Equal Opportunity Commission’s Review on Harassment in the South Australian Legal Profession

Equal Opportunity Commission’s Review on Harassment in the South Australian Legal Profession

Dear Members

Equal Opportunity Commission’s Review on Harassment in the South Australian Legal Profession

The release of the Equal Opportunity Commission’s Review on Harassment in the South Australian Legal Profession is a pivotal moment for our profession.

The findings of the Review were shocking and confirmed what many of us already knew – that sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying are embedded in the culture of our profession.

Bullying and sexual harassment is completely incompatible with our duties as legal professionals. The onus rests on all members of the profession to now take responsibility for implementing meaningful cultural change. It is critical that our legal workplaces take positive steps to identify and address sexual harassment and bullying and eradicate the systematic drivers that continue to perpetuate the behaviours.  The necessary cultural change must start at the top and strong leadership is required to eradicate this pervasive issue that continues to be ‘normalised’ within our profession.

The Women Lawyers Association of South Australia (WLASA) is committed to the elimination of sexual harassment in the South Australian legal profession and will continue to dedicate significant time and resources into achieving this.

The WLASA Committee is in the process of undertaking a detailed review of the Review together with the Review into Sexual Harassment in Victorian Courts (released on 19 April 2021) with a view to developing an action plan to address recommendations. To inform the development of this action plan we would welcome and encourage your suggestions/recommendation as to key actions you consider the WLASA should take in response to the recommendations.  Please email your suggestions to admin@womenlawyerssa.org.au by 10 May 2021.

Once we have compiled your recommendations and have finalised the WLASA’s action plan, a copy will be circulated to all members. In the coming weeks we will be meeting with the Attorney General to discuss the recommendations and the WLASA’s action plan.  We will also be engaging directly with the Judiciary, Law Society of SA, Legal Profession Conduct Commissioner, Bar Association and Women at the Bar to address the Recommendations through our involvement in the Respectful Behaviour Working Group.

WLASA Support Person

In the meantime, however, while we continue to develop our action plan we thought it was important to share with you an important initiative developed by the WLASA for the benefit of our members. This initiative commences immediately.

While the WLASA recognises that it cannot provide the necessary therapeutic and expert support needed for a member who may be subject to bullying or harassment, we want to ensure that we are able to provide further assistance to our members in this area.  This is why we have established the WLASA Support Person role and we are thrilled to announce the appointment of Ruth Beach as the inaugural WLASA Support Person.

Ruth’s role will be to act as a contact for any member who may want to discuss bullying or harassment issues, but the support will not extend to counselling or legal advice.

The WLASA Support Person will be supported by the WLASA with the provision of numbers for LawCare, BarCare, counsellors or psychologists and names of law firms that could assist the member if they wish to take the issue further.  The WLASA Support Person will not be authorised to suggest that a claim is or is not made and again, would not provide any legal advice, but will rather act as a sounding board for any WLASA members that chose to contact her.  The WLASA Support Person will not be asked by the WLASA Committee to provide the names of any persons who have contacted her, but will be required to report on volume of calls and to raise any issue that she considers the WLASA Committee may need to address, for example, a systemic issue.

Any member can contact Ruth directly for a confidential (and anonymous if wished) discussion by calling 0423738827 or by sending an email to ruth@ruthbeach.com.au

If the WLASA Support Person feels as though the member is in a position of harm, she is to immediately contact the WLASA President, who then may contact the SABar President, The Law Society of SA President or another entity as the WLASA President determines.

The WLASA is also available to provide support to our individual and corporate members seeking resources or further information on these matters and encourage you to contact us at admin@womenlawyerssa.org.au or me directly at president@womenlawyerssa.or.au at any stage.

Kind regards,

Kymberley Lawrence | President
Women Lawyers Association of SA Inc
E:  admin@womenlawyerssa.org.au
W: www.womenlawyerssa.org.au