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‘Scourge of sexual harassment must be stamped out’, SA says

The Australian legal profession has responded with disappointment and shame that a former High Court justice sexually harassed six women. Now, the South Australia Law Society has called for a spotlight on the prevalence of harassment in the profession.

user iconNaomi Neilson 29 June 2020 Big Law
High Court of Australia
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After an independent inquiry found Justice Dyson Heydon sexually harassed six young women as they worked as judge’s associates, the legal profession has responded with a spotlight on the “deeply troubling” prevalence of sexual harassment. 

The Law Society of South Australia has commended the High Court for the manner in which it has dealt with the allegations against Mr Heydon. President Tim White added that he hopes it will give those in the profession who have been subjected to any form of sexual harassment the confidence to speak out and be taken seriously. 

 
 

“The Law Society through the participation in and conduct of local, national and global surveys, and through the work of its various dedicated committees and taskforces, is acutely aware that sexual harassment is a significant problem in the profession,” Mr White said.

“We also know a disproportionate number of victims are women in junior roles and the harassment often occurs in circumstances where there is a power imbalance between the victim and the perpetrator.

“It is clear, too, that the victims of sexual harassment often face invidious situations where if they speak out about mistreatment they suffered, they risk personal and career repercussions.”

Mr White said there is much more work that needs to be done within the profession to ensure those who are engaging in predatory behaviour are held to account. He added the profession needs to do more to support the victims who speak out and to create a culture that does not enable harassment to happen in the first place. 

“It is the great detriment of the profession when talented lawyers leave the profession because of poor treatment in the workplace,” Mr White said. “It is completely unacceptable for any worker to feel unsafe at their place of work.

“Everyone has the right to feel safe at work and be treated with respect.”