardship.  

To make a Stop Sexual Harassment Application, you will need to set out the following in your application: 

  • Filling in the respective details of your employer and the alleged perpetrator 
  • Two examples of the behaviours that are sexual harassment
  •  Explain how this behavior has created a risk to your health and safety (Anxiety, stress etc.)
  • Whether you have followed any internal processes or reported this behaviour to management 
  • What you would like the outcome of your Application to be. 

 

Information on how to make this kind of application can be found on the Fair Work Website at the following links: 

 

What you can get out of a Stop Sexual Harassment Complaint?

The following remedies are available if a matter proceeds to arbitration in the FWC:

  • A ‘Stop Sexual Harassment Order’ made by the FWC; an
  • Compensation for economic loss (loss of wages if you have had to take time off work etc); an
  • Compensation for non-economic loss (humiliation, pain, suffering etc).

 

Other Options to Make a Sexual Harassment Claim 

  • Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

A complaint form can be filled out online and submitted on the AHRC website. There is a 24 month timeframe from the date of sexual harassment to make a complaint in the AHRC. You should contact the Working Women’s Centre SA for legal advice on your particular matter.
 

  • Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC)

A complaint form can be filled out online and submitted on the AHRC website. There is a 12-month timeframe from the date of sexual harassment to make a complaint in the EOC. You should contact the Working Women’s Centre SA for legal advice on your particular matter. 

 

 

Sexual Harassment in Hospo: Your Rights At Work

 

Presented with Jamie Bucirde from Not So Hospitable

In this webinar we discuss the problem of sexual harassment in the hospitality industry, and your rights and legal options if it happens to you.

We discuss problematic normalised behaviours, and what a healthy and safe workplace looks like. We also cover the latest developments in the law, such as the upcoming legislative changes that will place a positive obligation on employers to prevent staff from being sexually harassed.

This webinar was presented on 7 November 2022. Information was current as of that date.

Please note that this is general information and may not be relevant to your particular matter. This should not be taken as legal advice.

Your Rights At Work – Feast Festival Edition

 

In this webinar we discuss your fundamental legal rights and protections at work. We cover common issues encountered by LGBTIQA+ employees, how to deal with discrimination or bullying, and your right to a safe workplace.

We also discuss some new initiatives such as gender affirmation leave, and how you can create change at your workplace.

This webinar was presented on 24 November 2022 as part of Adelaide’s Feast Festival. Information was current as of that date.

Please note that this is general information and may not be relevant to your particular matter. This should not be taken as legal advice.

Small Business Webinar Series – Sexual Harassment in Hospo

 

This webinar was presented as part of our 2022 Small Business Webinar Series.

Our Small Business Webinar series was designed around common issues identified by our lawyers in 2022, as a series of bite-sized, easy-to-understand educational sessions to help busy small businesses understand their obligations to their workers.

Sexual Harassment in Hospo – How to look after your workers, and your business

In this webinar, one of our lawyers, Kylie Porter, along with Jamie Bucirde from Not So Hospitable, discuss your obligations to your workers to prevent and address sexual harassment, and how to create positive culture change in your business.

We discuss problematic normalised behaviours and factors that make a healthy and equitable workplace. We also cover the latest developments in the law, such as the legislative changes that place a positive obligation on you to prevent your staff from being sexually harassed.

This webinar was the first in the Series, and was presented on 7 November 2022. Information was current as of that date.

Please note that this is general information and may not be relevant to your particular matter. This should not be taken as legal advice.

Making a Complaint of Sexual Harassment – Legal Options

 

Please note that this is general information and may not be relevant to your particular matter. 

 

This fact sheet sets out different options for making a formal complaint.

 

If you have been sexually harassed at work, we encourage you to call us and make an appointment to speak with one of our lawyers.

 

What is sexual harassment?

 

You are being sexually harassed if you face:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances,
  • Unwelcome requests for sexual favours,
  • Unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.

The concept for sexual harassment is broad. However, if you are feeling intimidated, humiliated, or offended by inappropriate sexual conduct in connection with the workplace, this is sexual harassment.[1]

Note: This can include a one-off statement or a profession of love, said to you or written to you.

[1] Sex Discrimination Act 1984 S 28A (1).

You may like to read our summaries of sexual harassment cases that have gone to court, to guide you on possible outcomes for different types of conduct.

 

Complaint of sexual harassment – Equal Opportunity Commission (SA) or Australian Human Rights Commission (Cth)

 

There are two different Commissions in which you can lodge a complaint of sexual harassment – the Equal Opportunity Commission deals with complaints under South Australian legislation, and the Human Rights Commission deals with federal legislation.

It is important to seek advice on which Commission best suits your matter. Differences between the two jurisdictions include:

  • Differences in the wording of State and Federal legislation means that one might be better suited to your facts than the other.
  • There are different time limits to make a complaint (see below)
  • Differences in the complaint process – such as the time it will take to schedule a date for conciliation.
  • How you can appeal your claim, should it be rejected or unsuccessful in the respective Commission.

Call us and speak to one of our lawyers to discuss which jurisdiction is best for your particular circumstance. The two Commissions are summarised below.

 

Equal Opportunity Commission (SA)

 

The Equal Opportunity Commission is the South Australian jurisdiction and handles complaints made under State legislation, being the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA).

Timeframes

You have 12 months to make a sexual harassment complaint in the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC).[1] This complaint can be made by filling in and filing a form with the EOC.

https://www.equalopportunity.sa.gov.au/complaints/making-a-complaint

Process

Once the EOC receives your complaint, they will assess it to see if it is covered by the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA). They may seek further information from you, or the other party, before accepting or declining your complaint.

If your complaint is accepted, it will be allocated to a Conciliation Officer and will proceed to conciliation.

If it is declined by the Commission, you will receive a letter explaining the decision. Your complaint may be referred to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

For more information, see the Equal Opportunity Commission website:

https://www.equalopportunity.sa.gov.au/complaints/complaint-process

Compensation 

You can seek compensation in this jurisdiction.  

 

Complaint of sexual harassment – Australian Human Rights Commission (Cth)

 

You have 24 months to make a claim in the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).[2] The complaint can be made via the online form or by filling in and filing the form below.

https://humanrights.gov.au/complaints/make-complaint

Process

Once you have lodged your complaint, it will be assessed. The other party will receive a copy of your complaint. The Commission will investigate and/or conciliate your complaint.

If your complaint is terminated, you may be able to take your complaint to the Federal Circuit Court or the Federal Court of Australia. The application to the court must be made within 60 days of the date your complaint is terminated.

Compensation

You can seek compensation in this jurisdiction.  

 

Other Options

 

Worker’s Compensation

Experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace can often lead to a psychological injury.
Read more about making a claim for worker’s compensation in our separate fact sheet:

Sexual Harassment – should I make a WC claim fact sheet

 

SafeWork SA

Your employer has a duty to make sure your workplace is safe. If you are experiencing sexual harassment in your workplace, and this has impacted on your mental health, you can make a complaint. This is known as a Psychological Risk Complaint.

It is important that you document your experiences, as you will need to provide specific details about the incidents that you have experienced in your complaint. This must include the date(s), time(s) and location(s) of the incident(s).

https://www.safework.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/140103/Psychological-Risk-Complaint-Form.pdf

Compensation 

You cannot claim any compensation through this process

 

Stop Sexual Harassment Order – Fair Work Commission (Cth)

 

In November 2021, changes were made to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) in response to the Respect@Work Report.

These changes were intended to create an accessible, fast moving, cost effective and informal way to address the increasing issue of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The Stop Sexual Harassment Order allows the Fair Work Commission to make an order under s789FC of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).

If you are a worker who is being sexually harassed at work by a colleague, volunteer, or visitor to your workplace, you can make an application to the Fair Work Commission. As the purpose of the order is to prevent future instances of sexual harassment, it is an essential requirement that you are still employed at the time you make the application.

It is also important to note that a Stop Sexual Harassment Order cannot fire or dismiss a sexual harassment perpetrator or award you with any compensation.

 

Eligibility Criteria

 

To be eligible to make a Stop Sexual Harassment application you must be a worker in a ‘constitutionally covered business’.

Who is considered a worker?[4]
  • Employee
  • Contractor
  • Subcontractor
  • Outworker
  • Apprentice
  • Trainee
  • Student gaining work experience
  • Volunteers
Who cannot apply for a Stop Sexual Harassment Order?
  • Members of the Defence Force.
  • People who are not workers; and
  • Sole traders, partnerships, and some state government employees.
  • People who do not work in a ‘constitutionally covered business’
What is a constitutionally covered business?[5]

To be considered a ‘constitutionally covered business’, the person or corporation must be either:

  • A constitutional corporation, or
  • The Commonwealth, or
  • A Commonwealth authority, or
  • A body corporate incorporated in a Territory, or
  • A business or undertaking conducted principally in a Territory or Commonwealth place.

State public schools, foreign government ministries and some local government employers with incidental trading activities.

 

The Process

Detailed below are the stages to making a Stop Sexual Harassment Order application.

 

  1. Lodging your application

The correct form is Fair Work Commission Form F72. This can be accessed on the Fair Work Commission website.

https://www.fwc.gov.au/form/apply-stop-workplace-bullying-form-f72

A Stop Sexual Harassment Order cannot result in reinstatement or the payment of money (compensation). This course of action is for employees who are being sexually harassed at work and want to continue working, but do so in a safe environment, free from sexual harassment.

 

  1. Application is allocated to Case management team

At this point the Case Management team will review your application. They will look at whether you’ve completed the application correctly and confirm whether you want to proceed with your application.

 

  1. Application is served by the FWC

At this point the FWC will serve your employer, and the person you have named in the application with your application.

 

  1. Application is assigned

After your application has been served on your employer your matter will be allocated to a conciliation.

 

  1. Staff Conciliation

At this stage you and your employer will negotiate an outcome that you desire to continue your employment in a safe environment, free from sexual harassment.

If you resolve your matter at this stage, and there is no need to continue with a Stop Sexual Harassment Order, your matter will be considered resolved and it will discontinue.

 

  1. Conference

If your matter is not resolved at conciliation, it will be assigned to a Member of the Commission for a conference. At this stage there will be an opportunity to negotiate to resolve the matter.

If the matter is not resolved at the conference stage, it will go to a hearing.

 

  1. Hearing

The hearing stage is more formal. It will give you and the other party the opportunity to present evidence on the matter.

The hearing will result with either your application being dismissed, or your application being determined.

 

  1. Determination

A Stop Sexual Harassment Order will either be made, or the Commission will decline to make an order.

You can appeal this decision by leave of Full Bench.

 

Compensation 

You cannot claim any compensation through this process.

 

Recent Changes to Legislation

 

The Government has now legislated recommendations put forward in The Respect@Work Report. This report was based on a national inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.

The Fair Work Act has been amended to include a prohibition on sexual harassment in connection with work. It increases protections for workers, including employees, work experience students, volunteers, future workers and anyone conducting a business or undertaking in the workplace. The protection won’t apply to sexual harassment of a worker that starts before 6 March 2023.

There is now also a positive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment. A person or company will be liable for sexual harassment committed by one of their employees, or agents, unless they can prove that they took all reasonable steps to prevent it. You will also be able to make a joint application with other workers, for example, if one person at your workplace has harassed both you and your co-workers.

