Time for Change: Addressing Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is unacceptable, in any context.
It can happen to anyone, but often reflects power imbalances and gender-based discrimination. Sexual harassment drives people away from participating in the workplace and society, and limits their opportunities in the process. Sexual harassment causes lasting harm to individuals and organisations, and it erodes the public’s trust in our profession when our members are the aggressors.
Eliminating sexual harassment in the legal profession has been part of a long-running commitment from the Law Council and its Constituent Bodies regarding inclusion and diversity in the legal profession. In 2020, it was clear we needed to re-think how to drive cultural change within the profession.
On 8 July 2020, the Law Council convened a National Roundtable experts to review and make recommendations about the legal profession’s policy responses to sexual harassment. Following the National Roundtable Addressing Sexual Harassment, the Law Council consulted with its Constituent Bodies, external experts and worked with its Equal Opportunity Committee to develop the Law Council’s National Action Plan to Reduce Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession (NAP).
The NAP brings together the determination of the Law Council’s state and territory Constituent Bodies to address sexual harassment, and maps a path forward that addresses the regulatory and cultural change factors necessary to facilitate better experiences for legal professionals. One of the measures recommended in the NAP is this Time for Change: Addressing Sexual Harassment portal, as a centralised information suite for people seeking information and resources about sexual harassment. The Time for Change: Addressing Sexual Harassment portal will continue to be updated as the Law Council and its Constituent Bodies develop resources and measures to address sexual harassment within the profession, including those outlined in the NAP.
The Law Council of Australia has the following resources:
- National Action Plan to Reduce Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession
- LCA submission - National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces
- Sexual harassment in the workplace
- Bullying and harassment in the workplace
- National Attrition and Re-engagement Study
- Diversity and Equality Charter
- National Model Framework Addressing Sexual Harassment for the Australian Legal Profession
Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
The following resources are available on the AHRC website, including but not limited to:
- 'Encourage. Support. Act! Bystander approaches to sexual harassment in the workplace' (2012).
- 'Respect@Work: National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces' (2020).
- AHRC's 'Sexual Discrimination' webpage.
Commonwealth of Australia
- Commonwealth of Australia, Australian Institute of Family Studies, in collaboration with Victoria Police, "Challenging misconceptions about sexual offending: Creating an evidence-based resource for police and legal practitioners" (2017).
Australian Capital Territory Bar Association
The ACT Bar Association has the following resources:
- Policies on sexual harassment; discrimination; and bullying.
- Accompanying complaint and report procedures.
Last updated: 25 February 2021
Australian Capital Territory Law Society
The ACT Law Society has the following resources:
- "Discrimintion, harassment and bullying", webpage.
New South Wales Bar Association
The New South Wales Bar Association has the following resources:
- Model Best Practice Guidelines, including an updated Model Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying Best Practice Guideline and its two supporting documents: Model Grievance and Complaints Framework and Guidance Materials.
- Continuing Professional Development resources available on CPD Online, the NSW Bar Association’s online CPD library (accessible to NSW Bar Association Members), including:
- Legislative changes directly affecting barristers and barristers’ chambers (July 2023): addressed changes introduced by the Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect and Work) Act 2022 (Cth) and the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Act 2022 (Cth), as well as rule 123 of the Legal Profession Uniform Conduct (Barristers) Rules 2015.
- Respectful Relations Officer Training (March 2023): Two webinars delivered by Dr Rebecca Michalak, Managing Director of PyschSafe Pty Ltd. The first webinar addresses creating enabling environments for the implementation of the BPGs, and the second webinar addresses the Respectful Relations Officer role in practice.
- Updated Best Practice Guidelines (August 2022): CPD to the Bar on the content of the updated BPGs, why chambers should adopt the updated BPGs, and how to implement the BPGs.
- No place for sexual harassment at the Bar (March 2022): CPD to the Bar which included a film with statements from the former Chief Justice of New South Wales and the President of the NSW Bar Association at that time, followed by a discussion between the President of the Bar Association and the Chair of the Association’s Diversity and Equality Committee at that time.
- Sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying webpage, including information on a range of support services available:
- Sexual Harassment Officer: an independent Sexual Harassment Officer is available to provide dedicated, confidential support and advice to anyone who has experienced or witnessed sexual harassment, discrimination or bullying at the NSW Bar.
- Spot: online record making tool to allow sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying to be recorded and, if desired, reporting confidentially and anonymously to the NSW Bar’s Sexual Harassment Officer.
- Elker: online reporting platform which facilitates anonymous reporting to the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner, co-funded by the NSW Bar Association, the Law Society of NSW and the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner.
- Bar Care: independent and confidential counselling service for barristers and their immediate families. Up to six consultations are provided free of charge.
