Foreground: Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins (Image: AAP). Background: Dyson Heydon and George Coorey (Images: AAP, Twitter)

When sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins delivered the landmark report into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces in March, following an 18-month national inquiry, she said there was momentum for change.

“Australia was once at the forefront of tackling sexual harassment globally … Australia now lags behind other countries in preventing and responding to sexual harassment,” she wrote.

“There is an urgency for change. There is the momentum for reform.”

But six months on, momentum for reform has not led to monumental change. Sexual harassment continues on a serious, pervasive level and, as cases involving Canterbury League Club chair George Coorey, former AMP Capital boss Boe Pahari, and former High Court judge Dyson Heydon have shown, powerful men can face misconduct claims stretching back months and years — and when they are outed, they often get off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

Over the course of this week, Crikey will detail how the allegations against Pahari came to light, and how AMP didn’t take action until investors started pulling their money — showing just how removed the board was from what is expected by the community.

We’ll also look at the low rate of reporting in sexual harassment cases, analyse the ongoing mental, physical and career effects on victims, and examine how those at the top are often promoted instead of punished, encouraging a culture of harassment. 

We’ll investigate what’s changed, and what hasn’t. The ’90s may have been decades ago, but many things are still the same now as they were back then. From boards stacked with members of the “boys’ club”, to allegations kept quiet, change has been superficial and slow to come. 

Finally, we’ll ask a series of questions that often go unasked. Once a company knows about someone’s history of harassing colleagues, who — aside from the perpetrator — should be held liable? Is hiring more women to boards really the way to go? And why is sexual harassment still framed as discrimination, instead of a workplace health and safety issue?

Read part one of Crikey’s investigation here.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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