Some topics are tough to talk about. Discussing sexual harassment, pregnancy, parental leave and access to flexible work can be really hard.
Raise it! was a pilot project designed to support and equip Victorian workers to have safe conversations about these important issues at work.
By providing conversation starter toolkits to help catalyse these conversations in a safe way, this pilot project ran by the Commission evaluated how conversations addressing causes and consequences of sexual harassment and discrimination can help prevent these from occurring.
The Raise it! project also aimed to build stronger pathways and knowledge for addressing sexual harassment and discrimination when it occurred.
From October 2018 – February 2019 the Commission tested these Conversation starter toolkits in partnership with several Victorian workplaces.
This pilot phase identified the impact that the toolkits have on workplace culture, in favour of preventing discrimination and promoting effective systems to safely manage discrimination or harassment if it arises.
The toolkits being tested are:
Raise it! Conversation topic scheduler kit: assisting managers to identify topics for conversation, to help enable safe workplaces and embed such conversations into every day at work
An online tool with flexible and parental leave request pathways: helping users to identify key talking points to have a practical, informed discussion about these requests
A sexual harassment response online tool: providing victim/survivors with information and support services, and bystanders with actions they can take to speak up and challenge behaviour at work that may have crossed the line.
Participants will also attend training sessions on anti-discrimination and on addressing sexual harassment at work.
This project was funded by Victorian Government’s Office for Women.
For more information about Raise it! see the FAQs below.
If you need help
If you have experienced sex discrimination or sexual harassment at work, you may wish to:
make a complaint to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission or call our Enquiry Line on 1300 292 153
call 1800 RESPECT for emergency healthcare referral, support or counselling services. 1800 Respect is the national sexual assault (and domestic family violence) counselling service. Available 24 hours on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800respect.org.au
contact the Victorian Sexual Assault Crisis Line (SACL) crisis line on 1800 806 292 or counselling line on 8345 3494
call the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health (MCWH) Information line on 1800 656 421 (available in more than 40 languages).
What is the Raise it! project about? Why is my workplace involved in this project?
In Victoria evidence shows that many workers and managers find it difficult to have conversations about the ‘hard topics’ like sexual harassment, pregnancy or requesting flexible work. The Raise it! project will provide you with some tools, education and strategies to see if we can build skills and bridge this gap. The ultimate aim is to prevent or reduce discrimination and sexual harassment at work.
The project is being run by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and is funded by the Victorian government’s Office for Women. Your workplace has volunteered to join as it supports an inclusive, safe and fair work environment for everyone at work. By signing up to the project, you are asked to complete two short surveys, receive free training and test three toolkits that should help us have healthy, safe and confident conversations about the hard stuff.
Will I have to discuss personal matters in front of my teammates or boss? Will things I say be reported to management?
You will not be asked to talk about your own private experience or your specific workplace during the education program and you have control over what you do and do not say. During the education program your group will also make an agreement to respect anything confidential that you decide to share. Your management supports your participation in this pilot project, and in engaging in conversations with your colleagues by using the conversation starter toolkits.
The education program and conversation starter toolkits are designed to help you safely and privately explore your options for raising issues about sexual harassment, pregnancy, parental leave and flexible work with an appropriate person in your organisation or, if you prefer, a person or organisation outside your work. The accompanying education program is designed to build your knowledge about how to do this while protecting your privacy.
What if this project will cause friction in my workplace due to the sensitive topics it covers?
Some of the topics covered in the Raise it! project may cause controversy in your workplace. The accompanying education program is designed to help build awareness and understanding to reduce that friction, and help us use conversation starter toolkits to have safe conversations about these difficult topics at work.
The project focuses on developing healthy conversation skills to deal with these difficult issues safely and sensitively. As more of your colleagues and teammates learn these skills, your workplace will be able to deal with sexual harassment, pregnancy, carer and flexible work discrimination in constructive and positive ways. There is support available throughout the project for any concerns or questions you may have. Please contact the project focal point at your workplace or email@example.com.
