The Law Society exists not only to champion the profession but to challenge it and to draw our members’ attention to emerging issues that may impact their practice. Change the Culture is a response to the Australian legal profession coming under the spotlight in recent years for the prevalence of workplace sexual harassment, a sub-culture of non-reporting and passive by-standing, and mistrust around the management of complaints.
On 12 December 2022, the Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Act 2022 (Cth) (the Act) came into effect. The Act makes important amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984(Cth) and the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth). These amendments are as a result of the Respect@Work: National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces 2020.
Commencing 13 December 2022 employers have a new positive duty to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation in the workplace to better protect workers from sexual harassment and other forms of sex discrimination, harassment, and unfair treatment in the workplace. In order to satisfy the duty it is recommended employers adopt a number of measures including regular training and education.
The Law Society has creating a framework called Change the Culture to help the profession address these issues.
Sexual Harassment Cultural Change Framework
There is no place for sexual harassment in any profession, any workplace. Sexual harassment is both unlawful and entirely unacceptable. – June 25, 2020 The Law Society of Western Australia Statement to the WA Legal Profession on Sexual Harassment.
The Australian Human Rights Commission defines sexual harassment as: “An unwelcome sexual advance, unwelcome request for sexual favours or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature which makes a person feel offended, humiliated and/or intimidated, where a reasonable person would anticipate that reaction in the circumstances.”
The Law Society of Western Australia has developed a cultural change framework for the profession, providing tools to help address sexual harassment in the workplace. Called ‘Change the Culture’, this programme offers the profession resources around 4 key pillars
The 4 Key Pillars
Recent research findings set out the facts about sexual harassment and bullying in the legal profession and supports a call for change within the profession.
Research nationally and globally has evidenced clear and consistent findings about who is most affected by sexual harassment, who the perpetrators are, reporting rates and effects of workplace culture. Some of the following reports are helpful in addressing sexual harassment as they seek to inform, influence and activate change.
- Respect@Work: Changes to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and the Australian Human Rights Commission Act (December 2022)
- Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Act 2021 – Australian Government 2021
- Equality Across the Board – Australian Human Rights Commission 2021
- Disrupting the System – Preventing and responding to sexual harassment in the workplace – Champions of Change Coalition 2021
- Sexual Harassment in the Workplace -Commissioned by AICD and produced by Clayton Utz 2021
- Time for Change: Addressing Sexual Harassment – The Law Council of Australia 2021
- Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report – Australian Human Rights Commission 2020
- Statement to the WA Legal Profession on Sexual Harassment – The Law Society of Western Australia 2020
- National Action Plan to Reduce Sexual Harassment in the Australian Legal Profession – Law Council of Australia 2020
- Stepping Up to the Challenge: towards international Standards on Training to End Sexual Harassment – UN Women 2020
- Seven Strategies for Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession – Australian Women Lawyers 2019
- Us Too? Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession Report – International Bar Association (IBA) 2019
- Workplace Environment Survey – The New Zealand Law Society 2018.