Disrupting the System – addressing sexual harassment

Justine Clark , 27 July 2022

‘Disrupting the System: Preventing and responding to workplace sexual harassment’, a report from the Champions of Change Coalition, aims to shift the way we understand and respond to sexual harassment. The document provides a comprehensive practical guide for organisations and workplaces.

Grounded in insights from the Human Rights Commission research, the report seeks to disrupt conventional approaches to sexual harassment. The detailed document identifies a clear alternative path and outlines actionable and practical responses to create systemic and systematic change.

This is important, because it changes the way harassment is positioned and framed – from a workplace grievance issue to a health and safety issue that is tied closely to organisational culture. Shifting responsibility from HR to leadership, it puts harassment on the agenda of senior management. To quote the Champions of Change Coalition, “Leaders must take responsibility for developing workplace cultures that prioritise safety, respect and inclusion for all.”

Launching the report, Elizabeth Broderick spoke of human decency as the key currency of workplace relationships. She points out that covering up problems doesn’t work, prevents people from telling their stories and that the current approach is “sucking the humanity out of our organisations”.

The guide sets out a new process:

  1. Elevate the prevention of sexual harassment and early intervention as a leadership priority
  2. Address sexual harassment as a workplace health and safety issue
  3. Introduce new principles on confidentiality and transparency for high-profile sexual harassment cases
  4. Inform, empower and expect everyone to speak up and take action on harassment in the workplace
  5. Listen to, respect and support people impacted

The aim is a compassionate approach that puts the person impacted at the centre of the response, and focuses on psychological and physical safety.

Each element is backed up with comprehensive research, information and support, and sets out clear practical actions for leaders and organisations.

The second part of the document provides model tools, templates and policies that can be adapted for specific organisations, and a step-by-step guide to responding to complaints.

The broad approach is highly relevant to architecture practices, large and small, although the guide has been developed in relation to large-scale organisations. We strongly encourage ACA members to put this resource to work in our own field.