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Harassment inquiry launched into SA legal profession


South Australia’s Equal Opportunity Commission will start investigating the prevalence of sexual harassment in South Australia’s legal profession from today after a MP raised concerns of “abhorrent” behaviour in the workforce.

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Attorney-General Vickie Chapman this morning appointed acting Equal Opportunity Commissioner Emily Strickland to conduct the review, following a motion which passed parliament last month.

The review will consider the extent of harassment, including sexual harassment, in the industry, as well as the effectiveness of current complaint procedures.

It was called for by SA Best MLC Connie Bonaros, a former lawyer who was the victim of alleged assault at a parliament Christmas Party last year.

She told InDaily in July that “abhorrent” behaviour was “rife” in the legal profession and the industry had reached “a tipping point”.

Chapman today said the concerns raised by Bonaros demonstrated “there is a legitimate need to improve the way the profession responds to these issues”.

“Whether you’re working in the legal sector, another private business or in the public sector, everyone should be entitled to a workplace free of harassment and inappropriate behaviour,” she said.

But the Law Society, which reported a “concerning” level of bullying and harassment in the legal workplace following a survey it conducted in 2018, branded the review “unnecessary” in light of work that was already being undertaken to address the issue.

The review is expected to finish late February and be made public.

Strickland is conducting a similar review of the prevalence of harassment at State Parliament.

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