Conversations about sexual harassment in the workplace need to be more than just "what not to do at the Christmas party".
While there's multiple aspects to addressing high incidence, Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins told a breakfast at The Cube yesterday, she said making sincere effort to build a culture that does not tolerate harassment was a crucial step.
"Having regular conversations and not just an induction or online training will do more," she said.
"If you're an employer, try and understand what your workplace is actually like - if you wait for a complaint to come in, you will never get one.
"It's no question we need more transparency and accountability.
"One in three workers (surveyed by the Human Rights Commission in 2018) have experienced sexual harassment … only 17 per cent, or less than one in five, did something about it and of those, half said nothing changed as a result."
Ms Jenkins, ahead of conducting hearings for the national inquiry into sexual harassment in workplaces, spoke at a breakfast hosted by Women's Health Goulburn North East and Wodonga Council.
She shared examples of the stories told so far in the inquiry, including from a migrant fruit industry worker in Northern Victoria.
"The harassment was so commonplace for her, that she didn't understand it was against the law," Ms Jenkins said.
"People tend to think sexual harassment is persistent and done by bad and seedy people for sexual purposes, when really it's about power, and our survey showed it's mostly unwanted sexual jokes, comments about sex lives or appearances, and unwanted touching.
"The headline results from our survey were condemning, because they were worse than our last survey in 2012."
IN OTHER NEWS:
Army School of Ordnance commanding officer Tim Stone also spoke at the event, outlining how the Pathway to Change program aimed to address sexual assault and harassment, but had also introduced more flexibility in the process for people to progress their careers.
"The original policy was fair in its application, but wasn't fair in the effect it had on particularly women, as it made having a family difficult," he said.
"We looked at it and thought, '20 per cent of our officer workforce is female, and we’re discounting a talented 20 per cent of people'.
"So we changed it … and we saw a massive spike of all those really talented women came back in at once.
"That’s not to say we don’t have problems … but it’s had the added benefit of exposing some of the biases."
Receive our daily newsletter straight to your inbox each morning from The Border Mail. Sign up here