Author: Erin-Louise Hagerty


In 2017 we saw the introduction of the #MeToo movement. We saw big Hollywood power players like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey have their entire careers collapse like a house of cards.

In 2018, workers are still reporting sexual harassment. A study conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that one in two women had experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime. In the workplace, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 reported being sexually harassed as per findings from the Human Rights Commission.

We need to ensure that our community has the resources and ability to actively call out the behaviour and ensure that #MeToo movement is not reduced to just a hashtag.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Section 28A of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (“that act”) defines sexual harassment as making unwelcome sexual advances or engaging in unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.

Australian courts have also found that the following may amount to sexual harassment:

  1. Staring or leering;
  2. Unnecessary familiarity such as deliberate touching;
  3. Sexual comments or jokes;
  4. Intrusive questions or statements about private life;
  5. Displaying material of a sexual nature;
  6. Inappropriate advances on social media;
  7. Accessing inappropriate material at work; and
  8. Requested requests for sex or to date.

A volunteer can also be considered an employee and is thus protected by legislation against sexual harassment.[1]

Section 28B of the act makes it unlawful for sexual harassment to occur within the workplace. This includes the following:

  1. Where the offender works;
  2. Where the victim works; or
  3. Where they both work.[2]

Areas outside the workplace such as railways, toilets, and restaurants have been included within the scope of the workplace.[3]

Under the act, an employer may also be liable for the actions of the harasser if the employer did not take reasonable steps to prevent or respond to the behaviour.[4]

How can Adero Help?

If you have been sexually harassed in the workplace, Adero can assist you in taking the following steps:

  1. Raising the issue with the employer directly;
  2. Making a complaint to the Human Rights Commission;
  3. Mediation or conciliation; or
  4. Filing a complaint under section 351 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).

[1] Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 No 48 (NSW) s 22B and Discrimination Act 1991 (ACT) s 59.

[2] Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) s 28B.

[3] Ewin v Vergara (No 3) (2013) 307 ALR 576.

[4] Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) s 106. See also Hughes v Narrabri Bowling Motel Ltd [2012] NSWADT 161.