Last updated: 15 September 2023
New South Wales Law Society
The Law Society of New South Wales has a dedicated portal which deals with the issue of sexual harassment in the legal workplace, including steps that NSW solicitors can take if they have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment, discrimination or victimisation.
You can access the Sexual Harassment in the Law Portal here.
Last updated: 12 July 2021.
Law Society Northern Territory
Visit the Law Society of Northern Territory website here.
Northern Territory Bar Association
Visit the Northern Territory Bar Association website here.
Queensland Law Society
The Queensland Law Society has the following resources:
- Position Statement (2020).
- Current QLS Workplace Bullying, Sexual Harassment & Discrimination Policy.
- No. 21 Guidance Statement on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.
Last updated: 4 August 2023.
Bar Association of Queensland
The Bar Association of Queensland's Policy Against Sexual Harassment.
Last updated: 25 February 2021
Law Society of South Australia
The Law Society of South Australia has the following resources:
- The Law Society of South Australia’s webpage contains a variety of resources relating to bullying, discrimination and harassment, including a Guideline for Bullying, Discrimination and Sexual Harassment; a fact sheet produced by the Equal Opportunity Commission (SA) that summarises the various complaint mechanisms and supports available to those in SA experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace; and a link to the “Inappropriate personal conduct” resource offered by the Legal Profession Conduct Commissioner.
Last updated: 18 June 2021
South Australian Bar Association
Visit the South Australian Bar Association website here.
Law Society of Tasmania
Visit the Law Society of Tasmania website here.
Tasmanian Bar Association
Visit the Tasmanian Bar Association website here.
The Victorian Bar has the following resources:
- Policy Against Sexual Harassment.
- Policy Against Discrimination.
- Policy Against Bullying.
- Complaint and Report Form.
- Grievance Protocol.
- Equality & Diversity Policy.
- Judicial Conduct Policy.
- "Stamping out sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination" webpage.
Last updated: 4 August 2023.
Law Institute Victoria
The Law Institute of Victoria has the following resources:
- The Law Institute of Victoria's Addressing Sexual Harassment Portal, including guides, information and resources, complaint forms, position statements and policies.
- The Law Institute of Victoria's Charter for the Advancement of Women aims to promote and support strategies to retain women from all backgrounds in the profession over the course of their careers, including women with disability, and encourage their progression into senior executive management positions. The Guidelines accompanying the Charter provide examples to assist law practices to fulfil their Charter commitments in respect of women in the profession. For more information, click here.
Last updated: 4 August 2023.
Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission
The Victoria Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission has the following resources:
Law Society of Western Australia
The Law Society of Western Australia directs members of the legal profession in WA to the following resources:
- Resources available on the Equal Opportunity Commission's website, including but not limited to fact sheets and brochures, helpful contacts and websites, and making a complaint.
- The Legal Practice Board of Western Australia’s portal, Speak safely: Report harassment or inappropriate behaviour.
- The Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission webpage, "Stop Bullying or Sexual Harassment", with information on making an application for an order to stop bullying or sexual harassment.
- WorkSafe’s "Complaints about bullying, sexual assault or harassment" webpage, on its systems approach to the prevention of inappropriate workplace behaviours (including sexual harassment), and specifically on its role, enforcement powers, lodging a complaint, and other agencies that may be able to help.
- The Law Society of Western Australia’s Guidelines on Fair, Safe and Inclusive Legal Workplaces for the Employment of Law Clerks, Graduates and Lawyers (2022). These Guidelines contain recommendations for employers in the legal sector for improving safety, fairness, and inclusion within their workplaces. Part 6 specifically addresses sexual harassment.
- "Statement to the WA Legal Profession from the Executive of the Law Society of Western Australia on Sexual Harassment in any Profession, any Workplace" (2020).
- The Australian Women Lawyers’ paper “Seven Strategies for Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession” (2019), endorsed by the Law Society of Western Australia in 2019.
- Law Society of Western Australia’s submission to Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces (2018).
- "Final Directions Paper – The Law Society of Western Australia's response to the Women Lawyers of Western Australia’s 20th Anniversary Review of the 1994 Chief Justice’s Gender Bias Taskforce Review" adopted by the Law Society Council on 23 August 2016.
- The Women Lawyers of Western Australia Inc, "20th Anniversary Review of the 1994 Chief Justice’s Gender Bias Taskforce Report" (2014).
- Circle Green Community Legal: Q&A on Sexual Harassment against WA workers.
- The UN Women paper, "Stepping up to the Challenge: Towards international standards on training to end sexual harassment" (2020).
Last updated: 4 August 2023
Western Australian Bar Association
Visit the Western Australian Bar Association website here.
I Need To Talk With Someone
You can contact your local law society or professional association for more information. See previous links in the drop-down menu above.
The Australian Human Rights Commission website has information on support services and can assist those who have experienced sexual assault or sexual harasssment and would like to seek support.
The Australian Government has a list of support services, which you can contact.