Why are you focusing on (or asking questions about) sexual harassment at my work?
Raise it! aims to prevent sexual harassment, and is based on evidence that shows that the presence of conversations about these topics in the workplace is a key factor in reducing sexual harassment. Unfortunately, the prevalence of sexual harassment in Victorian workplaces in general is high (as in other places in Australia, the UK and the US) and statistics show that no workplace has fully addressed all of the risk factors.
This project has confidentiality at its heart. This project does not aim to uncover or discuss examples of sexual harassment in your workplace. Instead, the project aims to generate safe, inclusive conversations about the main drivers of and laws about sexual harassment, to ensure that all staff are equipped with knowledge of their rights, and of the types of behaviours that could be sexual harassment.
The Commission recommends that all workplaces proactively engage in training, policy development and targeted projects to uphold their duty of care to their workforce. This project aims to assist in realising that duty of care and to keep Victorian workers safe at work and able to actively participate.
Women harass men too. Will this project be a course in man-bashing? (Or, I don’t believe that the Raise it! project is fair to men in the workplace).
It’s important to recognise that both women and men can be disadvantaged by sexual harassment, pregnancy, return-to-work, carer and flexible work discrimination. It is also important to recognise that statistics show that women experience this disadvantage more frequently than men. Everyone in the community suffers when inequality like this is not addressed.
The conversation starter toolkits and education program will help you understand why it is important to challenge the gender stereotypes and norms that underpin this inequality. It is not about man-bashing but about creating a fair go for all members of your workplace, so that women and men can thrive in fair, safe and inclusive workplaces. Both men and women are encouraged to participate in the Raise it! pilot project and in having safe conversations about sexual harassment and discrimination.
I already feel like I’m in the minority at work. Won’t this education program make me stand out even more?
The education program for the Raise it! project is designed to help build a positive and supportive environment in your workplace, in an inclusive workplace environment which supports points of difference. The program provides information about how the Equal Opportunity Act can help protect your rights at work, and supports you in using and accessing three conversation starter toolkits to help generate healthy and safe conversations.
The education program will also help build understanding throughout your workplace of everyone’s rights to equality of opportunity and their responsibilities to uphold those rights in the workplace.
How will having a conversation about these topics change anything?
In Victoria evidence shows that many workers and managers find it hard to have conversations about difficult topics such as flexible work requests, pregnancy leave and about inequality in the workplace that creates an atmosphere where sexual harassment can happen.
This project aims to prevent sexual harassment and is based on evidence that shows that the presence of conversations about these topics in the workplace is a key factor in reducing sexual harassment. Designed to support and encourage safe conversations in the workplace, the Raise it! project aims to help participants build skills and confidence in talking about difficult topics in the workplace related to discrimination and harassment, and help create a workplace culture where these types of behaviours are unacceptable.
I have a lot on right now and I’m not sure that these topics would apply to me anyway. Is it important that I participate in the Raise it! project?
Your workplace and management has prioritised this project. Managers are supporting your engagement in this project to ensure your voice and views about maintaining a fair, safe and inclusive workplace are heard. The project is based on evidence that shows more can always be done to promote equality and prevent discrimination at work.
Even if the themes do not seem immediately relevant to your life, the skills that you will develop through this program will support you to have difficult conversations about important issues with your manager. It is important for you to discuss your concerns if you think that your workload may exclude you from the project with your manager or the contact person for the Raise it! in your HR team.
Why do I have to tell you my gender identity, age and ethnicity in the Raise it! project? What will be done with my personal data?
The Raise it! project is a pilot and your feedback on what works and what doesn’t work is really important to us. To ensure we capture your feedback the project is being independently evaluated by a professional evaluation consulting agency called Social Ventures Australia, which will administer a confidential survey at the beginning and the end of the pilot period. Your personal data will not be available to your workplace, nor to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, at any point. It is gathered for the purpose of evaluation and feedback.
