Review of Sexual Harassment in Victorian Courts

Answers to key questions

Review scope

Why is this Review happening?

Everyone has the right to be safe and feel safe at work. Reports of sexual harassment experienced by people within the legal profession and the court system make it clear that more needs to be done. By reviewing current approaches and promising practices both in Victoria and in other jurisdictions, this Review will seek to make recommendations to:

  • Prevent sexual harassment
  • Improve reporting and responses to sexual harassment
  • Improve support to anyone who has experienced sexual
    harassment
  • Raise awareness of the issue
  • Clarify and reinforce accountability for preventing sexual harassment.

Who can make a submission?

Organisations, agencies and individuals who work, or have worked, within – or whose work brings them in contact with – Victoria’s court system or tribunal are encouraged to make a submission or share their experience.

Submissions are open until Friday, 30 October 2020.

What information does the Review hope to receive?

The Review is endeavouring to form a holistic view of how Victoria’s court system works to prevent and respond to sexual harassment. Other reviews have demonstrated that even organisations that are working to achieve best practice can benefit from understanding individual experiences within their systems and processes.

Information about the nature of the harassment, barriers to reporting, how a complaint was handled and the cultural factors that may have contributed or engaged the harassment, will be helpful.

We also encourage individuals to share suggestions for how to best address the problem and bring about change within the courts system.

How will information from submissions be used?

Information provided in submissions from organisations and individuals will be aggregated, de-identified, and analysed to identify themes and shape recommendations. All information will be considered with a view to considering past performance to improve future practice.

Will reports of sexual harassment by individuals be investigated?

While the Review will not address or investigate individual complaints, it has established a process to receive information from individuals who wish to share their experience through the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC). Individuals who share their experience can also choose – but are not required – to lodge a formal complaint. VEOHRC can provide information to individuals about their options for making a formal complaint and support them through the complaint process.

Confidentiality and public release

Will submissions be made public?

Submissions to the Review will be treated as confidential. However, pertinent material from the submissions such as quotes, case studies or other references may be used in the final report of the Review. If this occurs, we will remove any personal information so that you or other people referred to in your submission cannot be identified.

The safety and privacy of individuals sharing their personal experiences of sexual harassment is paramount: personally identifiable information will be removed or redacted, and will not appear in any Review report.

Individuals can also elect to have their de-identified story or quotes included in the Review report. This will not occur unless an individual agrees and provides informed consent. All quotes and stories will be de-identified and approved by individuals before publication.

Will public hearings be held as part of this Review?

Information will be collected through the submission process, confidential interviews, and a series of stakeholder roundtables conducted by the Review team. Public hearings will not be held.

Does the decision not to provide information about individual reports impact the Review’s transparency?

Experiencing sexual harassment can cause individuals acute distress. The Review will protect the privacy of those who share their experiences with us, to avoid compounding that distress.

The Review will not seek to identify individuals or organisations who are reported as having engaged in sexual harassment.

The focus of the Review is on identifying system-wide improvements that can raise awareness of and prevent sexual harassment, improve reporting rates and strengthen support for those who experience harassment.

How will information received through confidential interviews be used?

Information provided during confidential interviews will be recorded and transcribed before being de-identified. De-identified information will then be aggregated and analysed to identify themes and shape recommendations. All information will be considered with a view to considering past performance to improve future practice.

Individuals can also elect to have their de-identified story or quotes included in the Review report. This will not occur unless an individual agrees and provides informed consent. All quotes and stories will be de-identified and approved by individuals before publication.

Contributions by individuals

How can an individual make a submission?

We want to make it as easy as possible to share your experience. You can do this in your preferred format and language, including in writing, over the phone or via webform.

A confidential hotline and email is now open for individuals who wish to have input into the Review: call the hotline on 1300 395 726 open 10am-4pm, Monday to Friday or email courtsreview@veohrc.vic.gov.au. An online form is also available. These are managed by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC), who have a research partnership with the Review.

How else can I share my experience of sexual harassment with the Review?

Individuals who have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment within the court system, and other relevant people, can attend a confidential phone interview with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC). If you would prefer to share your experience via a confidential interview with VEOHRC, please register your interest in an interview by Monday, 12 October 2020.

Individuals can call the confidential hotline on 1300 395 726 from 10am-4pm, Monday to Friday or email courtsreview@veohrc.vic.gov.au to register interest. 

Interviews will be held with experienced VEORHC staff who will conduct interviews in a respectful and sensitive way to ensure people feel safe and supported. You will be invited to share your story in your own words. Counselling and support will also be available.

Submissions to the Review close on Friday, 30 October 2020. VEOHRC also offers an online form to share your experience.

Why is VEOHRC managing the process of individuals sharing their experiences?

VEOHRC has decades of experience in managing sensitive issues, including sexual harassment. Their well-established systems and processes are designed to protect the interests of individuals making reports. VEOHRC is also an independent body with statutory responsibilities under Human Rights Legislation, including to receive and manage formal complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic).

Will I hear back from the Review about my individual submission?

Individuals will be contacted to let them know that their submission has been received. They will be sent a copy of their submission and a letter of acknowledgment.

To receive information about the progress of the Review, you can sign up for updates via the subscribe section on the homepage.

Why do individuals need to provide their personal information? Who will have access to it?

Individuals will be asked to provide their name and contact details only for the purpose of facilitating communication with them, for example, to confirm their consent, to provide an update on the use of their information and to provide copies of their submissions.

Only authorised VEOHRC staff will have access to personal information, which will be stored electronically in secure, locked files.

No personal or identifying information will inform the Review.

Individuals who are not comfortable sharing their personal information can choose to share information anonymously through the Hotline or by online form.

Organisation submissions

Will I hear back from the Review about my organisation’s submission?

On posting a submission, organisations will receive confirmation that the submission has been received and a copy of their submission for their records. To receive information about the progress of the Review, you can sign up for updates via the subscribe section on the homepage.