Statement on sexual harassment in law

In response to the outcome of the High Court of Australia’s investigation into the sexual harassment of six Judges’ Associates by former High Court judge, Dyson Heydon, the UWA Law School issues the following statement:

UWA Law School statement on sexual harassment in law

We have known, as a community, for a very long time, that sexual harassment curtails a person’s space for action and therefore their opportunities, both professional and personal.

We have known for a very long time that sexual harassment is part of what keeps the gendered status quo intact, and therefore, again, what limits some people’s freedoms, opportunities and security, and not others’.

Because it is aligned with our expectations about gender, we know that sexual harassment won’t end without hard thinking and different actions. 

In other words, we know that sexual harassment is not only the problem of those individuals who engage in it or are subjected to it — it is a cultural, institutional problem. 

We know that the diminished status of women won’t end until sexual harassment stops.

Many women over many years have told their experiences of sexual harassment — and many, many more have not, because of their realistic assessment of how it will be received.

The UWA Law School has the utmost respect for and stands in solidarity with the group of courageous women who took the risk that their reporting just might be received differently and that someone with institutional authority might publicly take the position that rational accounts, rationally assessed, are simply believed — as simple as that. In doing so, the Chief Justice of the High Court, The Honourable Susan Kiefel AC, has acknowledged the institutional, cultural responsibility for ending sexual harassment. These changes are not only necessary, but inevitable.

Sexual harassment is unacceptable in the workplace, the legal profession, indeed, everywhere in our society. The UWA Law School joins with the High Court in condemning Dyson Heydon’s sexual harassment and abuse of power. We are committed to being part of the institutional and cultural change required to end sexual harassment.