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Tackling sexual harassment in the Victorian legal sector

The Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner is pleased to support the review into sexual harassment prevention, support, enforcement and education in the state’s courts and VCAT announced by the Attorney General today.

Our 2019 Sexual Harassment in the Victorian Legal Sector report found that sexual harassment was pervasive, widespread across the legal sector and disproportionally affected women.

Our study found that more than one in three lawyers have experienced sexual harassment, most within the last five years. Close to two thirds of female lawyers had experienced sexual harassment.

We will be working with the government, the Law Institute of Victoria, the Victorian Bar and other stakeholders to implement new awareness and education programs about sexual harassment, as well as working with law firms to help them prevent, respond to and manage sexual harassment in their workplaces.

Victorian Legal Services Board CEO and Commissioner, Fiona McLeay, today urged organisations across the legal profession to help build a culture where sexual harassment was no longer tolerated.

“As the regulator, we will be doing everything in our power to investigate and respond to complaints about sexual harassment. We have the power to investigate individual lawyers, as well as legal workplaces, where the data shows ‘hotspots’ of sexual harassment behaviour” Ms McLeay said. 

“We encourage anyone who has experienced or witnessed harassment to call our harassment hotline or email our sexual harassment inbox to talk through options with our staff”.

However, it’s also clear that formal reporting mechanisms alone cannot stop harassment. As a profession, we need to address the underlying cultural issues that allow sexual harassment to go unchecked”.

“We look forward to working with the government and the legal sector to implement real changes that will make a difference to the women and men who work in the legal sector in Victoria”. 

You can read our report into sexual harassment here, along with information on how to report sexual harassment by a lawyer.

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