Media Release – Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

 The Tasmanian Bar Association abhors discrimination and harassment of any kind. 

Sexual harassment and discrimination occurs at significant levels within the legal profession, at higher percentage levels than many other industries and workplaces; it has flourished in the profession’s inherently hierarchical and historically male dominated structure and environment. 

In Tasmania, the Legal Profession (Barristers Rules) prohibit sexual discrimination and harassment. Such conduct is often in breach of the law and contrary to the standards Barristers are to maintain, meaning it is subject to professional disciplinary action. 

Although existing laws and rules applicable to persons in the legal profession afford some protection, the culture of our profession needs to change before the incidence of sexual harassment and discrimination reduces and hopefully disappears. 

Individual members of the profession need to adopt an attitude of zero tolerance of such conduct and be willing to report and intervene if they see or hear it occurring. Further, all organisations within the profession should be focused on supporting victims and their needs as well as addressing the conduct of perpetrators. 

The Tasmanian Bar applauds the leadership of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, the Honourable Susan Kiefel, for the manner in which allegations of harassment perpetrated by a now retired Justice of the High Court were dealt with. The approach to the investigation and the language adopted by her demonstrates the nature of the cultural change needed to tackle this concerning issue. 

The Tasmanian Bar will continue to examine and improve the Bar’s response to sexual harassment with reference to the Human Rights Commission’s Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces.