Review of Sexual Harassment in Victorian Courts

Video transcript of Dr Helen Szoke AO talking about the Review

Hello. Sexual harassment is not a new problem. But it’s clearly a problem that we’re finding very challenging to address in all sorts of workplaces.

That’s why the Chief Justice of Victoria and the Attorney-General have called for a review of sexual harassment in the Victorian courts. This review is set up to look for ways that we can solve this problem into the future.

Broadly, the 4 terms of references are:

  • to prevent sexual harassment
  • to better support people who experience sexual harassment
  • certainly to improve the accountability in the data collection so we know what it’s prevalence is
  • but also, to raise awareness about what actually constitutes sexual harassment.

I’m very honoured to lead this review, but in order for it to be successful I need your help.

We are choosing not to do a prevalence survey. We think with the work of the Sex Discrimination Commissioner and the Victorian Legal Services Commissioner most recently, there’s plenty of data to suggest we have a problem. But we ‘re seeking your views through a number of channels.

We’re partnering with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, and in a safe and confidential way they are looking for you to tell your story if you have experienced sexual harassment. Whether that was recently or whether it was a decade ago we want to hear and understand what your experience of sexual harassment will be.

The Victorian Commissioner will then share that information with me in a de-identified way so we can use that to inform the Review. We’re also seeking to run a range of stakeholder discussions and they will be with different constituencies within the legal profession where the court is their workplace.

And these stakeholder discussions will be very much focused on what can we do to prevent and to change how sexual harassment occurs in the setting of the court as a workplace.

We will also have a submission process where we will similarly be forward looking.

I’ve brought together a Review advisory committee and you can read the composition of that group on our website.

We are looking to commence these processes in October subject to ethics committee approval and I urge you to talk to others who you know to talk to people in your workplaces to encourage participation so that we can get this right and we can continue to build on trying to create a safe, productive and healthy workplace in the Victorian courts.

I aim to finish my review by the end of January with a view to presenting a report to the Chief Justice and the Attorney-General at that time.

This of course, like everything else in Victoria, will be subject to whatever restrictions might arise as a result of COVID.

In the meantime, we will connect with you virtually we will connect with you in a safe and confidential way, and I really look forward to your participation, and your help to make sure that this review comes up with some solutions that are sustainable that are really tackling the problem and that are creating a workplace for all of us where we can feel that we can give our best.

Thank you very much.