 

New Fair Work Commission Jurisdiction – From 6 March 2023

 

These changes include a new dispute resolution process which will allow the Fair Work Commission to deal with disputes through conciliation or mediation. If a dispute cannot be resolved, and the parties consent, the Commission can settle the dispute and make orders, including orders for compensation.

If the dispute cannot be resolved by the Commission, you will be able to pursue civil proceedings through to the Federal Court or Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, within 60 days of the Fair Work Commission issuing a certificate confirming that your matter has not been resolved.

These changes mean that you have the option to pursue a complaint of sexual harassment through the Fair Work Commission, as well as the AHRC and EOC jurisdictions. You also still have the existing option to pursue the Stop Sexual Harassment Order in the Fair Work Commission.

These new powers of the Fair Work Commission will come into effect on 6 March 2023.

 

 

 

[1] Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA) s 93(2).

[2] Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth) s 46PH.

[3] Sex Discrimination Act 1984 S 28A (1).

[4] Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) s 789FC.

[5] Fair Work Commission, Orders to Stop Sexual Harassment Bench book, 11 October 2021, p 35

Orders to stop sexual harassment bench book (fwc.gov.au)

Keeping a diary of workplace harassment

Tips for recording details of workplace bullying and harassment

 

Please note that this is general information and may not be relevant to your particular matter. This should not be taken as legal advice.

 

When you are experiencing bullying, harassment or discrimination at work over a period of time, it can be difficult to keep track of exactly what happened and when, especially if your mental health is suffering. It helps to keep timely records of it all, so you don’t forget the details of what happened.  

Your notes can be useful later if you wish to complain about the behaviour to your manager or HR person. It will also be good evidence to support a legal claim such as worker’s compensation, a Stop Bullying Order, or a complaint of sexual harassment in the Equal Opportunity Commission or Australian Human Rights Commission.  

If you have experienced bullying or harassment during your work day (or night), take a moment to record what happened when you get home, or as soon as you can. You can send yourself an email or a text, or write it down with pen and paper in a diary.  

Include as much detail as you can, especially the “who, what, where and when”. Include anyone who witnessed the behaviour, or anyone you spoke to about it. A structure is below to help you record all the important information. 

Remember to keep a copy of any emails, texts, photos, or other records, that might be relevant to the harassment too.  

 

Example

Diary entry: 7 June 2022, 1:30am 

Date of incident: 6 June 2022 

Time: approx. 4pm 

Place: In the storeroom at work 

Who was there? Me, Josh, Maya and Mark the head chef 

What happened? I was getting flour out the storeroom to start dinner prep and Chef came in, he said “just need some salt”. I don’t think he did, this is about the third time in the past couple of weeks he has made an excuse to go into the storeroom when I am in there. He brushed past me to the furthest shelf and put his hand on my waist as he went past, and whispered “it’s cosy in here isn’t it” in a sleazy way in my ear. I walked out and Josh could tell I was upset. He asked what happened but I didn’t want to say anything in case Chef heard.  Maya was on shift tonight too, I told her what happened on our break at 9pm.  

 

If you need advice about workplace bullying or sexual harassment, call your union or our Centre.  

You might like to check out our other fact sheets on sexual harassment at work:

Young workers and sexual harassment – what are my rights?

Sexual Harassment at Work – Should you make a Workers Compensation claim?

 

Webinar: Sexual Harassment in Hospo – Your Rights At Work

Join one of our lawyers, Kylie Porter, along with Jamie Bucirde from Not So Hospitable, as we discuss the problem of sexual harassment in the hospitality industry, and your rights and legal options if it happens to you.

We will discuss problematic normalised behaviours, and what a healthy and safe workplace looks like. We will also cover the latest developments in the law, such as the upcoming legislative changes that will place a positive obligation on employers to prevent staff from being sexually harassed.

Both current and former hospo workers are welcome, as are all other interested supporters of workers in the hospitality industry.

Register now by clicking the button on the left, or by visiting this link.

 

Note: If you can’t attend at this time, please register and we will send you a recording of the session.

 

 

About Not So Hospitable
Not So Hospitable is a grassroots hospitality movement highlighting the prevalence of sexual assault, sexual harassment and bullying that fosters a toxic workplace culture within the Adelaide Hospitality community. This movement has gathered over 350 testimonies of sexual harassment and assault within the Adelaide Hospitality community in just a few months. Not So Hospitable’s intention is to gather testimonies, creating a safe space for individuals to share their stories. Over time they also hope to gauge a quantitative understanding of the numbers of incidents occurring within this industry. Not So Hospitable has been working with government bodies to create legislative change on safer working conditions, create accessible education and trainings on sexual harassment within venues and foster collective power to drive change.

IN THE MEDIA: WWC to receive $2 million in funding to combat workplace sexual harassment

SA Attorney-General Kyam Maher visited the Centre on Wednesday 10 August 2022 to announce that $2 million in funding will be given to the Centre, over the next three years, to aid our work in combatting sexual harassment in the workplace.

He said the funding was “really important”.

“Many women don’t just suffer sexual harassment at work, there’s often underpayment of wages so it’s critically important that women have a resource like the Working Women’s Centre,” he said.

The ABC interviewed our Director Abbey Kendall, as well as Senior Lawyer Emma Johnson and her client, Tessa Jones* who spoke about her experience of sexual harassment at her former workplace, and how the Centre helped her.

“For me, I had to go through this, I couldn’t go around it, I couldn’t ignore it. I had to go straight through it and the Centre helped me do that,” she said.

The funding aligns with Recommendation 53 of federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ Respect@Work report. The Centre will use the funding to employ more lawyers.

Read the full article here.

The story was also featured on the ABC News SA 7pm bulletin.

*Name changed

Responding to Sexual Harassment – Online CPD workshop Tuesday 29 March 11.00 am

Tuesday 29 March 11.00 am ACDT

Our 1-hour CPD workshop is tailored for practitioners in the legal sector to equip teams with the tools to respond to workplace sexual harassment. The content shines a light on the current climate within the legal sector and how the working rights of practitioners are breached when harassment and bystander apathy occurs. Participants will learn practical strategies to prevent sexual harassment and how to create a positive workplace culture, free from inappropriate behaviours.

The Working Women’s Centre workplace training program is an evidenced based, comprehensive approach to understanding issues in the workplace for legal practitioners. Our training programs are delivered by a masters qualified education and training specialist with expertise in workplace relations and gendered violence.

We acknowledge that this event will be streamed on Kaurna land and we pay our respects to the traditional custodians of the land, past and present. Sovereignty was never ceded.

Responding to Sexual Harassment – Online CPD workshop Tuesday 22 March 5.30 pm

Tuesday 22 March 5.30 pm ACDT

Our 1-hour CPD workshop is tailored for practitioners in the legal sector to equip teams with the tools to respond to workplace sexual harassment. The content shines a light on the current climate within the legal sector and how the working rights of practitioners are breached when harassment and bystander apathy occurs. Participants will learn practical strategies to prevent sexual harassment and how to create a positive workplace culture, free from inappropriate behaviours.

The Working Women’s Centre workplace training program is an evidenced based, comprehensive approach to understanding issues in the workplace for legal practitioners. Our training programs are delivered by a masters qualified education and training specialist with expertise in workplace relations and gendered violence.

We acknowledge that this event will be streamed on Kaurna land and we pay our respects to the traditional custodians of the land, past and present. Sovereignty was never ceded.

Responding to Sexual Harassment – Online CPD workshop Thursday 17 March 2.00pm

Thursday 17 March 2.00pm  ACDT

Our 1-hour CPD workshop is tailored for practitioners in the legal sector to equip teams with the tools to respond to workplace sexual harassment. The content shines a light on the current climate within the legal sector and how the working rights of practitioners are breached when harassment and bystander apathy occurs. Participants will learn practical strategies to prevent sexual harassment and how to create a positive workplace culture, free from inappropriate behaviours.

The Working Women’s Centre workplace training program is an evidenced based, comprehensive approach to understanding issues in the workplace for legal practitioners. Our training programs are delivered by a masters qualified education and training specialist with expertise in workplace relations and gendered violence.

We acknowledge that this event will be streamed on Kaurna land and we pay our respects to the traditional custodians of the land, past and present. Sovereignty was never ceded.

Responding to Sexual Harassment – Online CPD workshop Tuesday 15 March 11.00 am

Tuesday 15 March 11.00 am ACDT

Our 1-hour CPD workshop is tailored for practitioners in the legal sector to equip teams with the tools to respond to workplace sexual harassment. The content shines a light on the current climate within the legal sector and how the working rights of practitioners are breached when harassment and bystander apathy occurs. Participants will learn practical strategies to prevent sexual harassment and how to create a positive workplace culture, free from inappropriate behaviours.

The Working Women’s Centre workplace training program is an evidenced based, comprehensive approach to understanding issues in the workplace for legal practitioners. Our training programs are delivered by a masters qualified education and training specialist with expertise in workplace relations and gendered violence.

We acknowledge that this event will be streamed on Kaurna land and we pay our respects to the traditional custodians of the land, past and present. Sovereignty was never ceded.

The Protective Power of Job Security

Please note that this is general information & may not be relevant to your particular matter. This podcast/webinar recording should not be taken as legal advice.

Can you really report instances of sexual harassment in your workplace when you risk losing your job?  How does job security help to protect workers from sexual harassment and gendered violence?  

Listen to: The Protective Power of Job SecurityOur guest speakers will discuss how violence against women is linked to casualisation and how we can prevent violence by increasing access to job security.  

 

Our panellists: 

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young: Senator for South Australia. 

Tanya Hosch: 2021 South Australian of the Year, and the Executive General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy at the AFL. 

Gemma Beale: Writer and a PhD Candidate at Flinders University, with a focus on insecure work and a passion for economic justice. 

 

This event is possible due to a grant from the Government of South Australia, Department of Human Services, as part of the COVID-19 National Partnership – Domestic Violence Funding.

We acknowledge that this event will be held on Kaurna land and we pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the land, past and present. Sovereignty was never ceded. 

 

About the topic:  

CONTENT NOTE: this event will involve a discussion on sexual harassment, domestic and family violence and sexual assault.  

The Respect@Work Report (2020) outlines that 1 in 3 Australians have experienced sexual harassment at work, ranging from serious offences like sexual assault and rape to inappropriate comments and sexist slurs.  

At the Working Women’s Centre, our staff regularly provide advice and support for workers who have experienced workplace sexual harassment. Many of these workers are working in insecure jobs, such as casual or fixed-term contracts.

Our staff have observed that workers are often unable to resist or report sexual harassment due to the risk of losing their job. Gender inequality is proven to be the most significant driver of violence against women and workplace sexual harassment. We have the opportunity to prevent violence by collectively working to increase access to job security.   

The Working Women’s Centre is proud to hold a panel event about job insecurity and its connection with gendered violence. In this event, we will hear from three fantastic speakers, each sharing their personal experience and expertise on the topic. The event is also the launch of a new project to improve job security as a protective factor against violence.  

 

Insecure work & gendered violence project

Get in touch with us about job security

If you are an employer or organisational leader, or you work in HR, get in touch with us about how you can get involved with our project about gendered violence and insecure work.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

IN THE MEDIA: Sam Duluk fallout forces state government to cancel Christmas parties

READ THE STORY HERE

Our Director Abbey Kendall spoke with Kathryn Bermingham, for the Advertiser on September 22, 2021.

