Sexual harassment, bullying & discrimination

Stamping out sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination

The Bar is committed to eradicating bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment, and providing an environment in which barristers and those engaging with barristers can conduct themselves free from this unacceptable behaviour.

Sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying are discrete and separate concepts; however, they equally and unequivocally share many of the same emotional outcomes experienced by an individual (target).

These overt, subtle and coercive actions, words, comments, thoughts and gestures can cause pain, suffering, distress and embarrassment which ultimately serve to dehumanise and disempower the target.

Research clearly indicates that these behaviours can cause stress-related mental and physical illnesses, including PTSD, because they challenge a person’s sense of safety and security.

For many, the fallout and impact of this behaviour can erode their confidence and impact on their willingness to attend work. This is evidenced through a subversion of career aspirations, performance and professional goals.

For some, the only solution is to abandon their career.

"Research clearly indicates that these behaviours can cause… stress-related mental and physical illnesses including PTSD, challenging a person’s sense of safety and security.”

Burne, 2018

Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual behaviour that would cause a reasonable person, having regard to all of the circumstances, to feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. It includes:

  • an unwelcome sexual advance
  • an unwelcome request for sexual favours
  • any other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature

Sexual harassment can be physical, verbal or written. Examples include:

  • comments about someone’s private life or the way they look
  • sexually suggestive behaviour, such as leering or staring
  • brushing up against someone, touching, fondling or hugging
  • sexually suggestive comments or jokes
  • displaying offensive images or objects
  • repeated requests to go out
  • requests for sex or other forms of sexual intimacy
  • sexually explicit emails, text messages or posts on social media
  • comments or actions concerning a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity/gender expression
  • sexual assault
  • sexually suggestive behaviour

Workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed at someone that creates a risk to their health and safety.

Bullying includes repeatedly using words or actions against someone else to cause them distress. It can include:

  • verbal abuse – spoken insults or threats, or making derogatory comments about someone
  • physical abuse – physically harming or threatening someone
  • written abuse – written insults, threats or derogatory comments about someone, including those made in emails or in posts on social media

Discrimination is treating someone unfavourably, either directly or indirectly, because of a personal characteristic that is protected by the law.

Characteristics protected in the Equal Opportunities Act 2010 (Vic) are: age; parent and carer status; disability; employment activity; expunged homosexual conviction; gender identity and expression; industrial activity; lawful sexual activity; marital and relationship status; physical features; political belief or activity; pregnancy and breastfeeding; race including colour, nationality, ethnicity and ethnic origin; religious belief or activity; sex; sexual orientation; or a personal association with someone who has, or is assumed to have, one of these personal characteristics.

Reporting sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination

The Victorian Bar does not tolerate sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination. The Bar has policies in place to report sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination, and to provide advice to those who are looking for assistance in whether to report an incident.

Policy Against Bullying

Policy Against Discrimination

Policy Against Sexual Harassment

More information on complaints and reporting is here.

Further information

If you want to find out more information about sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination, or the Bar’s approach to diversity generally, visit the Bar’s Equality & Diversity page.

Support and counselling

Support is available to anyone who has experienced or witnessed bullying, discrimination or sexual harassment.

If you are a barrister or a barrister’s family member, you may contact the following independent counselling services funded by the Bar:

  • Re-Vision Group: 03 9650 5540
  • Converge International: 1300 687 327

The National Sexual Assault and Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service provides confidential information, counselling and support services. You can contact it by calling 1800RESPECT or visiting its website at www.1800respect.org.au.

Beyond Blue provides mental health support and can be contacted on 1300 22 46 36 or www.beyondblue.org.au.

Each of these services (1800RESPECT and Beyond Blue) is available 24 hours per day.