Victoria Legal Aid

Change the culture, change the system – end sexual harassment at work

Important steps have been taken to recognise the harm caused by sexual harassment and improve protections for workers, but there is more to do.

Everyone deserves to go to work free from sexual harassment #power2prevent

‘My manager would make lewd jokes, call me by sexual nicknames and discuss his sexual fantasies with me at work. He would also sit very close to me and other female staff. It was common knowledge in the workplace that he regularly behaved in this way to other staff, but it was never addressed'– Fiona.

Sexual harassment is an unacceptably common feature of Australian workplaces.

The fifth national survey on sexual harassment in Australian workplacesExternal Link found that one in three workers reported experiencing workplace sexual harassment in the last five years.

For more than a decade, our Equality Law Program has provided advice and representation for workers impacted by sexual harassment and fought for long-term reform to make workplaces safer.

The Power to Prevent coalition

Throughout the reform journey, we have been coordinating with a coalition of stakeholders in the legal, health, community, family violence and union sectors from around Australia to advocate for change.

The coalition is a strong voice among many calling for full implementation of the Respect@Work recommendations.

Together, we will continue to monitor the impact of legislative changes and assess the need for further reforms.

Latest news

Stronger laws to protect workers

‘We frequently hear from clients that the sexual harassment was said in a joking manner and they laughed along because they didn’t know what else to do, or the just felt so uncomfortable.’ -Melanie Schleiger, Specialist Advisor, Strategic Litigation

Changes to the law as a result of recommendations from the 2020 Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry ReportExternal Link have taken major steps toward both addressing and preventing workplace sexual harassment.

The Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Bill 2022 implemented all outstanding legislative recommendations of the Respect@Work report. Additional funding was also provided for legal services to support workers experiencing sexual harassment.

A key change is the introduction of a new positive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment. This means they must take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate discriminatory conduct from the workplace.

This represents a significant shift in the way we view and deal with sexual harassment at work – from a complaints-based model to one where the employers must continuously evaluate and act to ensure they are meeting their responsibilities.

The legislative changes also give the Australian Human Rights Commission greater powers to monitor for compliance and investigate issues of systemic unlawful discrimination.

Continuing the journey of reform

Reporting rates of sexual harassment in Australian workplacesExternal Link remain low, with cost being a major deterrent from taking legal action.

We continue to advocate for the introduction of an equal access modelExternal Link – similar to the approach taken in whistleblower laws – where there are no adverse costs orders if complainants lose their claim, unless it is deemed frivolous, vexatious or without foundation.

Read the joint Power to Prevent statementExternal Link about equal access costs.

More information

For more information about our work, you can contact us at or on (03) 9269 0416.

Read Power to Prevent joint statements in news from National Legal AidExternal Link .

Learn more about sexual harassment and what you can do about it.

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

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Reviewed 13 March 2024

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