Abbey Kendall, director of the Working Women’s Centre of SA, said there are clear steps employers can take to ensure Christmas parties are safe.

“Prior to a Christmas party, an employer really needs to look at the culture within an organisation or business,” she said.

“If there is, that needs to be addressed before the party … the emphasis really needs to be on prevention.”

Ms Kendall said complaints arising from Christmas parties made January was a particularly busy time for the centre.

“The complaints range from lewd comments at the Christmas party bar right through to serious assaults,” she said.

Read the full article here.

Register for the Protective Power of Job Security panel event

WHEN

05 Oct 2021
6pm – 7.30pm

EVENT TYPE

Live panel

WHERE

Say Kitchen Café, 78 Currie Street, Adelaide

ACCESSIBILITY

Wheelchair Accessibility

IN THE MEDIA: Federal Government accused of ignoring another Respect@Work recommendation

LISTEN TO THE STORY HERE

The Morrison Government has been accused of ignoring another recommendation of the landmark Respect at Work report.

Working Women’s Centres were singled out by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins as an essential service for providing support for victim-survivors of sexual harassment, but the future of two centres – in the Northern Territory and Queensland – is in doubt.

Featured:

Emma Sharp

Nicki Petrou, Director, NT Working Women’s Centre

Abbey Kendall, Director, SA Working Women’s Centre

Helen Campbell, Executive Officer, NSW Women’s Legal Service

Reporter:

Cathy Van Extel

Duration: 7min 54sec

Broadcast: 

Panel event: the Protective Power of Job Security

About this event

Can you really report instances of sexual harassment in your workplace when you risk losing your job?  How does job security help to protect workers from sexual harassment and gendered violence?  

Come along to our upcoming panel event about The Protective Power of Job Security. Our guest speakers will discuss how violence against women is linked to casualisation and how we can prevent violence by increasing access to job security.  

 

Our panellists: 

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young: Senator for South Australia. 

Tanya Hosch: 2021 South Australian of the Year, and the Executive General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy at the AFL. 

Gemma Beale: Writer and a PhD Candidate at Flinders University, with a focus on insecure work and a passion for economic justice. 

 

Details:

The panel discussion will go until 7.30, after which attendees are invited to stick around to chat. Drinks will be available for purchase.

This event is possible due to a grant from the Government of South Australia, Department of Human Services, as part of the COVID-19 National Partnership – Domestic Violence Funding.

We acknowledge that this event will be held on Kaurna land and we pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the land, past and present. Sovereignty was never ceded. 

 

About the topic:  

CONTENT NOTE: this event will involve a discussion on sexual harassment, domestic and family violence and sexual assault.  

The Respect@Work Report (2020) outlines that 1 in 3 Australians have experienced sexual harassment at work, ranging from serious offences like sexual assault and rape, to inappropriate comments and sexist slurs.  

At the Working Women’s Centre, our staff regularly provide advice and support for workers who have experienced workplace sexual harassment. Many of these workers are working in insecure jobs, such as casual or fixed-term contracts.

Our staff have observed that workers are often unable to resist or report sexual harassment due to the risk of losing their job. Gender inequality is proven to be the most significant driver of violence against women and workplace sexual harassment. We have the opportunity to prevent violence by collectively working to increase access to job security.   

The Working Women’s Centre is proud to hold a panel event about job insecurity and its connection with gendered violence. In this event, we well hear from three fantastic speakers, each sharing their personal experience and expertise on the topic. The event is also the launch of a new project to improve job security as a protective factor against violence.  

We hope to see you there! 

The Northern Territory Working Women’s Centre is at risk of closure

The Northern Territory Working Women’s Centre is at risk of closure, without urgent and ongoing funding it could close by December 2021.

in FY21 the NT WWC had a seven fold increase in the number of sexual harassment matters. Working Women Centre are essential in the fight against sexual harassment in the workplace, which is supported & recommended by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner in the Respect@Work report.
“Australian governments provide increased and recurrent funding to working women’s centres to provide information, advice and assistance to vulnerable workers who experience sexual harassment…” (Recommendation 49).”
Please sign this petition to help the NT Working Women’s Centre fight for funding.

Upcoming outreach clinic 17 September: UniSA Legal Advice Clinic X WWCSA

Appointments will be held at the Legal Advice Clinic – City West Campus on:

  • * Friday, 17 September
This free industrial advice is available for all UniSA students and the general public living in South Australia.

To make an appointment please telephone WWC SA on 8410 6499 or complete the online form at:

We acknowledge that this event is on Kaurna land and we pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the land, past and present. Sovereignty was never ceded.
UniSA Legal Advice Clinic

Applications open for fundraising ambassadors

We are looking for a small team of volunteer Fundraising Ambarassors! The fundraising ambassadors will drive our fundraising efforts to help us reach our fundraising goal ($50,000 over the next 12 months). You will organise community engagement activities to help us fundraise and build our community of supporters. This will include helping to organise a large fundraiser event in April or May of 2022.

We are looking for people who can:
👉 commit at least 7 days of your time in the next 12 months
👉 be part of a new volunteer program and open to experimenting, giving feedback and learning as you go
👉Are willing to get a Working with Vulnerable Persons check (the Working Women’s Centre will cover any costs associated).

👉 Are available to attend our Fundraising Ambassador Info Night at 29 SEP, 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM

Applications close: 5:00 PM ACST, 20th Sep 2021

Watch online Womens Safety Summit – September 6 & 7

The National Women’s Safety Summit is being live-streamed for all to watch on the 6 and 7 of September 2021.

Watch online here:

www.womenssafetysummit.com.au

The recordings and transcripts of the event will be available after the summit.

IN THE MEDIA: Women’s cabinet’s stance on Kate Jenkins’ sexual harassment law recommendations is utterly baffling

Our Director Abbey Kendall spoke with Jenna Price, for the Canberra Times.

…”there’s one other important recommendation made in the Jenkins report which is being ignored: Working Women’s Centres in every state and every territory. These are brilliant organisations which have been worn away by years of neglect, and now we need them more than ever. Abbey Kendall is the director of the WWC in South Australia, and says the centre gets fantastic support from the state Liberal government. She is calling on both the federal government and all the other state and territory governments to get out there and either re-establish centres where they have

closed or fund the ones currently in peril, including those in the Northern Territory.”

“We don’t want a culture where we expect the onus to be on the victim or survivor and therefore make women take the first step and react to sexual harassment, as opposed to stopping it from happening in the first place,” says Kendall.”
The Canberra Times, Jenna Price Women's cabinet's stance on Kate Jenkins' sexual harassment law recommendations is utterly baffling

MEDIA RELEASE: Working Women’s Centres respond to Labor’s 24-million-dollar pledge to fund and establish Centres across Australia

Working Women’s Centres respond to Labor’s 24-million-dollar pledge to fund and establish Centres across Australia

The South Australian, Northern Territory, and Queensland Working Women’s Centres welcome Labor’s promise to ensure there are properly funded Working Women’s Centres in every Australian state and territory.  

With this announcement, Labor has recognised that Working Women’s Centre’s service models are crucial to addressing the pervasive issue of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.  

All corners of the country are calling on the federal government to address sexual harassment in the workplace.  

Recommendation 49 of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Respect@Work Report is that ‘Australian governments provide increased and recurrent funding to working women’s centres to provide information, advice, and assistance to vulnerable workers who experience sexual harassment. The Sex Discrimination Commissioner recognised the unique holistic support provided by Working Women’s Centres:  

“We found they were uniquely the most effective, victim-centric model that could deliver support, advice [and] advocacy to women [across a] range of issues in their work.” 

The federal government accepted this recommendation.  Now is the time for the government to make a concrete funding announcement.  

Working Women’s Centres call for bipartisan commitment to fully fund Working Women’s CentresThe prevention of sexual harassment should not be a political football. We need the federal government to immediately announce a funding package for the working women’s centres. The Northern Territory Working Women’s Centre is just months away from closing.  

Two out of five Australian women experienced sexual harassment at work in the past five years, but the Federal Government has failed to properly fund the Working Women’s Centres that provide the first point of contact for women experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace.  

All three centres have seen an exponential increase in enquiries about sexual harassment. The South Australian Working Women’s Centre has seen a 200% increase in enquiries since March 2021.  

Quotes attributable to Nicki Petrou, Director NT Working Women’s Centre:

“With our one-off interim Federal funding running out in September, and without a further funding commitment from the Federal government, we will have to close the NT Working Women’s Centre by the end of the year. We will need to tell Territory women that we will no longer be there when things go wrong in the workplace, when they need our support.  

We do not want to see Territory women the casualties of a political funding battle especially when every minute counts for us right now. “ 

“The need for this funding is urgent: there has been a national outcry against workplace sexual harassment and assault that we know occurs in every industry. We cannot delay this. The NTWWC do not want to start turning women away especially when as a society we are now encouraging women to come forward and share their story, to say enough is enough but not provide the support that is needed!” 

 Quote attributable to Abbey Kendall, Director of SA Working Women’s Centre

“We have been fighting for funding recognition for the last 8 months and we welcome Labor’s pledge to sustainably fund Working Women’s Centres and ensure that all Australian women can have access to our world leading model of service, no matter where they work and live. Sexual harassment in the workplace should not be politicised.

“We need funding action from the federal government and bi-partisan support for our services. This is a no-brainer, the federal government have an opportunity to make their mark in the prevention of sexual harassment, and they can do it by funding a holistic, professional and trauma informed service that has a proven track record of improving the lives of Australian working women.”  

 Quotes attributable to Claire Moore, Acting Director of Basic Rights Queensland (Working Women’s Centre QLD)  

“WWCs have proven our worth over many years. We support women to understand their rights and have access to the system to achieve outcomes when these rights have been violated. The struggle for effective funding has highlighted the unmet needs of women and the impact on their lives, their workplaces , and their families. The Respect@Work report acknowledged the need for these services as an integral element of the response to the systemic damage to women who are damaged by harassment, discrimination, and isolation. Their voices need to be heard.” 

Save our Working Women’s Centres website: https://saveourworkingwomenscentres.com.au/

Sexual harassment case studies

Case Summaries

Sexual harassment in the workplace is an ongoing and increasingly publicised topic. More and more women contact our centre daily to seek advice in relation to the legal avenues that may be available to them to seek a remedy for the unacceptable and intolerable behaviour they have experienced in the workplace.

Once a victim has gained the courage to seek advice on their legal options, the next question that usually follows is how does someone quantify a monetary settlement for the behaviours and conduct that person has been subject to?

The following case studies are based on leading sexual harassment cases. They give a brief summary of the facts by looking at the conduct and behaviours a complainant has experienced, the findings of the court in relation to the said conduct and lastly the rulings and compensation awarded by the courts.

 

Important:

Please note these cases summaries should not be taken as legal advice.
If you require legal advice or are concerned about a matter regarding sexual harassment please call our centre on (08) 84106499.

Hill v Hughes

Ms Hill was awarded $170,000 in compensation for loss and damages.

