SA harassment report shows cultural reform urgently needed

27th Apr 2021

The Equal Opportunity Commission’s review of harassment in the legal profession in South Australia is a sobering reminder that the legal profession still has a long way to go to address sexual harassment in the workplace, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“I think we are all disappointed that as a profession we have not taken sufficient measures to prevent abuses of power,” said Ms Sarah Vinall, South Australian State President, ALA.

 “This report highlights the urgent need to reform the culture of the profession to ensure that there are equal opportunities for women and men, and to prevent sexual harassment and bullying.”

“It is a tremendous loss to the legal profession when intelligent, capable women end their legal careers due to sexual harassment and a professional culture that does not enable them, or others, to call out the problematic behaviour.”

The ALA has released a gender equality policy designed to encourage members to actively promote the role of women in the legal profession and to call out discriminatory and abusive conduct. It will also help to create opportunities for women to progress in the profession, and assume leadership roles both within the ALA and more broadly.

“Some of the recommendations in our policy document include regular training that addresses all forms of negative workplace behaviour, including those not prohibited by law, and also specific training for managers on how to prevent and respond to incidents,” said Ms Vinall.

“We need the senior people in our profession to call out bad behaviour when they see it – such behaviour can no longer be overlooked or ‘swept under the carpet’. I hope that, as a result of this review, we will see a significant cultural shift in the profession in our state.”

Read the ALA’s gender equality policy here.

Tags: South Australia Lawyers sexual harassment