Expect Respect: how is gender addressed at your workplace?
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 127 No number 4, 3 June 2022, page no. 17
A range of legislative and industrial changes are undergoing review which will have a positive impact on workers in the Queensland government sector.
These reflect the state government’s commitment to adopt all recommendations of the national Respect@Work Report (https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/sex-discrimination/publications/respectwork-sexual-harassment-national-inquiry-report-2020) and put the Queensland Women’s Strategy 2022-2027 (https://www.publications.qld.gov.au/ckan-publications-attachments-prod/resources/95357068-d24b-4565-a991-7b8be088ced9/queensland-womens-strategy-2022-27.pdf) into action.
The QTU, along with other unions and community groups, has been calling for more action on gendered violence in our workplaces. We have seen a community-wide call to address the scourge of domestic and family violence (DFV) and the lack of action to address sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. This follows years of confronting and indisputable research that shows that gender inequity is a key driver of violence against women (https://www.ourwatch.org.au/change-the-story/).
In late 2021, the state government appointed a Special Commissioner for Gender Equity and Diversity, Professor Linda Colley, to provide advice, following stakeholder consultation, on measures to address the gender pay gap across the state sector and provide input as to how the Public Service Commission can address gendered violence in the workplace.
The QTU has undertaken a member survey to help us understand our members’ experience of sexual harassment and gendered violence. Alarmingly, the employer had minimal data or capacity to engage on this issue at the time.
The QTU’s Expect Respect Survey Report is now available on the Expect Respect campaign page of our website (https://www.qtu.asn.au/expect-respect). The results of the survey are confronting and startling. While they reflect many of the experiences of the wider community in relation to the prevalence of gendered violence in workplaces, 45.5 per cent of QTU members reported that it was a student who was the user of violence/harasser.
The survey also demonstrates that there are barriers preventing members from reporting this behaviour, a lack of systems to accurately record the behaviours (particularly when they are perpetrated by students), and, alarmingly, that there appears to be a culture of disbelief, victim blaming and inaction in response to reports of sexual harassment/gendered violence.
Sexual harassment does not have to be repeated or continuous to be against the law. A single act can be unlawful. In Queensland, it is also a workplace health and safety issue. And as such, the employer has a positive obligation of prevention.
The department’s policy on sexual harassment is woefully inadequate and even fails to include the state-based award provisions, which require it to support employees in escalating complaints through a Stage 3 dispute (https://www.qirc.qld.gov.au/sites/default/files/teaching_state_ed_020920.pdf). However, an invitation to meet and discuss the policies and procedures has been received from the department.
The QTU has developed a range of new resources to assist our school leaders and members navigate prevention and reporting and support for members who experience sexual harassment and violence in our workplaces. We will revisit these resources and update our advice to members as the legislative provisions are updated in relation to sexual harassment.
The new resources include:
- a new advice brochure "Sexual harassment – making a complaint"
- an overview of gendered violence and sexual harassment
- a pocket guide to gendered violence.
As a community, we must reflect on the alarming rates of gendered violence in our community, and prevention must be paramount in our collective thoughts. The Respectful Relationships Education Program and the renewed focus on consent in the National Curriculum is a great starting point.
We need as many schools as possible to engage with the new materials on their release and to undertake a whole of school approach to the new program (which is yet to be named).
We need our schools to be safe for all our students and the people who work in them. And when they are not, we need the right support and approach!