Facts:

  • Ms Hill was admitted to legal practice in April 2015 and in May 2015 began working with Mr Hughes (Principal Solicitor) of a small legal firm.
  • Mr Hughes was physically and emotionally attracted to Ms Hill.
  • Ms Hill was involved in an ongoing mediation with her ex-husband. Mr Hughes offered to represent her and she agreed.
  • Ms Hill disclosed a lot of personal information to Mr Hughes so he could represent her including details of her relationship with her former husband, her children, past relationships with men and her dealings with an apprehended violence order.
  • The night before the mediation, Mr Hughes called Ms Hill and expressed his growing feelings towards her. This made her feel apprehensive and uncomfortable. She said nothing and ignored his comments.
  • Mr Hughes had a matter he needed to attend in Sydney for work and asked Hill if she would like to be of assistance and go to Sydney with him on 24 July 2015.
  • On 17 July 2015 an email was sent to Ms Hill regarding accommodation in Sydney. Additionally, the email contained several personal comments about his feelings for her. A further three emails were sent that day.
  • Ms Hill spoke to Mr Hughes and made it clear the Sydney trip was for work only and did not want a relationship with him.
  • Whilst in Sydney Ms Hill went to bed and found Mr Hughes laying on her bed in his underwear and a singlet. She asked him to “please leave” and felt upset and compromised both professionally and personally.
  • The next morning when Ms Hill had a shower, she returned to find Mr Hughes again in her room, laying on the mattress in her bedroom and asked him to “get out”.
  • Mr Hughes had on several occasions asked to hug her.
  • Ms Hill explained she was upset and told Hughes he had acted inappropriately.
  • Mr Hughes continued to send several persistent emails through July, August, September and October proclaiming his love for her and expressing that he wanted a future with her.
  • In June 2016, Mr Hughes sent an email bringing up Ms Hill’s inability to do her job, used the personal information he obtained when he was acting as a legal representative for her against her and said he could only afford to pay her two days a week.
  • Ms Hughes resigned.

Findings:

  • Respondent was dishonest and had been told not to send emails.
  • He took grave exploitation of the legal relationship as an advantage over her.
  • Mr Hughes saw the trip as an opportunity to begin a sexual relationship, by trying his luck.
  • The respondent on several occasions had tried to coerce the applicant to give him a hug. He did this by blocking the exit and making her feel as though she could not decline
  • His motivation for being in her room was entirely sexual (see her naked/watch her get dressed).
  • He only started to criticise her work and professionalism after he was rejected.
  • His emails/conduct were unwelcomed, offensive, humiliating, intimidating and distressing.
  • The spoken words, physical conduct and email communications were sexual harassment.

Damages:

  • Conduct was relentless, he took advantage of her vulnerability.
  • Threats he made were extremely distressing.
  • Harassment was unwanted, persistent and threatening.
  • General damages $120,000.

Aggravated Damages:

  • Threats of job loss were made to stop the applicant from making a complaint.
  • Respondents used privileged information he got while acting as her legal representative.
  • Mr Hughes said Hill was flirty and encouraged him.
  • Aggravated Damages $50,000.

Link to Decision:  

http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/cth/FCCA/2019/1267.html?context=1;query=[2019]%20FCCA%201267;mask_path= 

 

 

Evans v Pasadena Foodland and Crugnale

Ms Evans was awarded $30,000 in damages.

Facts

  • Ms Evans was working in the supermarket and Mr Crugnale also performed work there. The sexual harassment involved a pattern of inappropriate touching which eventually escalated to sexual assault.
  • Mr Crugnale deliberately brushed past behind Ms Evans on three occasions in one day.
  • Ms Evans said Mr Crugnale pushed his body up against hers and glided the palm of his hand between her buttocks as he walked past.
  • The third time he did this, she said she could feel something hard press up against her, which she thought could have been a belt buckle, or his erection.
  • Ms Evans reported the incidents and management reviewed the CCTV footage. They decided they saw “nothing of concern”. The security footage was destroyed two weeks later.

Findings:

  • Mr Crugnale had engaged in the conduct complained of and it was unwelcomed by Ms Evans.
  • A reasonable person having regard to all the circumstances would have been offended, humiliated or intimidated.
  • His evidence that the touching was accidental was not accepted and his conduct was found to be deliberate and of a sexual nature.

Vicarious Liability:

Ms Evans also claimed that Pasadena Foodland had breached its duty of vicarious liability and was responsible for Mr Crugnale’s behaviour because they had failed to appropriately implement/enforce their own sexual harassment policy.

Facts in relation to vicarious liability:

  • Ms Evans had asked an assistant store manager to check the security footage because she had been touched inappropriately, in addition to complaining to the HR Manager.
  • Neither the HR Manager or Assistant Store Manager took the complaint seriously and neither obtained a statement or record from her.
  • When the HR Manager viewed the CCTV footage, he did not observe a clear-cut instance of sexual assault so allowed the footage to be automatically deleted after fourteen days.
  • A couple of months after the last incident had occurred, Ms Evans spoke with the café manager who made a further complaint to the duty manager on her behalf.
  • The café manager then took it upon herself to investigate the complaint and recorded what was said by both parties.
  • It was recommended to the HR Manager that the issue be escalated to a formal investigation and the incident was raised with Mr Crugnale who volunteered to apologize.
  • The lack of action and insufficient investigation by Pasadena Foodland resulted in Ms Evans making a complaint to the police.

Findings:

Pasadena Foodland was found to be vicariously liable for Mr Crugnale’s conduct as they did not take reasonable steps to prevent Mr Cugnale’s behaviour. In was also found that Foodland failed to implement their own sexual harassment policy.

Compensation:

  • Ms Evans was entitled to compensation as she had suffered a psychological disorder, harm, suffering and hurt as a result of the sexual harassment.
  • Pasadena Foodland and Mr Crugnale were found to be jointly liable.
  • Ms Evans made a claim for workers compensation and received money for some of her medical expenses as well as lost earnings.

Link to Decision:  

http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/sa/SAET/2019/222.html

 

 

Yelda v Sydney Water Corporation

MS YELDA RECEIVED $200,000 IN COMPENSATION.

Facts:

  • Ms Yelda was employed by Sydney Water and worked with field staff, which consisted of male workers.
  • Sydney Water had engaged Vitality Works to create a Safespine campaign for Sydney Water staff.
  • Ms Yelda agreed to have her photo taken for the campaign. A male colleague also had his photo taken for the campaign.
  • Vitality Works produced a poster of Ms Yelda smiling with her right arm outstretched above her head. She was pointing to the words “Feel great” and “lubricate”.
  • Sydney Water printed the posters and displayed them in the Sydney Water Ryde Depot, where it was placed just outside the men’s toilet and the civil delivery lunchroom.
  • Ms Yelda saw the poster and sent a complaint via email shortly after.

Findings:

  • The Tribunal found that the words “Feel Great-Lubricate” were big relative to the other words and that as a whole did not immediately suggest the intended meaning of spine safety. Colloquially the poster carried a sexualised connotation and had her image on it.
  • The conduct of displaying the poster was conduct of a sexual nature within the meaning of sexual harassment under the relevant legislation.
  • Because they chose Ms Yelda and not her male colleague, the court also found that Sydney water had discriminated against Ms Yelda on the ground of her sex.
  • Upheld on appeal.

 

Compensation:

  • $200,000
    • $100,000 from Sydney Water
    • $100,000 from  Vitality Works

Link to Decision:  

http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/nsw/NSWCATAD/2021/107.html?context=1;query=Yelda%20v%20Sydney%20Water%20Corporation;%20Yelda%20v

 

Lee v Smith & Ors

Ms Lee was awarded $100,000 in damages

Please note that this case summary contains content referring to sexual harassment & rape, that survivors and victims of sexual assault may find upsetting. 

Facts:

  • Ms Leewas employed by the Department of Defence, which is an entity of the Commonwealth. Two of the perpetrators had more senior positions than Ms Lee.
  • Calendars of topless women and computer images containing pornography were readily visible to Ms Leein the workplace.
  • Mr Smith typed ‘Austin is a champion in the sack’ on a computer shared by him and Ms Lee.
  • Mr Smith wrote his phone number on Ms Lee’s writing pad and when asked why he had done that, Mr Smith replied that if Ms Lee ever wanted to go out with him she should call him.
  • Mr Smith told Ms Lee he would like to have sex with her. When Ms Lee rejected, Mr Smith said ‘you will be sorry’ in a threatening voice.
  • Ms Lee told Mr Smith that he wanted him to stop making advances towards her as she would continue to reject those advances, and this would cause tension in the workplace.
  • Mr Smith said he would continue to “perve” at Ms Lee’s “ass” when she walked past.
  • Mr Smith Left a note in Ms Lee’s drawer that said: “.. I think I want Austin sandwiches for lunch... (Happy face symbol) his meat between my two lovely thighs”.
  • Mr Smith wrote ‘I just ripped a hole in my jeans… I don’t have underwear onand ‘I can touch my penis through the hole’ on Ms Lee’s course notes. Miss Lee also observed that his penis was partly poking out of the hole in his jeans.
  • Mr Smith approached Ms Lee from behind, lifted the Applicant’s skirt, pushed himself against her and squeezed her buttock.
  • Mr Smith also obtained Ms Lee’s number from her personal file in the Resource management section and called her.
  • Ms Lee became intoxicated at the dinner and passed out. When she woke up the next day, she was in Mr Smith’s house and he was raping her.

Findings:

  • Mr Smith was found liable for l the sexual harassment leading up to the rape – the rape itself and the harassment following the rape. The employer  was also found to be vicariously liable

Links to decision 

http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/cth/FMCA/2007/59.html?context=1;query=Lee%20v%20Smith%20&%20Ors;mask_path=

 

 

IN THE MEDIA: 18 Months On, Women Call On Government To Take The Respect@Work Report Seriously

The Northern Territory Working Women’s Centre — a community-based non-profit organisation that supports women through gender discrimination, sexual harassment and assault in the workplace — is at risk of closure. Sign the petition to demand federal funding — it only takes 2 minutes! To read more about Refinery29 Australia’s long-term initiative to dismantle sexual harassment in the workplace, visit the #FiredUp hub.
Workplace sexual harassment is sadly a common experience in Australia that occurs in every industry and at all levels. But it is preventable, according to Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, who says the Respect@Work report serves as a catalyst for change.
In March 2020, the Australian Human Rights Commission released its Respect@Work report, the product of an 18-month inquiry – led by Jenkins – into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. The report outlined 55 recommendations for government, business and community sectors to consider, indicating how Australia can better prevent and respond to sexual harassment.
A year later, women across the country gathered at #March4Justice rallies in March 2021, calling on the government to implement all 55 recommendations. The federal government responded in April with its ‘Roadmap for Respect’ report, though the plan doesn’t necessarily commit to implementing all 55 recommendations.
As female advocacy groups, support organisations and Jenkins herself continue to advocate for the implementation of all recommendations, here’s a look at what the report covers and why it’s significant in addressing workplace sexual harassment in Australia.
18 Months On, Women Call On Government To Take The Respect@Work Report Seriously

IN THE MEDIA: Workplace Sexual Harassment Is Rife — And We Want To Help End It

Read the full article on Refinery19

A year and a half ago, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins released a seminal report called Respect@Work, outlining the pervasive nature of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. The 930-page document described the prevalence and impact of the issue, and pointed out that Australia lags behind other countries in its response to preventing and responding to sexual harassment. Unfortunately, however, little concrete action has followed the publication of the report.

