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Date: 30 October 2014

NT Anti-Discrimination Commission reports increase in sexual harassment complaints

Sexual harassment complaints in the Northern Territory have increased by 93% according to the Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commission’s Annual Report 2013 – 14 tabled in Parliament today.

Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Sally Sievers said that while the number of cases reported had increased, the activity itself may not have increased.

“What we are seeing is an increase in the reporting of it. Needless to say, sexual harassment in the Northern Territory is prevalent.”

“Of the sexual harassment complaints received, a majority of the complaints were from females, a few were received from males. All complaints irrespective of the gender of the complainant were against alleged male harassers. 

“A significant majority (86%) of these complaints were based on sexual harassment in the workplace, with a majority being against companies (60%). A majority of cases were women (60%) being harassed by men who held supervisory, or more senior positions in the workplace.”

Ms Sievers said that the nature of the alleged conduct, varied from what could constitute criminal conduct, sexual assault and indecent assault, to inappropriate comments and behaviour. Common to most of these complaints, however characterised, was the impact on complainants including relationship breakdown, economic hardships from job loss, impacts on mental health and loss of confidence.

“A positive for the ADC is that a majority of these matters settled and settled early, avoiding the need to argue out the issues in public.”

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Working without fear: Results of the Sexual Harassment National Telephone Survey (2012), one in four women in Australia experience sexual harassment in the workplace, and that most harassment goes unreported.

The AHRC also reported that only one in five victims make a formal report and almost half of the workplace sexual harassments stop after a complaint or report is made.

“In 2014-15, sexual harassment will be a priority in our community engagement, as will promotion of the AHRC’s resource, Know Where the Line Is* a workplace awareness campaign aimed at helping workers and employers recognise sexual harassment and how to take action.

“I urge Northern Territory employers to support their staff in taking bystander action if they see or hear sexual harassment.

“The ability to work in a safe environment, free from sexual harassment, is a basic human right,” Ms Sievers said.

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*Know Where the Line Is was launched in May 2014 by the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, it is available from www.adc.nt.gov.au or knowtheline.humanrights.gov.au.