Enthusiastic beginnings

NOW Australia came bounding out of the stalls in March 2018 in an exuberant response to #MeToo and was inspired by the boldness of Time’s Up.

We formed rapidly and threw together a crowd campaign which was, in part, responsible for us raising almost $120,000 in donations and support.

What have we learnt?

The campaign was based upon the concept of creating a triage service which included a dedicated workplace sexual harassment phone line. It was a well-meaning plan in terms of the desire to meet a desperate need but following extensive work and collaboration with organisations working in this space, we realised it would not suit.

This became very clear during the wide-ranging sector consultation that Kristine Ziwica, our interim Executive Director, conducted at the Board’s direction as soon as she was appointed. We agree that existing resources are already stretched and increased baseline funding is needed. In our enthusiasm, we hadn’t fully understood this reality.

We spent a lot of time in 2018 asking questions and listening. As a result of a period of extensive consultation, we evolved.

In 2019, we have devoted our energy to working out where we can devote our resources in order to help those most in need of assistance.

Our goal of ending sexual harassment in Australian workplaces has remained at forefront of our activities, especially in terms of working out how we can solve what is an extremely complex social problem.

We are immensely grateful for all the good will that has been shown to us. In particular, the willingness of those we spoke to who, rather than attacking our ignorance, shared their wealth of knowledge and experience. They have generously contributed to what is now a better organisation.

The unanimous feedback was for us to focus on advocacy and support via other means including ensuring people experiencing sexual harassment can access legal assistance.

We have regrouped and refocused based upon the feedback that we received.

Our focus is no longer to create from scratch – a flawed idea in the first place as it turns out. Instead we are focused upon collaboration, amplifying work that is already existing, funnelling support and pushing for systemic change. All of this work must be done both systematically and thoroughly. It takes both time and requires resources.

You can find out more about the feedback we received from the sector and our vision for how NOW Australia can most effectively work to end workplace sexual harassment and assault in the Chair’s report to the NOW Australia Annual General Meeting, which was delivered by LJ Loch on 29 November 2019.

Earlier this year, we welcomed three new Directors to NOW Australia – Alicia Chisolm, Irene Yu and Dion Pretorius. They join LJ Loch (Chair), Katrina Irawati Graham, Erica Lovell, Sara Mansour and Milly Petriella on our Board. We thank Nareen Young, Tasneem Chopra, Avril Henry and Katherine Teh for their time as Founding Directors.

NOW Australia is an independent not-for-profit organisation. As a Board, we are deeply committed to moving away from a founder focus to an intersectional, collaborative focus. If this has not come across then that is our failing and we apologise.

We are incredibly grateful for the tireless work of all our volunteers and for the generous support of our donors in helping us get to this stage.

What has NOW Australia spent money on?

We have not spent anything more than the minimum we needed to in order to be viable.

This includes mandatory establishment costs, insurance, tax, wages for our interim Executive Director, Kristine Ziwica, who was then able to do all the valuable and essential community consultation, and for our current Executive Director, Dr Genevieve Burnett.

Everything we have spent has gone directly to creating a better organisation that can work across the sectors to stop sexual harassment. Our audited financial reports are publicly available on the ASIC site. We are currently in the process of finalising our financials for Financial Year 2019 and will also make them available here when they have been audited and approved at our AGM in November 2019 (as required under Australian law).

What else have we learnt and achieved so far?

We have, rightly, been criticised for failing to communicate sufficiently with our supporters. We apologise unreservedly for these failings including any confusion or disengagement this has caused. We are working hard to develop a new website that will allow us to provide more information on a regular basis – which will be launched soon.

The Board have worked, and continue to work, long volunteer hours. We are not unusual in this, many excellent volunteers in this sector do unpaid work. This model is not sustainable, comes with its own flaws and strengths and is a separate feminist issue.

We have been working quietly in the background in ways that are not highly visible. Our 42-page submission to the AHRC’s National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces is available for anyone to read on the AHRC’s site. We outline 9 guiding principles and 17 key recommendations. These form the basis of our new draft Three Year Strategic Plan.

We supported the Power to Prevent, a statement spearheaded by Victorian Legal Aid and signed by 100 organisations.

We collaborated with Fair Agenda on their election scorecard. We supported Gender Equality Victoria in their creation of an excellent bystander resource to combat sexism and online harassment.

We have also been working closely with the counselling and legal sector to create support for survivors and those currently experiencing sexual harassment by amplifying what already exists.

We have kept in touch with Time’s Up in the United States so that we are aware of what they are creating and what may be applicable here.

Our goal remains to stop sexual harassment in all Australian workplaces. We know the statistics and we know the human stories. Some of us on the board are part of that landscape. We know that, despite 30 years of law against sexual harassment and the range of existing policies, there are major obstacles to change. We are taking the time to identify the precise change points so that we can use the resources entrusted to us in the most effective way possible.

This is work that takes time. It is not flashy, fancy or media worthy. Nevertheless, we believe that these foundations have refocused NOW Australia into the kind of organisation that our funders envisaged when they donated money to this cause.

Our current focus

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a complex problem. As a result of the extensive research and consulting we’ve undertaken over the past year, we believe that the answer to this ‘wicked problem’ lies in:

• Better prevention
• Stronger regulation
• More effective support.

We are dedicated to systemic and long-term cultural change.

Most importantly, we want to re-engage with our supporters to continue the long game, multi-faceted task of ending workplace sexual harassment in Australia and easing the suffering of those affected.

Our current projects

While we are still committed to helping create a workplace culture that ensures that Australian workplaces are safe for everyone and campaigning for stronger regulation, we have limited resources.

As a result, over the next year, we have decided to focus on two projects that will help provide people experiencing sexual harassment with more effective support:

1. NOW Australia Equality and Justice Fund

2. NOW Australia – Justice Connect Online Sexual Harassment Tool.

If you would like to help us make these projects a reality, you can make a DONATION here.