Is your blood boiling yet?
Sexual harassment at work is disturbingly common. The most recent survey from the Australian Human Rights Commission (2018) revealed that almost two in five women in Australia (39%) had experienced sexual harassment at work in the past five years. It also highlighted that young people (those between the ages of 18 and 29), people with a disability, LGBTQI and Aboriginal people were far more likely to have experienced workplace sexual harassment.
fired up logo Workplace Sexual Harassment Is Rife — And We Want To Help End It Refinery29 Working Womens Centre SA

IN THE MEDIA: Help Save This Frontline Women’s Service Supporting Sexual Harassment Victims

Read the full article on Refinery29 here

The Northern Territory Working Women’s Centre — a community-based non-profit organisation that supports women through gender discrimination, sexual harassment and assault in the workplace — is at risk of closure. Sign the petition to demand federal funding — it only takes 2 minutes! To read more about Refinery29 Australia’s long-term initiative to dismantle sexual harassment in the workplace, visit the #FiredUp hub.

Workplace sexual harassment is shockingly common in Australia. A 2018 National Inquiry revealed that two in five women in Australia (39%) had experienced sexual harassment at work in the past five years, noting that people with a disability, LGBTQI and Aboriginal people were far more likely to be targeted.

Let that sink in for a moment.
In March 2020, the Australian Human Rights Commission released its Respect@Work report, a product of the 18-month inquiry led by Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins. The report outlined 55 recommendations that if implemented, would see Australia
“reclaim its position as leaders in tackling sexual harassment, provide employers with the guidance they need and victims the support and redress they deserve.”
Of the recommendations, number 49 is perhaps one of the most straightforward to implement, as it requires funding rather than changes to policy. It states: “Australian governments provide increased and recurrent funding to working women’s centres to provide information, advice and assistance to vulnerable workers who experience sexual harassment, taking into account particular needs of workers facing intersectional discrimination. Australian governments should consider establishing or re-establishing working women’s centres in jurisdictions where they do not currently exist.”
Working Women’s Centres are not-for-profit, community organisations that provide essential support for women navigating issues in the workplace, including bullying, underpayment and sexual harassment. They offer free, confidential services for women who are not represented by a union, their own lawyer or another advocate. Many states, including New South Wales and Tasmania, have seen these centres close down due to lack of funding, while Queensland has had to cut services to three days a week.
Despite the Commissioner’s recommendations, the few centres that remain are at risk. The Northern Territory Working Women’s Centre (NTWWC) had 3,470 contacts with women in FY21, a 29.6% increase from the previous year. They also saw a troubling seven-fold increase in the number of sexual harassment matters. However the organisation’s core federal funding ceased in December 2020, and without government support, it is facing inevitable service and staff cuts next month, and closure by December 2021.
Two out of five of us is too many. We’re calling on you to help us demand support for women that need it. Because if the government isn’t doing enough to prevent sexual harassment, at least it can help the victims who experience it.
As part of Refinery29 Australia’s Fired Up initiative, we’ve launched a petition to urgently alert the House Of Representatives to this issue. We are asking the House to allocate $700,000 per year of federal funds to NTWWC so it can remain operational and continue providing this vital service to some of Australia’s most vulnerable women.

We can’t do this alone, and every signature counts. So please, help keep their doors open by signing this petition — it takes less than 2 minutes but will have a lasting impact.

refinery 29 Help Save This Frontline Women’s Service Supporting Sexual Harassment Victims FIRED UP dismantling workplace sexual harassment working womens centre sa

IN THE MEDIA: This Frontline Service For Victims Of Workplace Sexual Harassment Is At Risk Of Closure

Read the full article on Refinery29 here

The Northern Territory Working Women’s Centre — a community-based non-profit organisation that supports women through gender discrimination, sexual harassment and assault in the workplace — is at risk of closure. Sign the petition to demand federal funding — it only takes 2 minutes! To read more about Refinery29 Australia’s long-term initiative to dismantle sexual harassment in the workplace, visit the #FiredUp hub.

If you haven’t had to rely on the services provided by working women’s centres (WWC), you’re unlikely to know what they are and the critical role they play. But for many women in Australia, the WWCs are the only free frontline service within reach, providing them with support and advice on work-related matters including underpayment, wage theft, parental leave, bullying and workplace sexual harassment and assault.
While working women’s centres once existed in New South Wales, Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory, funding cuts over the years have meant they now only operate in the NT, QLD and SA. With branches in Darwin and Alice Springs, the Northern Territory Working Women’s Centre (NTWWC) saw its core federal funding taken away in December 2020. It currently faces the direst situation, with the threat of closure by the end of the year looming unless it receives urgent government funding.

In May, the federal budget pledged $3.4 billion to support women, but only $200,000 was allocated to split between the QLD and NT working women’s centres.

Nicki Petrou, the director of the NTWWC, says the NT government gives the centre $200,000 a year, but another $700,000 annually is needed to keep it open. If the federal government doesn’t commit to this funding soon, she fears being forced to make staff cuts, reduce operating hours from five to three days a week in September, and potentially closing doors in November.

“[The funding] will be able to at least fund us properly, and to be able to respond appropriately to the demand,” Petrou told Refinery29 Australia.
Refinery 29 Australia FIRED UP dismantling workplace sexual harassment This Frontline Service For Victims Of Workplace Sexual Harassment Is At Risk Of Closure

IN THE MEDIA: Specialist women’s employment law services ‘nervously’ await funding

Read the full article on The Sydney Morning Herald here.

Specialist employment law centres that help women take action against underpayment and sexual harassment are warning they are at risk of closure as a decision on giving them permanent funding is delayed.

The federal government is still consulting states and territories over funding for the working women’s centres, which the landmark Respect@Work report from the national inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces recommended should be increased and made recurrent.

Standalone working women’s centres exist only in Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory. They are specialist workplace legal services that advise and represent women who aren’t union members and can’t afford private lawyers.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins recommended in the Respect@Work report that their funding should be boosted and similar services set up in the states that don’t have them.

“Our national inquiry found that support, advice and advocacy for victim-survivors of sexual harassment should be delivered through a multifaceted, holistic approach, including smooth and speedy referrals between services,”

she told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

“Working women’s centres are well-placed to act as a central hub for this approach and address the intersectional needs of victim-survivors in a way that other services may be unable to.”

Run & fundraise with the WWCSA in the Lumary City-Bay Fun Run

Will you join us on 19th September for the fundraising Lumary City-Bay Fun Run ?

Registrations are open! Join our team & start fundraising for the Working Women’s Centre here:

https://citybay21.grassrootz.com/working-women-s-centre-sa

 

 

lumary city to bay fun run fundraiser in adelaide south australia

Free legal & industrial advice clinic | UniSA Legal Advice Clinic X WWCSA

Do you need free, confidential legal & industrial advice about your rights at work?

Have you experienced:

Wage theft? Do you think you may not be being paid correctly?
Unfair dismissal? Have you been dismissed from a job recently?
Discrimination? Have you been treated badly at work due to race, gender or age?
Sexual harassment?
Bullying?
Sham contracting? Does your employer call you a contractor, however you may be an employee?

UniSA Legal Advice Clinic

Free legal & industrial advice clinic | UniSA Legal Advice Clinic X WWCSA

Do you need free, confidential legal & industrial advice about your rights at work?

Have you experienced:

Wage theft? Do you think you may not be being paid correctly?
Unfair dismissal? Have you been dismissed from a job recently?
Discrimination? Have you been treated badly at work due to race, gender or age?
Sexual harassment?
Bullying?
Sham contracting? Does your employer call you a contractor, however you may be an employee?

UniSA Legal Advice Clinic

Media release: Working Women’s Centres ask Morrison: what has happened to Recommendation 49?

As the Women’s Safety Summit gets delayed, Working Women’s Centres have launched a fight for survival. Working Women’s Centres provide free advice, support and representation to thousands of working women every year about workplace issues.

Two out of five Australian women experienced sexual harassment at work in the past five years, but the Federal Government has failed to properly fund the Working Women’s Centres which provide a first point of contact for women experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace.

Recommendation 49 of the Respect@Work Report is that ‘Australian governments provide increased and recurrent funding to working women’s centres to provide information, advice and assistance to vulnerable workers who experience sexual harassment.

Quotes attributable to Nicki Petrou, Director of the NT Working Women’s Centre:

“Today, we are launching a fight for the survival of our specialised women’s services, services that support working women to ensure their workplaces are safe and fair. A key recommendation of the Respect@Work report was to provide increased and recurrent funding for Working Women’s Centres, but the Federal Government has not yet made any announcement of ongoing funding to the QLD and NT Working Women’s Centres.”

“With our one-off interim Federal funding running out in September, and without a further funding commitment from the Federal government, we will have to close the NT Working Women’s Centre by the end of the year. We will need to tell Territory women that we will no longer be there when things go wrong in the workplace, when they need our support.

“Whilst we are grateful for the interim funding from the Northern Territory and Federal Governments, this will not last forever and neither will we if we do not receive funding certainty soon. The time for our service is fast ticking away. We’ve been told that we needed to wait for discussions between state/territory and the federal government, for the Women’s Safety Summit in July. Discussions have been had, and the Summit has now been postponed until September., and now what? We can’t wait that long.

“The need for this funding is urgent: there has been a national outcry against workplace sexual assault that we know occurs in every industry. We cannot delay this. We cannot continue turning women away.

“To achieve safety for women in the workplace, all 55 Recommendations of the Respect@Work Report must be implemented and funded.

“Providing funding certainty to the NT Working Women’s Centre would cost less than $1 million per year. It costs less than $1 million to support women in the NT with our world leading model for tackling workplace sexual harassment and violence. How much are women in Northern Territory worth to this Governement?”

Quote attributable to Fiona Hunt, Director of Working Women Qld:

“Working Women Qld has been operating a reduced service since we lost Federal Funding in 2016. This has meant that hundreds of women in Queensland who have been treated unfairly or been sexually harassed in their workplaces have not been able to get the advice, support and representation they deserve and need to address these issues. Without the support of the Qld Government, the service would have been forced to shut down years ago. Now is the time for the Federal Government to respond to the Respect@Work recommendations and support vulnerable workers across Queensland. Working Women Qld needs Federal funding to operate a full service 5 days a week and to make sure that every woman in Queensland can be safe and equal at work.”

Quotes attributable to Abbey Kendall, Director of the Working Women’s Centre SA:

“The Working Women’s Centre SA is an example of what our service can achieve with sustainable funding. The South Australian Working Women’s Centre receives ongoing funding from both our state and federal governments. In the past two years, we recovered $1.2 million in compensation, stolen wages and penalties for workers.

“Women come to us when they are facing very complex, personal choices about how they respond to harassment in the workplace. Being armed with the facts about their options empowers them at a time when they are incredibly vulnerable. Our model of advice, education and advocacy is world leading. Funding Working Women’s Centres is an easy, immediate and tangible solution for the prevention of sexual violence.”

[End]

Save our Working Women’s Centres website:

https://saveourworkingwomenscentres.com.au/

MEDIA CONTACTS:

WWC NT Director Nicki Petrou

WWC QLD DirectorFiona Hunt

WWC SA Director Abbey Kendall

UPCOMING EVENT: Feminist action session – discussion on combatting sexual harassment at work

Come along to our Feminist Action Session to help the Working Women’s Centre develop practical tools that can be used in workplaces.  

1 in 3 Australians have experienced sexual harassment at work, yet only 18% of victims report their experience (according to the Respect@Work Report 2020).  

