Allegations of Sexual Assault in Federal Government
In the past few weeks five women have come forward with serious allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment while working within the Liberal Party.
Additionally, last week, two Federal Ministers -- one in the Liberal Party and one in the Labor Party were accused of historical sexual assault.
The Australian Federal Police are investigating the alleged sexual assault of Brittany Higgins. The agency has also been forwarded correspondence detailing the two historical sexual allegations.
New South Wales Police have subsequently closed one of these historical allegations, concluding they don’t have enough evidence. The alleged victim committed suicide last year and South Australian Police, who had also previously been contacted by her, are preparing a report for the coroner.
Recently the Prime Minister has announced a number of internal inquiries – four in total – that will look into procedural matters relating to sexual discrimination and harassment complaints processes, as well as other workplace culture issues.
Harassment is ‘rife’ in Australian workplaces
The recent landmark inquiry conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces led by Sex Discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins, handed it’s final report to the Federal Government at the end of last year. It found that sexual harassment is both ‘prevalent and pervasive’ across all industries nationwide, despite being illegal for 25 years, and women are still disproportionately affected by sexual harassment, sexual assault and sexual misconduct.
Almost 40 per cent of Australian women and just over 25 per cent of men have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the past five years.
A need for law reform
The final report made 55 recommendations for change, suggesting, amongst other things, a new approach for the Government to improve support, advice and advocacy systems for people experiencing sexual harassment.
Specifically, the report focused on the urgent need for law reform, outlining that current laws are too complex and confusing for victims to navigate properly and created a heavy burden on victims to make a complaint. The report also detailed the need for clarity of the current laws, to avoid ambiguity and duplication, particularly across state and territory jurisdictions.
Another recommendation includes amending the Sex Discrimination Act to require employers to take “reasonable and proportionate measures” to eliminate sexual harassment and discrimination, in what is called “positive duty”.
The report also recommended the liability for sexual harassment be extended to those who “aid or permit” another person to sexually harass a person.
Right now, the Federal Government has a real opportunity to lead the way on sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and sexual discrimination reform and to implement policies and practices which include serious consequences for any behaviour that impacts anyone’s ability to feel comfortable and safe in the workplace.
About The Law Offices of Andrew Williams
If you find yourself facing a violence related charge, contact an experienced criminal lawyer at the Law Office of Andrew Williams on (08) 9278 2575 to attain advice and representation or enquire online today.
PLEASE NOTE: The material in this blog post is for informational use only and should not be construed as legal advice. For answers to your questions regarding this or other topics, please contact a professional legal representative.