The Law Council of Australia has made a submission to a national inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace calling for cultural and structural change as well as law reform.
“Addressing sexual harassment is an issue of grave concern and one of the greatest challenges facing the legal profession,” says Law Council President, Arthur Moses.
“There is widespread and genuine support across the legal profession for action to be taken to address sexual harassment. While important initiatives are underway to address this behaviour, the reality is we can and must do more.”
The Law Council submission recognises that sexual harassment in Australian workplaces is pervasive and damaging.
Last year, the Australian Human Right Commission (AHRC) conducted a national survey to investigate the prevalence, nature and reporting of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces and the community more broadly. The survey found that 23% of women and 16% of men had experienced workplace sexual harassment in the last year.
“The legal profession cannot turn a blind eye to unlawful conduct by individuals within our own profession who harm colleagues or create unsafe workplaces,” says Mr Moses.
“Sexual harassment and discrimination are the greatest hindrances to a truly inclusive legal profession that reflects the community it serves. It is also one of the reasons why the legal profession loses talent to other professions or industries.
“The impacts of sexual harassment can be devastating to victims and their families. We welcome the opportunity to contribute to this important and timely inquiry, and to work with the AHRC, Government and the Australian community in coming months to drive meaningful change,” Mr Moses says.
The Law Council suggests the current legal framework could be made simpler, firmer and more effective in preventing and responding to sexual harassment in all workplaces.