The Working Women’s Centre SA has recently completed research that found that workplace posters are effective and engaging tools to highlight inappropriate behaviour and connect victims with support avenues. In the upcoming Feminist Action session, we will discuss ways in which we can combat sexual harassment in our workplaces and communities and support victims of sexual harassment. We’ll also share ideas for a meaningful poster for South Australian workplaces.  

In this session you will have the opportunity to share your ideas and discuss the topic with like-minded individuals. 

  • Bring a laptop or phone if handy, and a willingness to contribute ideas and listen to others.
  • Complimentary hot food and drinks will be provided.
  • The venue is wheelchair accessible. The nearest disability access bathrooms are at the Adelaide Train Station.

CONTENT NOTE: This event will involve a discussion of workplace sexual violence.

WHEN

29 Jul 2021
5.30-7.00pm

EVENT TYPE

Workshop

WHERE

The Working Women’s Centre SA, Level 1 Station Arcade, 52 Hindley Street

ACCESSIBILITY

Wheelchair Accessibility

REGISTER HERE

We acknowledge that this event is on Kaurna land and we pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the land, past and present . Sovereignty was never ceded.

POSTPONED EVENT: Safe and Compliant Workplaces: education and advice clinic

The Working Women’s Centre in collaboration with Fair Go SA, will co-host an educational workshop on worker’s rights and the Fair Work Act.

This will be followed by a confidential (one to one) advice clinic for any workers who need free industrial advice about work.

Our workshop will cover topics including:

  • Workplace bullying
  • Discrimination
  • Sham contracting
  • Unfair Dismissal
  • Parental Leave
  • Workplace sexual harassment
  • Responding to domestic violence at work
  • Labour Exploitation

At the Confidential Industrial Advice Clinic you can:

  • Speak to an Industrial Officer who has a background in Employment law & qualifications in law
  • Ask questions
  • Get information and personalised advice about your workplace issues.
  • Book a further free appointment with the Working Women’s Centre Industrial Officers for a follow-up & further assistance.

WHEN:

23 Jul 2021
2pm – 5pm

 

EVENT TYPE

Workshop

 

WHERE

69 Grote Street, Adelaide SA

 

translation avaible register for this event via we chat

If you cannot register for this event via the We Chat QR code, please email to register: reception@wwc.org.au

Accessibility: Please note that this venue is not wheelchair accessible, there are volunteers who can assist with accessing the venue if required, but only upon request.

We acknowledge that this event is on Kaurna land and we pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the land, past and present. Sovereignty was never ceded.

Safe and Compliant Workplaces: education and advice clinic

The Working Women’s Centre in collaboration with Fair Go SA, will co-host an educational workshop on worker’s rights and the Fair Work Act.

This will be followed by a confidential (one to one) advice clinic for any workers who need free industrial advice about work.

Our workshop will cover topics including:

  • Workplace bullying
  • Discrimination
  • Sham contracting
  • Unfair Dismissal
  • Parental Leave
  • Workplace sexual harassment
  • Responding to domestic violence at work
  • Labour Exploitation

At the Confidential Industrial Advice Clinic you can:

  • Speak to an Industrial Officer who has a background in Employment law & qualifications in law
  • Ask questions
  • Get information and personalised advice about your workplace issues.
  • Book a further free appointment with the Working Women’s Centre Industrial Officers for a follow-up & further assistance.

translation avaible register for this event via we chat

If you cannot register for this event via the We Chat QR code, please email to register: meng@wwc.org.au

Accessibility: Please note that this venue is not wheelchair accessible, there are volunteers who can assist with accessing the venue if required, but only upon request.

We acknowledge that this event is on Kaurna land and we pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the land, past and present. Sovereignty was never ceded.

Feminist action session – discussion on combatting sexual harassment at work

About this event

Note: this event will be held online due to COVID-19 risks and restrictions.

Come along to our Feminist Action Session to help the Working Women’s Centre develop practical tools that can be used in workplaces.  

1 in 3 Australians have experienced sexual harassment at work, yet only 18% of victims report their experience (according to the Respect@Work Report 2020).  

The Working Women’s Centre SA has recently completed research that found that workplace posters are effective and engaging tools to highlight inappropriate behaviour and connect victims with support avenues. In the upcoming Feminist Action session, we will discuss ways in which we can combat sexual harassment in our workplaces and communities and support victims of sexual harassment. We’ll also share ideas for a meaningful poster for South Australian workplaces.  

In this session you will have the opportunity to share your ideas and discuss the topic with like-minded individuals. 

CONTENT NOTE: This event will involve a discussion of workplace sexual violence.

We acknowledge that this event is on Kaurna land and we pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the land, past and present . Sovereignty was never ceded.

Young workers and sexual harassment – what are my rights?

Young female workers under 30 years old are particularly at risk of sexual harassment in the workplace. It can be tricky to know how to handle an uncomfortable situation, especially if it’s your first job or if you are new in the workplace. Here are some facts about your rights, and some common scenarios to help you to know what to do.

Sexual harassment – what is it?

Sexual harassment is conduct of a sexual nature that makes you feel offended, humiliated or intimidated, that a reasonable person would anticipate would make you feel that way.

Sexual harassment includes conduct like:

  • An unwelcome sexual request or advance (ie hitting on you)
  • Staring or leering
  • Jokes or comments that are suggestive or sexual
  • Sexually explicit photos or pictures
  • Texts, messages, or emails of a sexual nature
  • Personal questions about your body, private life or sex life
  • Unwelcome touching, such as purposely brushing up against you
  • Sexually explicit physical contact
  • Insulting or teasing you about something sex-related

Your workplace should protect you from sexual harassment at work. This includes from co-workers, customers or clients. When starting a job, you should ask your employer about their workplace harassment policies. If you foresee any risks, for example, you are worried about being rostered on alone in a shop, discuss with your employer what can be done to ensure your safety at all times.

If you tell your employer that you have been sexually harassed, or they should have known that it was happening, they must stop the harassment and prevent it happening again. They are also vicariously responsible for the conduct of their staff (that is, legally responsible for their behaviour) unless they show that they have taken reasonable precautions to prevent sexual harassment and to properly deal with any complaints.

If you complain about sexual harassment, and then you have your shifts cut, or you are demoted or fired, you should call us for advice. You have a right to safe workplace and if you suffer a loss for making a complaint about that right, you could make a General Protections claim in the Fair Work Commission. Note that if you are fired, there are only 21 days from the end of your employment to make this claim.

You can also make a complaint to the Equal Opportunity Commission and Australian Human Rights Commission about the sexual harassment. There time limits of 12 months and 24 months respectively for these claims.

If you have been sexually harassed at work, firstly make sure you are safe and have support, and call us or your Union for legal advice about your individual situation.

Here are some common situations. Have a read and think about what you would do in these situations.

 

Olivia’s boss Mark creeps her out. He owns the small law firm at which she works as a paralegal. Olivia often has to work closely with Mark and others in the team. He is known to be a “joker” so often his behaviour is laughed off by Olivia’s co-workers. He often makes inappropriate comments about her appearance, like calling her “sexy legs” when she wears a new dress. He asks about her boyfriends and jokes about her dating history. On several occasions Mark has come up behind her and rubbed her shoulders, saying she looks stressed and should lighten up.

Olivia is sick of it and often feels too anxious to go to work. She doesn’t know who to complain to since Mark is her boss.

Even if a workplace has a culture of jokes and pranks, Mark’s jokes and comments are sexual harassment. Unwelcome touching, such as a shoulder rub, is also sexual harassment.

If Olivia feels too anxious or unwell to attend work, she should seek help from her doctor and with her doctor’s support, consider a worker’s compensation claim. 

Olivia could see if any of her co-workers feel the same way about Mark’s behaviour and complain as a team. Olivia could arrange a meeting with Mark about his behaviour, with a support person, or could write an email to him outlining her concerns. If the workplace has a policy on workplace harassment, she should refer to it. Olivia has the right to a workplace free of sexual harassment and her concerns should be taken seriously. Once the workplace is notified of her complaint, they should take steps to prevent it happening again, even if the boss is the culprit.

Olivia could also lodge a claim in the Equal Opportunity Commission or the Australian Human Rights Commission about the sexual harassment.

If you are in a similar situation, call us or your Union for advice.

 

Anika works in a front desk role at a wholesaler. One particular customer makes Anika feel extremely uncomfortable. He loiters around the front desk longer than he needs to, leans too close to her, and makes suggestive comments. He calls her “gorgeous” and always compliments her. Once, he came into the warehouse near closing time and waited outside for her in the carpark, as she left work for the day. He told her he couldn’t stop thinking about her and wanted to take her out for a drink.

The customer is extremely important to the business and Anika’s boss has previously told her to be nice to him. What should Anika do?

It is not okay that Anika feels unsafe at work. She has the right to a safe workplace. Anika should report the customer’s behaviour to her boss. If her boss knows about the harassment, he must act to stop it and prevent it from happening again. It doesn’t matter if the customer is a regular, a big spender or a friend of the boss.

Anika should put her complaint to her boss in writing, and keep a diary of when the customer harasses her. If at any time, Anika feels physically unsafe, she should seek immediate help. If Anika’s boss fails to do anything to stop the harassment, she could also lodge a complaint in the Equal Opportunity Commission or the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Trina works in the kitchen of a fast food restaurant. It is extremely busy and the team has to work closely together to get orders ready. One Saturday night, it was flat out and Trina was bending over to get more takeaway containers out of the cupboard. Her co-worker was rushing an order through to the drive through window and said “Oi, get your arse out the way!” and slapped her bum in a joking manner as he went by.

Trina felt embarrassed and shocked but laughed it off. She has always had a good relationship with this co-worker and doesn’t want to get him in trouble. It has only happened once, and she isn’t sure if she should say something to her manager or not.

Even though this was a one-off event, it is still harassment. If Trina feels comfortable to do so, she could approach her co-worker and tell him that his behaviour made her feel uncomfortable.

If Trina doesn’t want to speak to her co-worker personally, she could approach her manager or HR department to report the behaviour.

If Trina chooses not to do anything at this stage, she should make a note of the time and date of the harassment and keep a diary if anything further happens, in case she wishes to take action in the future.

 

Paige works as a waiter in a function centre. She went out on a few dates with her co-worker, Tom, but it didn’t work out. They agreed to be friends, but Tom keeps acting inappropriately towards Paige. He brushes up against her when they are both working in the bar, and jokes about her wanting to have sex with him. Once, he tried to kiss her when they were alone in the storeroom. Paige has told him to stop but Tom doesn’t listen.

Even if you have had a previous relationship with someone at work, you do not have to put up with sexual harassment from that person. You may decide to try to speak to the person harassing you and explain that it is not appropriate in the workplace. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, or if they won’t stop, you should report the harassment to your boss. Your boss should take your complaint seriously and take steps to prevent it from happening again.

Paige could make a complaint to the Equal Opportunity Commission or the Australian Human Rights Commission about the harassment. If her boss cuts her shifts instead of addressing Tom’s behaviour, she could make a General Protections claim in the Fair Work Commission.

 

If you have been sexually harassed at work, firstly make sure you are safe and have support, and call us or your Union for legal advice about your situation.

 

How can the Working Women’s Centre Help?

We can:

  • Provide advice and information about sexual harassment
  • Inform you of the complaint procedure
  • Help you make a complaint
  • Advocate on your behalf up to and including conciliation

 

Where else can I go for help?

