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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.
WWC NT Director – Nicki Petrou
WWC QLD Director – Fiona Hunt
WWC SA Acting Director – Nikki Candy