You will not be asked for your name or personal contact details at any stage by the evaluation consulting agency, however Social Ventures Australia provides optional questions about who you are (gender identity, age, ethnicity, country of birth). Such information will be used to analyse feedback and improve the quality of tools, ensuring that the tools are relevant and usable for as many people as possible.
I didn’t complete the initial survey in time, can I still join in the Raise it! project and use the conversation toolkits?
Yes, you still have time to complete the short survey – your feedback is important and all responses help us learn about how we can best have these conversations in the workplace about these difficult topics.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and a link to the survey will be forwarded to you to complete the survey confidentially. We also encourage you to use the conversation starter toolkits and participate in the accompanying education programs, alongside your colleagues. In February 2019 please also share your feedback in the final survey after participating in the project activities.
I missed an education session about the conversation starter toolkits. Can I still participate and test the toolkits?
Yes, you can still participate in this project even if you missed an education session. You are welcome to use the conversation starter toolkits and participate along with your colleagues in having conversations about sexual harassment and discrimination related to pregnancy, parental leave or flexible work.
The education sessions are designed to support participants to use the toolkits as well as providing an overview of key points in equal opportunity and non-discrimination to support conversations. If you would like more information about the topics discussed in the education session, please contact email@example.com or your HR team project contact.
I’m worried about some of the issues raised by the Raise it! project in the conversations we’re having at work. There’s a lot of negative talk. What should I do?
If you have concerns about the tone or type of conversations happening at your work about the Raise it! project, we would love to hear from you. You can contact the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to give confidential, informal and anecdotal feedback at any stage during the pilot period September 2018–March 2019. Please contact the commission at firstname.lastname@example.org
I would like to make a complaint about sexual harassment or workplace discrimination to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission. How do I do that?
If you feel you have been discriminated against, sexually harassed, victimised or vilified, you or someone on your behalf can make a complaint to the Commission. We will help resolve your complaint through our free, fair and timely dispute resolution service.
A complaint can be made in any language and the Commission can arrange a free interpreter in your language or a sign language interpreter, if required. We can also help you draft your complaint if you need assistance.
In 2014 Victoria Police engaged the Commission to complete an independent review into sex discrimination and sexual harassment, including predatory behaviour, in its organisation.
At the time, many of Victoria Police's female employees were experiencing sex discrimination and sexual harassment at work, resulting in profound and lasting harm.
In addition to providing a safe working environment for its employees, Victoria Police knew that addressing workplace harm in its own organisation would also improve its response to gendered violence in the community.
"I am proud of what Victoria Police is doing in response to [the Commission's] review. It makes [Victoria Police] much more an employer of choice for me. I see it as leading community and social change."
Watch the video that Victoria Police produced about the independent review
Scope of the review
The Commission conducted the review in three phases.
Initial review (Phase 1 – 2015)
We examined the nature, extent, drivers and impacts of sex discrimination and sexual harassment in Victoria Police.
We made 20 recommendations to create the foundations for change. These aimed to build the structures, rationale, messaging, strategic vision, values and leadership accountability to achieve gender equality.
We again audited the phase 1 recommendations and assessed the state of gender equality in Victoria Police. We made 16 new recommendations to help embed gender equality across Victoria Police by 2030. We also provided the organisation with a 10-year outcome monitoring framework to assess its progress towards gender equality.
The Phase 3 audit and review report is available to download in PDF and Doc from the Phase 3 report page.
Additional resources include:
Phase 3 report: Executive summary
Outcome monitoring framework
The state of gender equality in Victoria Police in 2018
Summary of the audit outcomes
How gender inequality drives workplace harm
Where to go if you need help
Restorative Engagement and Redress Scheme
In December 2019, the Victorian Government's Restorative Engagement and Redress Scheme was implemented, offering support, restorative engagement or financial redress for current and former police employees who experienced sexual harassment or sex discrimination in the course of their work. The scheme operates independently of Victoria Police and was one of the recommendations from the Commission’s independent review.
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has recently completed research into the experiences of Koori women and the justice system. This project is one of the Commission's key responsibilities under the Aboriginal Justice Agreement 3.