Other organisations that may be able to help include your union, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunity Commission. 

If you are not already a member of a union, ring SA Unions on (08) 8279 2222 to find out which union to join.

Australian Human Rights Commission: The Respect@Work Portal has resources for both employees and employers. Phone:  1300 369 711 Web: www.humanrights.gov.au

Equal Opportunity Commission: Phone: (08) 8207 1977 Web: www.eoc.sa.gov.au 

 

Making a Sexual Harassment complaint is a serious matter.

 

Other service providers

  • Yarrow Place 
    Yarrow Place
    Rape and Sexual Assault Service is a service for anyone who has been sexually assaulted.
    Services include:
    24 Hour Crisis Response Service for recent sexual assault—this includes support from a social worker, medical care by a doctor or nurse, and collection of forensic evidence for people who are considering legal action.
    — Professional counselling and advocacy for recent and past sexual assault clients as well as their support people.

    Phone: (08) 8226 8777 or (Toll free) 1800 817 421

 

  • Uniting SA Sexual Abuse & Sexual Assault Counselling for young people
    You can access this service if you are between the ages of 12 and 25, and homeless or at risk of homelessness.

    Phone: (08) 8202 5060

  • 1800RESPECT1800RESPECT is a national 24 hour online and telephone service offering counselling and support to anyone experiencing domestic and family violence and/or sexual assault and their family and friends.Freecall 1800 737 732 (24 hours)


If your life or someone else’s life is in immediate danger, phone 000 (triple zero).

Centres for working women at risk

This story is about our fight to save the Working Women’s Centres in the NT and Queensland. It was published by The Saturday Paper on 22 May 2021. 

Find the full story here. 

Despite this month’s federal budget pledging $3.2 billion to women, a critical front-line service has lost much of its funding and will likely close before the end of the year.

 

MEDIA STATEMENT: Working Women’s Centres train political parties in prevention of sexual harassment

Working Women’s Centre’s provide prevention of sexual harassment workplace training to federal and state political parties. 

We are pleased to announce major political parties have engaged the Working Women’s Centres to assist with workplace training. Since February, multiple political offices have contacted us to book our training ‘Preventing and Responding to Sexual Harassment’ and ‘When violence comes to work.’ This parties include:

    • The federal Australian Labor Party
    • SA Labor
    • SA Greens

We are pleased that political parties are taking proactive steps to prevent sexual assault in their offices by booking our training programs.

We will be working with Federal Labor and SA Labor over the next 6 months to roll out training for MPs, staff and volunteers.

 

Over May, the Working Women’s Centers educators travelled to Canberra to train all Federal Labor Chief of Staffs in the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace. We are in the process of rolling out training for federal Labor offices across the country.

The Working Women’s Centre’s will also provide prevention of sexual harassment training to the Prime Minister and Cabinet department in the coming month. We have a long training relationship with the PMC team.

In South Australia, the SA Labor party passed a motion that commits to ensuring all South Australian Labor Members of Parliament, their staff, elected party officials, office bearers, campaign coordinators and campaign managers will undertake mandatory unconscious Bias training, Preventing and Addressing Sexual Harassment training and Bullying training within the next six months.

Further Senator Wong’s office has booked the suite of Working Women’s training program to be conducted in early July 2021.

We urge all states and territory governments and political parties to do the same. Leadership comes from the top.

 

Training programs 

We encourage all political parties’ and employers to contact the Working Women’s Centres to discuss our training programs. In February 2021, after the allegations of sexual violence and harassment in Parliament House and political parties, we wrote to all political parties, their leaders in every state and territory to encourage them to take the crucial step of engaging workplace training.  A previous media release about our correspondence with political parties can be found: here: https://wwcsa.org.au/call-for-all-political-parties-to-undertake-training-on-workplace-sexual-harassment/

 

Quotes attributable to Abbey Kendall, Director of the South Australian Working Women’s Centre.

 

Workplace training is crucial to eliminating violence against women in the workplace and the community. The training must be evidence based, trauma informed and mandatory. We wrote to every political party in the country asking them to lead in this area and we are really pleased that our training programs have been taken up.

 

Working Women’s Centre Training Officer Cassandra Deon-Wierda says

Workplace training and education programs are a vital tool to improving organisational and team culture. Through action based and cooperative learning staff can become empowered and confident in their skills, knowledge, and communication with one another. As we start to gain a better understanding of the intersection of unconscious bias and serious issues within the work environment, the need for employers to maintain an inclusive environment committed to equity and respect are essential.

 

 

Despite our crucial work, Working Women’s Centre’s in NT and QLD are in a funding crisis. We are asking the federal government to save the NT and QLD WWC and establish Working Women’s Centre’s in every state and territory in line with recommendation 49 of the Respect@Work Report. Media releases about this fight can be found here: https://wwcsa.org.au/media/media-releases/

Unless the Federal Government steps and provides ongoing and sustainable funding to the NT and QLD Working Women’s Centre, they will not be able to provide this crucial training.

In the Northern Territory –the NT Working Women’s Centre continues to receive requests for workplace training in a broad range of areas including sexual harassment, domestic and family violence and bullying. ‘All Work Aware training has a violence prevention focus. It is intended to provide safer workplaces by assisting employers/employees understand the issues and how to better respond and support workers on the ground. It is about changing the culture and making workplaces fair and safe for all, proofing your organisations against avoidable risks.’ To date, we have delivered training to a number of Government departments, not for profits and small businesses. It would be helpful if Working Women’s Centres training was available more broadly to workplaces, that we could be funded to roll this out to workplaces across Australia and not just to those who can afford it.

 

Media Contacts:

 

WWC SA Director – Abbey Kendall –  08 8410 6499 – reception@wwc.org.au

 

WWC NT Director – Nicki Petrou

 

WWC QLD Director – Fiona Hunt

 

MEDIA RELEASE: Call for coalition government to immediately save the Northern Territory and Queensland Working Women’s Centres  Media Statement 

The Working Women’s Centres call on the Federal Government to immediately take action and fund the Northern Territory and Queensland Working Women’s Centres.

 

The funding and establishment of Working Women’s Centres in every Australian state and territory is essential to addressing workplace sexual harassment, and forms a key part of the Respect@Work report, appearing at recommendation 49.

 

The recommendation is that ‘Australian governments provide increased and recurrent funding to working women’s centres, to provide information, advice and assistance to vulnerable workers who experience sexual harassment, taking into account particular needs of workers facing intersectional discrimination.’

 

The Federal Government has agreed to this recommendation in the Roadmap for Respect. However, the government has failed to provide certainty as to its funding commitment or timeframes around these discussions.

 

We cannot wait. The Northern Territory and Queensland WWCs have 10 weeks to find funding or face the prospect of closing.  This will be devastating to working women in QLD and the NT and it will fly in the face of the federal governments promises to address gendered violence in the workplace.

 

The Government must act now and immediately fund the NT and QLD services. Our clients, communities and working women are depending on us. Working Women are depending on the government to save their services, who work and understand the local environment and the challenges in which they live and work.

 

Funding Working Women’s Centres is an easy, immediate and tangible solution for the prevention of sexual violence. This is the first test for the new Attorney General and the federal government since their response to the Report’s 55 recommendations.

 

Experts and leaders in gender equity regularly talk about the Working Women’s Centre holistic model as world leading. WWCs form the backbone of the fight to eliminate gendered violence in our workplaces and the community.

 

Director of the QLD Working Women’s Centre Fiona Hunt says: “All women deserve safe workplaces and someone to champion them when they are treated unfairly. WWC QLD works with the most vulnerable women in QLD to keep them employed, to get what they are entitled and to walk away fairly if needed.”

 

Director, of the NT WWC Nicki Petrou says: “In a climate when women’s safety at work has again hit the headlines, when the Federal Government has committed to building women’s workforce participation, economic security and making women’s homes and  workplaces safe, funding specialist women’s services such as the Working Women’s Centres who are here now continuing to do the work, in supporting women with workplace issues and throughout COVID is especially critical. This also makes good sense.”

Director of the SA WWC Abbey Kendall says: “The South Australian WWC is a great example of what a secure and funded and working women’s center can do for workplaces, vulnerable people and working women. We make a big impact in South Australia but we need a national approach to this issue. We need an alliance of well funded Working Women’s Centres in every state and territory and the first step to achieving that is to save the NT and QLD centres”. 

Media contacts: 

WWC NT Director – Nicki Petrou,

WWC QLD Director – Fiona Hunt

WWC SA Director  – Abbey Kendall

 

Background on WWC  

The Working Women’s Centres are not-for-profit organisations which providefree advice, representation and support to vulnerable, workers about their rights at work. Additionally, the WWC’s advocate for systemic change to improve women’s workplace conditions and safety, and offer a range of free and fee for service training for workers and employers about workplace rights. This includes bullying, sexual harassment, and appropriately responding to disclosures of domestic violence.

There are currently 3 WWCs across the country (SA, NT and QLD). The only WWC with secure funding is WWC SA with the QLD service now a program of the Basic Rights Centre following non continuation of its funding 4 years earlier.

The Working Women’s Centre is made up of three arms:

Industrial/Legal support – we provide advice and representation to vulnerable workers who contact the Centre with work issues through 1:1 clinic appointments

Advocacy – we conduct advocacy to resolve systemic issues that affect women and other vulnerable workers, such as sexual harassment and precarious work

Education – we provide fee-for-service and free training for workers and employers about workplace rights. This includes bullying, sexual harassment, and appropriately responding to disclosures of domestic violence.

Core practices of the WWC  

The Working Women’s Centre model is unique due to the combination of a number of core practices.

  • Our advocacy and training work is informed by the issues experienced by our clients. We notice patterns in our industrial work and use our advocacy and education work to address these issues at a systemic level.
  • We apply a gender lens to our work and are specialists in gendered work issues. The Working Women’s Centre is seen as a safe space for women to gain support on issues such as sexual harassment and assault.
  • We support and empower women through our industrial work. We always provide them with the support to make the decisions that are right for them.
  • We are connected to grassroots movements. We work with communities who are experiencing issues such as wage theft and support them to push back against exploitation.

Photos of the Women’s March 4 Justice in Victoria Square

This article was published by Glam Adelaide 16 March 2021.

Read the full article and see the photo on Glam Adelaide’s Website

March participants congregated at midday in Victoria Square to hear speeches before heading down to North Terrace.

Speakers included human rights barrister Claire O’Connor, Director of the Working Women’s Centre SA Abbey Kendall, founder of SA Aboriginal Action Group Janette Milera, and Dr. Afsaneh Moradi.

Hosted by March 4 Justice, the event championed inclusion, and people of all genders were in attendance.

“The March is not just for women. It’s for everyone who wants an end to gendered violence – people from all backgrounds are welcome,” they say.

See photos from the rally here.

MEDIA RELEASE: Specialised services for women experiencing sexual harassment left with next to nothing in Budget

Working Women’s Centres – the first point of contact for women experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace – received just $200,000 in the Federal Budget.  

 

“We are experts in preventing and addressing workplace sexual harassment and violence through one-on-one support, training and advocacy. The NT and QLD Working Women’s Centres are experiencing a funding crisis, yet only $200,000 was delivered in the Federal Budget. This represents only interim funding. How long can we wait for funding certainty?” said Nicki Petrou, Director of the Working Women’s Centre NT.

