A key part of Kingsford Legal Centre’s work is responding to the endemic issue of sexual harassment through a specialist state-wide clinic. Their Sexual Harassment Legal Service holistically provides better redress for people who have experienced sexual harassment, running community legal education sessions, and advocating for systemic legal and institutional change.
In recent weeks, women have boldly reignited public conversations around sexual harassment and assault in Australian workplaces. The Sex Discrimination Commissioner has described sexual harassment as “endemic”, stating that we are now “at a turning point” when it comes to enacting much needed legislative, cultural and structural change.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is increasing in Australia, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 2020 Respect@Work Report:
- 1 in 3 people (33%) said they experienced sexual harassment at work in the last 5 years.
- Almost 2 in 5 women (39%) and just over 1 in 4 men (26%) said they experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the last 5 years.
- Young people aged between 18 and 29 were more likely than those in other age groups to have experienced workplace sexual harassment in the last five years. Young women were significantly more likely than young men to have been sexually harassed.
#MeToo, It’s About You: Early intervention through community legal education
As part of their Sexual Harassment Legal Service, Kingsford Legal Centre have recently returned to face-to-face education sessions at a local high school.
Their workshop, #MeToo: It’s About You, is focused on early intervention, aiming to start a conversation about sexual harassment and to educate young people on their rights and responsibilities in relation to sexual harassment. The lively and interactive workshops are tailored Year 9 and 10 students, many of whom are about to get their first jobs.
The Sex Discrimination Commissioner has observed that sexual harassment is preventable, noting that a key prevention strategy included Kingsford Legal Centre’s education sessions.
Feedback from high school teachers similarly identifies the need for this community education. “While the content of the presentation could be seen as sensitive and confronting, the presenters immediately ensured all students felt supported,” one teacher at Matraville Sports Highschool commented. “In this environment, all students learnt the difference between sexual harassment and sexual assault and were astonished by the statistics around this”. A teacher at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College Kensington stated, “I don't think [the workshop] could have gone better […] It will certainly make a difference in the lives of these girls”.
Students are also responding positively to the workshop content, reporting that it was “very insightful”, with the interactive scenarios and discussions helping to foster conversations and deepen their understanding of sexual harassment.
Kingsford Legal Centre has also developed five comic strip sexual harassment scenarios with corresponding conversation points to help illustrate exactly what sexual harassment behaviour is, and how hurtful it can be, to be used by teachers or youth workers in their discussions with students. The comics target young people on the cusp of employment educating them on appropriate workplace behaviour using comic strips as discussion points. As one student said, the comics “gave me a visual understanding of unacceptable behaviour”.
Schools are hungry for this type of workshop, so Kingsford Legal Service are trying to source funding to take it state-wide.