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 we developed and delivered to support and equip Victorian workers to have safe conversations about these important issues at work. The pilot was funded by the Victorian Office for Women.
By providing a holistic program incorporating preparation, education and conversation starter toolkits to help catalyse these conversations in a safe way, this pilot project 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 – May 2019 the Commission piloted the program in seven diverse workplaces across Victoria.
The Raise It! program consisted of key activities which can be categorised under three stages;
This stage included engagement with pilot sites, a policy and protocol check, a communications kit and 1:1 Support by Commission staff as required by pilot staff.
The Commission drew on leading practice and research to develop an empathetic and interactive education program designed to increase awareness, knowledge and skills about addressing sexual harassment and discrimination related to parental leave and return to work, flexible work and part time work. The education program was activity based and enabled participants to build and practice conversation skills through safe role play and group activities.
The education program had a particular focus on building bystander and manager skills to identify, address and respond to incidents of sexual harassment.
3 Resource Provision
Pilot sites were provided with a series of ‘Conversation Starter’ kits that were developed through a human-centred design approach. The kits were designed to complement the education program and increase confidence and skills to have safe and healthy conversations about the key issues. The kits included three online chatbots:
A flexible work request planner
A parental leave and pregnancy planner
A sexual harassment support and response tool
The fourth toolkit is a multimedia Conversation Starter Kit for managers, HR Staff and champions, made up of posters, challenge or 'conversation starter' cards, a planner for participants to note their use and distribution of toolkit materials, and an email newsletter on the Raise topics that participants can sign up for.
Evaluation and enhancements
The Commission engaged Social Ventures Australia (SVA) to assist with the development of a theory of change and program logics for the program, and to conduct an external evaluation.
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).
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.