Sydney peace prize recognises the importance of ending sexual harassment for all

The #metoo movement has been named as the winner of the 2019 Sydney Peace Prize – serving as well deserved acknowledgement of hard work of the many, many game changers here in Australia and around the world.

Australia has a deeply rooted and widespread problem with sexual harassment in our workplaces – one that continues to flourish despite the fact federal legislation has been around for over 30 years.

NOW Australia would not exist without Tracey’s vision and her burning determination to make a difference. Tarana’s ongoing activism continues to fan the flames of change.

Sexual harassment is intersectional in nature and we must ensure that services and policies address the needs of the more vulnerable members of our society – 1 in 2 Australian women and 1 in 4 men are subjected to harassment and worse. For women of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, the LGBTQI community, Australians with disabilities and our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters, the frequency and severity is more extreme. These communities must be at the centre of change for change to deliver the sustainable reforms for all Australians.

Reform is needed and the Australian Human Rights Council’s National Inquiry is a critical catalyst for this much needed change. NOW Australia is calling for 1) Better Prevention 2) Stronger Regulation and 3) More effective support.

The current onus is complaint driven with workplaces predominantly reactive in their responses. We need a positive duty to demand proactive changes in order to create the healthy cultures and workplaces we all deserve.

There are currently significant barriers to reporting which means people underreport.

These barriers must go. When people do report, the regulatory response is often inadequate and lacking teeth. We need stronger regulators with effective powers.

Mental health is commonly impacted by sexual harassment yet it is not yet seen as a public health issue. We need to embrace the opportunity to broaden our definition of public health issues.

Sexual harassment affects workplace health and safety but it is not yet commonly addressed as a workplace health and safety issue. There is currently a lack of sexual harassment specialist support resulting in people not knowing where to go with their stories or approaching organisations who are not specifically resourced and trained to deal with this issue. We must create easily accessible avenues of specialist support.

The time for change is now. NOW Australia is proud to be working with the global Times Up movement to drive change.

Tracey Spicer AM and #metoo founder Tarana Burke will receive the award on behalf of the #metoo movement later this year in Sydney.

NOW Australia’s AHRC submission is available here.

Statement from the NOW Australia Board: Alicia Chisholm, Dion Pretorius, Erica Lovell, Irene Yu, Katherine Teh, Katrina Irawati Graham, LJ Loch, Milly Petriella, and Sara Mansour.

Jill Coleman

Jill Coleman