Review of Sexual Harassment in Victorian Courts and VCAT
On 14 July 2020, the Attorney-General of Victoria and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria jointly initiated a review of sexual harassment across the Victorian courts and VCAT.
The independent review was led by former Commissioner of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Dr Helen Szoke AO, to consider measures to prevent sexual harassment, improve reporting and support for those who experience sexual harassment, raise awareness, and ensure accountability across the state’s courts and VCAT.
Dr Szoke’s final report was released on 19 April 2021. You can access the report and the responses to it by clicking on the links below.
Chief Justice’s Video
Watch the Chief Justice of Victoria, Anne Ferguson, respond to the report:
“Sexual harassment is harmful, unlawful and wrong. It goes against everything our justice system is built on. I want to make it clear we will not put up with any form of wrongful conduct in our courts or VCAT. There will be zero tolerance for sexual harassment.”
The video can be viewed on the Supreme Court of Victoria's website.
EXTERNAL SEXUAL HARASSMENT REPORTING AVENUES
Access a summary of sexual harassment reporting avenues for people who experience or witness sexual harassment in the Court of VCAT, on Court Services Victoria’s website.
Joint Statement from Heads of Jurisdiction, Members of Courts Council and the Chief Executive Officer Court Services Victoria
Review of Sexual Harassment in Victorian Courts
19 April 2021
Prevention of sexual harassment in the Courts and VCAT is an absolute priority for us as leaders, and for the Courts, VCAT and Court Services Victoria as organisations.
We continue to build a better culture by acknowledging the harm that has occurred in our Courts, VCAT and CSV. We also acknowledge that our organisational responses to date have not been good enough and that we must and will do more.
The harm experienced by victims and survivors of sexual harassment takes different forms. It can impact psychological, physical and economic wellbeing. The harm is profound. The harm that is experienced as a result of the actions of the perpetrator is exacerbated if those affected are not in an environment which supports them and is able to respond.
We thank all those who contributed to this Review and who came forward to tell their stories. The telling of their stories cannot have been easy. But it is powerful. We have heard them.
Ensuring people feel safe to report what is happening in the Courts, VCAT and CSV is an important part of tackling this issue. We have a clear roadmap to take action to make sure that happens.
As leaders, we will continue to speak up about the importance of safe and respectful workplaces. But we know that’s not enough. Sexual harassment harms our people and when that happens, it erodes trust and damages our organisations.
We will take concrete action in implementing the recommendations with the aim of preventing sexual harassment, improving reporting and support, and providing a robust
system of accountability.
Heads of Jurisdiction, Courts Council, the Board of the Judicial College of Victoria and the Judicial Commission have considered the recommendations of the review that are directed to each of them and support their implementation. Work is already underway. CSV has created positions of Executive Director, Sexual Harassment and Respect and Program Manager, Sexual Harassment and Respect to lead the work within CSV and coordinate work occurring across the different bodies.
History has shown this is not a simple problem to solve and the Courts, VCAT and CSV are not alone in confronting these issues. It will take time and resources and the cooperation and commitment of others. That does not deter us from our continuing pursuit of a working environment free from sexual harassment.
The Honourable Chief Justice Anne Ferguson, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
The Honourable Chief Judge Peter Kidd, Chief Judge of the County Court
The Honourable Justice Michelle Quigley, President of the Victoria Civil and Administrative Tribunal
Her Honour Judge Lisa Hannan, Chief Magistrate
His Honour Judge Jack Vandersteen, President of the Children's Court
His Honour Judge John Cain, State Coroner
Dr Phillip Williams AM, Independent Member of Courts Council
Ms Susan Friend, Independent Member of Courts Council
Ms Louise Anderson, Chief Executive Officer of Court Services Victoria
A signed copy of the joint statement can be found on the Supreme Court's website.