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National inquiry launched into workplace sexual harassment

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Australia’s world-first inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace marks a “huge step” toward ensuring it’s something employees don’t have to put up with, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins says.

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Jenkins has been chosen by the Federal Government to head an inquiry into sexual harassment at work as the #MeToo movement reverberates throughout the world.

She says there is a growing appetite for change and a growing realisation that sexual harassment is unacceptable and preventable.

“We need to continue working to create a society where this kind of conduct is unthinkable, and where sexual harassment at work is not something people simply have to put up with,” she said today.

“I believe this national inquiry is a huge step in the right direction.”

More than 20 per cent of people over 15 years old in Australia have been sexually harassed, with 68 per cent of cases occurring at work.

The inquiry will examine current laws on sexual harassment and review complaints made to state and territory anti-discrimination agencies.

It will also consider what drives workplace harassment, the use of technology including social media, and existing practices to deal with the problem.

Economic modelling will help establish what sexual harassment is costing individuals and businesses.

The new inquiry comes as the Australian Human Rights Commission prepares to wrap up its fourth national survey into workplace sexual harassment.

Early indications from the survey show that sexual harassment rates have increased significantly since the last survey in 2012, Jenkins said.

Results from the survey are due to be released in August.

Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer said coverage of the #MeToo movement had highlighted the prevalence and impact of sexual harassment.

“No person should have to suffer sexual harassment at work, or in any other part of their lives,” she said.

“We already know that the personal and career consequences of workplace sexual harassment are very significant.”

The inquiry will run for a year, with the Federal Government contributing $500,000 to the overall $900,000 cost.

– AAP

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