About sexual harassment

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About sexual harassment

  • Sexual harassment means any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature;
  • Sexual harassment is unlawful;
  • Sexual harassment is common;
  • Resources and support are available.

Sexual harassment is a significant issue in Australia, where one in two people have been sexually harassed since the age of 15, in most cases by a co-worker.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. If a reasonable person would anticipate this behaviour might make them feel offended, humiliated or intimidated, it may be sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth).

Some examples of behaviour that may be sexual harassment include:

  • Sexually suggestive comments or jokes;
  • Intrusive questions about someone's private life or physical appearance;
  • Inappropriate staring or leering;
  • Unwelcome hugging, kissing or cornering or other types of inappropriate physical contact;
  • Sexually explicit text messages, images, phone calls or emails.

Preventing sexual harassment

In order to prevent sexual harassment, the community, businesses, unions and bystanders need to know where the line is when it comes to sexual harassment. They also need to know what to do when someone crosses it.

Elizabeth Broderick, Australia's Former Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Ged Kearney, President of the ACTU and Kate Carnell, CEO of the AICC explain that:

"Not only does the research indicate people often don’t know what sexual harassment is, it shows that – if they do – they mostly don’t report it because they either don’t think it is serious enough, or they are afraid of the workplace repercussions."

The Australian Human Rights Commission, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry provide a resource called ‘Know Where the Line Is’ to help workers and employers recognise sexual harassment and know how to take action:

For action on a sexual harassment issue, you can contact:

Get in touch:

NSW Rape Crisis
Available 24/7.
Sexual Assault Counselling Australia
For those affected by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Available 24/7.
Online counselling
Online counselling is also available 24/7.