The Commission worked with four focus groups composed of Koori female prisoners at Dame Phyllis Frost Centre. The Commission also conducted five case study interviews with female prisoners and with Koori women who had left prison. In addition, 15 key informant interviews with people across the justice system, community service organisations, Magistrates and academics were undertaken.
The research also found that in 2012, 80 per cent of Koori women entering Victorian prisons were mothers. A high proportion of Koori women prisoners were themselves clients of child protection services as children. Many now have their children in informal or formal out-of-home care.
The report entitled Unfinished business: Koori women and the justice system is now available.
The recently evaluated Aboriginal Justice Agreement Phase 2 (AJA2), identified that the development of effective diversionary options for Koori women remains one of the main unfinished tasks and was a priority recommendation. There has also been considerable advocacy and research on this issue.
Studies have shown that imprisoning Koori women on remand and during pre-sentence periods can have crippling, long-term effects on their families and the broader community, particularly when less than 15% of Koori women on remand ultimately receive custodial sentences.
These women are generally young and often impacted by violence and trauma. Their offences are predominantly property related, infringements and the execution of warrants.
While at any one time around 30 Koori women will be in Victorian prisons, many cycle through the system multiple times, often on short sentences, or on remand and then not sentenced. Koori female prisoners are generally young, and many have experienced family violence, sexual abuse and intergenerational trauma. Homelessness before and after prison is common.
Offending and imprisonment patterns for Koori women differ from those of Koori men. They also differ from those of other women, noting that Koori women's health and wellbeing depends on a strong connection to culture. Thus, connection to culture is a crucial protective factor and must lie at the heart of any intervention. While a range of successful initiatives have been established in Victoria for Koori men and other groups, there remains a lack of effective diversion options for Koori women.
The report makes 29 recommendations to agencies across government, including Victoria Police, Magistrates' Court, Corrections Victoria, Justice Health, Department of Justice, Department of Human Services, the Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People and the Victorian Auditor-General.
The recommendations address over-representation of Koori women across the criminal justice system, as well as specific recommendations regarding the establishment of a culturally and gender appropriate model of diversion. The report also identifies principles of effective intervention to guide the further development of prevention, diversion and post-release programs.
The Commission looks forward to progressing these recommendations through the Aboriginal Justice Forum over the coming months.
To help support councils in their important work with human rights, the Commission hosted a series of local government human rights forums in November and December 2012 in Melbourne, Wangaratta, Ararat and Mildura. The forums aimed to develop skills to put human rights into practice in governance and service delivery roles.
The development of the forums was greatly assisted by an Advisory Group with representatives from a range of councils, the Municipal Association of Victoria, and the Victorian Local Governance Association. Information and case studies coming out of the forums will be available in the Local Government section of this website. Please let us know if you have anything to add or would like to see as part of this resource.
Research shows sport is a significant site of homophobic harassment, discrimination and exclusion.
The Australian Government report, The future of sport in Australia, identified the need to understand these issues and create new opportunities for inclusion and participation.
With this in mind, the Australian Sports Commission funded Fair go, sport! in 2010.
This project aimed to:
increase awareness of sexual and gender diversity
promote safe and inclusive environments
develop a flexible model of engagement that can be adapted for other sporting codes and their governing bodies.
The project now has four components:
Fair go, sport! Phase 1: Our original work with Hockey Victoria and Hockey Australia, completed in December 2011, developed a peer mentoring approach to support project advocates.
Fair go, sport! Phase 2: Commenced in June 2012, this Phase worked with four additional state sporting associations (Basketball, Cycling, Football and Skate Victoria / Roller Derby) and consolidated the achievements in Hockey
Fair go, sport! Reservoir High School: In 2012 we applied the FGS model and approaches within the school’s sport, health and physical education programs.
Fair go, sport! Schools: Commencing in 2013/14, Whittlesea Secondary College, Castlemaine Secondary College and Keilor Downs College have been implementing the project and developing strategies for inclusion in school sport.