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Victorian courts review: One in three lawyers sexually harassed –

Victorian courts review: One in three lawyers sexually harassed



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More than one in three lawyers experienced sexual harassment across Victorian courts in the past five years, according to the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner.The new research prompted a review into the behaviour, with the State Government on Monday announcing it would implement practices to “prevent and address” sexual harassment across the state’s courts and VCAT.
The review, jointly initiated with the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria and chair of the Courts Council, would identify ways to build a culture that calls out sexual harassment and gives victims the confidence to speak up without fear of reprisal.
Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said the review would improve reporting of sexual harassment and support for victims, raise awareness and ensure accountability in workplaces.
“A workplace that is not free from sexual harassment is an unsafe workplace – these reviews will identify the changes the justice and legal sectors need to make to improve workplace culture and enforce compliance,” she said.
“I want to thank the women who have bravely stood up and shared their stories as well as acknowledge the commitment from our heads of jurisdiction to ensuring their workplaces are safe, healthy and respectful.”
In a survey of legal professionals conducted by the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner in last year, one in three of the 2,324 respondents reported experiencing sexual harassment in their legal careers.
Victorian Bar president Wendy Harris said change was needed.
“It is very clear from evidence across the legal profession that we need to take steps to strengthen the culture and change practices within the profession so that sexual harassment is called out and that all organisations and institutions have robust measures in place to prevent harassment and support those who are victims of, or witnesses to harassment, to speak out,” she said.
The Law Institute of Victoria also backed a review.
“The legal profession stands united and ready to prevent and call out sexual harassment,” Sam Pandya said.
“Everyone has a right to feel safe at work, from the most junior lawyer or legal professional or client, to our most senior practitioners.”
Former commissioner of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Dr Helen Szoke would lead the review.
Dr Szoke is also a member of the Judicial Commission of Victoria, a past CEO for Oxfam Australia and former race discrimination commissioner for the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Chief Justice of Victoria Anne Ferguson said “improper and unethical” conduct would “not be tolerated”.
“Victoria’s courts and tribunal are united in our commitment to building a culture of respect across our workplaces,” she said.
“We look forward to working with Dr Szoke’s review.”
The State Government will also conduct a review of the policies and practices of law firms that provide services to government – including working with partners to review training on sexual harassment for all barristers and solicitors and seek internal audits and assurance on processes around sexual harassment.

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