AN INTENSIVE training program is aiming to change attitudes around workplace sexual harassment in the Wimmera.
Women's Health Grampians’ Act@Work program supports organisations to help promote gender equality in the workplace.
The group’s Wimmera Region consultant Melissa Morris said the program had been successful in changing attitudes around what was considered acceptable behaviour.
“We still have a long way to go to change the culture around what is acceptable behaviour and we all have a role to play in determining that,” she said.
It comes after the Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry into sexual harassment released its latest survey results last week.
Results revealed that one in three Australian workers said they had been sexually harassed at work during the last five years, compared with one in five in 2012, and one in ten in 2003.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said the figures showed that sexual harassment continued to be a major problem in Australian workplaces.
“What is clear is that this conduct begins the moment people enter the workplace, and that harassers prey on those less powerful than them,” she said.
“Young people between the ages of 18 and 29 were the most likely to be sexually harassed at work.
“We found that 39 per cent of Australian women and 26 per cent of Australian men told us they had been sexually harassed at work.”
Ms Morris said she was wasn’t surprised about the survey results.
“People will have experienced a number of different incidents over their lifetimes. Things happens more commonly than what we’re aware of and that’s what this study shows,” she said.
The Act@Work program has run since 2012, with 18 organisations in the Wimmera signed on.
The program begins with a survey of staff to see what their actions would be when faced with harassment. For example, whether they would be an active bystander or not.
An action plan is then implemented to conduct training. At the end of the training, a second survey is conducted to see what changes in attitudes were made.
“We have found that there is a big disparity between sectors. A lot of places that we do training at already have established polices, so we’re usually just reinforcing those,” she said.
“We know it leads to increased awareness of the issue and people take action to prevent harassment. In the end, it’s about treating each other respectfully and equally.
“Everyday sexism has an impact on an individual’s health and wellbeing.”
To learn more about the ACt@Work program, head to Women’s Health Grampians’ website.