 

“Despite our long and proud history of supporting women workers and advocating for fairer and safer workplaces, we continue to battle for funding to keep our doors open.

 

“This is a huge missed opportunity for the Prime Minister to show a commitment to tackling workplace sexual violence. There is a massive unmet need for our services. Funding Working Women’s Centres is an easy, immediate and tangible solution for the prevention of sexual violence and provision of direct specialist support to women across Australia.

 

“In 2016, the Queensland Working Women’s Centre was defunded by the federal government and in 2020 we lost funding for the NT Working Women’s Centre. This Government has not provided any funding certainty in the Budget. This is disappointing to working women across Australia who are in desperate need of support.

 

“The Working Women’s Centre model is world-leading. We are the backbone of the struggle against workplace sexual harassment and violence. The voices of working women have not been heard. Survivors all over the country are speaking out, yet the “women’s budget” doesn’t adequately support survivors of sexual violence in the workplace. Scott Morrison has failed working women.”

 

“A key recommendation of the Respect@Work report – Recommendation 49 – was to fund Working Women’s Centres in every Australian state and territory. This is because our world-leading model is proven. Working Women’s Centres allow women to access free information and advice from specialist services when they experience sexual harassment at work,” said Nikky Candy, Director of the Working Women’s Centre SA.

 

“When a woman experiences sexual harassment at work they face very complex, personal choices. Being armed with the facts about their options empowers them at a time when they are incredibly vulnerable. Women should not have to make a decision between their safety and economic livelihood. This funding decision will leave vulnerable women even more vulnerable.”

 

“The Prime Minister has failed the test when it comes to tackling sexual violence in the workplace, especially for women in the NT who face the prospect of being left without specialised support in a matter of months. Funding the NT and QLD centres would have cost approximately $1.4 million per year, but instead, the government has only provided $200,000 in the budget to be split across both Centres.

 

“This $200,000 is not enough to save the NT Working Women’s Centre, which faces the prospect of closure after 1 July 2021. Both the NT and QLD Working Women’s Centres will have to turn away women in need of support and representation.”

 

“We are a much needed safety net for all Australian women to be supported at work. The government agreed with Recommendation 49 in their Roadmap to Respect, but has not yet done what is required to save the Working Women’s Centres,” said Fiona Hunt, Director of the QLD Working Women’s Centre.

 

MEDIA CONTACTS:

WWC QLD Director – Fiona Hunt

WWC NT Director – Nicki Petrou

WWC SA Director – Nikki Candy

 

Notice of press conference

WEDNESDAY 12 MAY, 11:15AM

Senate Courtyard, Australian

 Parliament House

 

WHAT: Lawyers and advocates respond to defunding of Working Women’s Centres
WHEN: 11:15AM

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

WHO: Nicki Petrou, Working Women’s Centre NT Director

Fiona Hunt, Working Women’s Centre QLD Director

WHERE: Senate Courtyard

Australian Parliament House, Canberra

MEDIA

CONTACT:

Nicki Petrou, WWC QLD Director

Fiona Hunt,WWC NT Director

Nikki Candy, WWC SA Director

MEDIA RELEASE: Funding cut to Working Women’s Centres that Respect@Work Inquiry called to expand

Two out of five Australian women experienced sexual harassment at work in the past five years.  Despite this national crisis, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to commit to funding the services that provide a first-point-of contact for women who are sexually harassed at work. 

“Working Women’s Centres provide free, expert and impartial information to women about their rights and options when they are sexually harassed at work. The Queensland Working Women’s Centre was defunded by the federal government in 2016 and NT Working Women’s Centre was defunded in 2020.” said Fiona Hunt, Director of the Queensland Working Women’s Centre. 

“The Respect@Work Inquiry specifically recommended that the Prime Minister do the opposite. It proposed we be funded to establish a Working Women’s Centre in every state and territory.

“We run on the smell of an oily rag, but the services we provide change women’s lives every day.  Many women don’t know where to turn when they experience sexual harassment at work.  They face difficult decisions and often face choosing between their safety and their livelihoods.  

“The model is proven. We provide free information to women and already there is a huge unmet need.  It’s absurd that we are now faced with closing the Northern Territory and Queensland Working Women’s Centres when the Respect@Work Report said we should operate in every state and territory.  

“It would cost approximately $20,000,000 to properly establish and fund Working Women’s Centres in every state and territory.  Given workplace sexual harassment costs the economy more than $2.6 billion per year, this is a drop in the ocean.

“We help women from all walks of life understand their rights and options. Our staff are experts in workplace law and trained in working with vulnerable clients.  We also offer workplace training on preventing sexual harassment, which changes workplace culture.  

“Recently, we have assisted a young woman who was working in a male dominated industry and was subject to unwanted sexual advances and touching during her probationary period. When she complained she was dismissed. We represented her to make a sexual harassment discrimination complaint, and she won substantial compensation. We receive hundreds of calls from women in similar situations who need our help,” said Fiona Hunt. 

Nicki Petrou, Director of the NT Working Women’s Centre said: “In a climate when women’s safety at work has again hit the headlines, when the Federal Government has committed to building women’s workforce participation, economic security and making women’s homes and  workplaces safe, funding specialist women’s services such as the Working Women’s Centres who are here now continuing to do the work, in supporting women with workplace issues and throughout COVID is especially critical. This also makes good sense, including economic sense when you look at the costs.” 

“Workplace sexual harassment occurs in every industry, at every level, across every profession, in every region of Australia and cultural group.  If Prime Minister Scott Morrison is genuine about acting to prevent sexual harassment he must immediately reverse the current funding situation for at risk Working Women’s Centres and invest seriously in women’s specialist services to appropriately respond to these issues.” said Nicki Petrou.

 

MEDIA CONTACTS: 

WWC NT Director – Nicki Petrou

WWC QLD Director – Fiona Hunt

WWC SA Acting Director – Nikki Candy

How to spot a Sham Contract in a Job Advertisement.

Please note that this is general information & may not be relevant to your particular matter. This toolkit should not be taken as legal advice.

When applying for a new job it is important to understand exactly what type of employment relationship you may be entering. There can be serious legal consequences if the employment relationship is incorrectly labelled. For example, some job advertisements might state the position available is for an independent contractor when the true nature of the position is really an employee. Independent contractors and employees have different obligations and rights in relation to the work they perform. It is important to know the difference between the two so you can ensure you are receiving all your legal entitlements and that you are complying with any legal obligations.

 

 

What’s the difference between an independent contractor and an employee?

There are a number of factors that assist in determining the difference between an employee and an independent contractor. In general:

Independent Contractors work for themselves and are their own boss. They set their own fee for the work that they perform and have control of when and how they work. They usually create and supply invoices to receive payment for their work based on the completion of a job. Independent contractors arrange and pay their own taxation and are required to have an Australian Business Number (ABN).

Employees work for someone else and are not running their own business. The employer controls how, where, and when the employee does their work. Employees are often paid by the hour and receive a wage or salary. Employees are not required to pay their own taxation and their employer will deduct taxation and pay it to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Employees are entitled to certain types of leave (i.e. long service and parental leave) and superannuation.

 

Sometimes the true nature of the relationship will be obvious but sometimes a more fulsome analysis of all the circumstances of the working relationship is required.

It is important to note that no single indicator can determine if a person is a contractor or an employee. Each assessment is based on the individual circumstances of the work arrangement in place. Courts always look at the totality of the relationship between the parties when determining the status of a person’s working relationship.

What is sham contracting?

Sham contracting is where a person working as an employee is told they are an independent contractor when they are not. They may be treated like an independent contractor in some ways, for example they may be required to have an ABN, yet have no control over when and how they do their work or how much they get paid.

It is illegal for employers to misrepresent an employee as an independent contractor. Sham contracting is against the law and there are protections for workers who find themselves in sham arrangements.

For example, it is unlawful for an employer to:

  • claim an employee is an independent contractor;
  • say something false to convince an employee to become an independent contractor;
  • dismiss or threaten to dismiss an employee if they don’t become an independent contractor; or
  • dismiss an employee and hire them as an independent contractor to do the same work.

Sham contracting is sometimes done on purpose or an employer may have acted carelessly and not fully understood their obligations at law. Sham arrangements are sometimes set up by employers who are trying to avoid responsibility for paying legal entitlements due to employees such as annual leave or superannuation.

 

How can you spot a sham contract in a job advertisement?

Have a look at the advertisement for a job below. It is not uncommon to find advertisements for jobs online that have some of these features. The advertisement below is problematic because it has features of a sham contracting arrangement.
image is of a fake job ad, posted by a man in a suit named Mr Boss man, the ad says "Howdy! I am looking for a reliable person, with attention to detail. I need someone who is a quick learner and can follow instructions. You must have an ABN, a full driving license & your own car for transport. Opportunity to work 3-4 days or 7 days a week, doing around 5 -7 hours a day, early starts everyday. This position would suit someone with a background working as a: florist, cleaner, baker, hairdresser, pastry chef or website designer. "
  1. The requirement to “follow instructions” and start early points to an employment relationship. A true independent contractor running their own business would not be expected to follow instructions and should be able to negotiate when the work commences.
  2. The requirement to have an ABN does not necessarily point to an independent contractor. Some employers will say you need an ABN but all the other elements of employment are present
  3. The requirement to work a certain number of days per week and certain number of hours per day points towards an employment relationship. It demonstrates the worker does not have control over when the hours are worked.
  4. Stating that the position would suit someone with a background of “baker, florist, pastry chef etc” indicates the position does not require any particular expertise. This points towards an employment relationship because someone truly running their own business would likely specialise in a particular field.

 

It is unlawful for an employer to pretend that they are offering a person a job as an independent contractor when the position actually involves entering into an employment contract. Before accepting a position like this, you should ask more questions about the true nature of the position and get some advice.

 

Case Studies

Have a read through these case studies for further guidance on how to spot a sham contracting arrangement:

 

CASE STUDY 1:

Stevie was offered a job in a beauty salon as a Beauty Therapist. Stevie is qualified to provide a full range of beauty treatments. Stevie was told she needed an ABN and would need to arrange to pay her own tax. Stevie was told she would be paid $25 per hour and would be given four shifts per week. Her shift times were in line with the salon’s opening hours which were 9am to 5:30pm. She was given a uniform with the Beauty Salon’s logo which she was required to wear. Stevie was told to book and perform nail treatments only. The beauty salon owner told her she would need to bring in her own customers and generate patronage.

Employee or independent contractor?

Stevie is an employee. She has no control over where, when and how she worked. Even though she was told she needed an ABN and was required to pay her own tax, she was not running her own business and had no control over her work. Stevie may be entitled to a higher rate or pay and superannuation.

 

CASE STUDY 2:

Asma is an Electrician and performs work on a residential building site for a large building company called BuildPro. BuildPro engages Asma to wire the new house they have built. Asma gives Buildpro a quote for the job and says she will invoice BuildPro when the work is complete. BuildPro asks Asma to finish the job in three months. The job is too big for Asma to complete alone so she engages another worker to do the job with her. Asma has an ABN and has undertaken to work six days per week from 7am to 3pm to get the job finished.

Employee or independent contractor?

Asma is an independent contractor. She determined her fee for the work and invoiced BuildPro accordingly. Although BuildPro requested the work be done within three months, Asma was able to determine her hours of work and was able to employ someone else to delegate work to. Asma is running her own business and had control over many aspects of the job which all indicate she was an independent contractor.

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