WHEN the #MeToo movement started gaining momentum in the United States late last year, Aussie journalist Tracey Spicer got to work.

In the space of just a few months, she had unearthed thousands of stories of sexual harassment and abuse allegedly committed against Australian women, often allegedly at the hands of household names.

But she also unearthed a tsunami of claims against men in workplaces and industries across the country, and she's been agitating for change ever since.

Journalist Tracey Spicer has spearheaded a national inquiry into sexual harassment in Aussie workplaces. Picture: Adam Yip/Manly Daily
Journalist Tracey Spicer has spearheaded a national inquiry into sexual harassment in Aussie workplaces. Picture: Adam Yip/Manly Daily

Today, in a world first, it was announced the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) will begin an official, year-long inquiry into sexual harassment at work.

The $900,000 independent investigation will be carried out by sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins, who said it would be a "huge step" towards eradicating harassment at work.

"We need to continue working to create a society where this kind of conduct is unthinkable, and where sexual harassment at work is not something people simply have to put up with," she said on Wednesday, according to AAP.

"No person should have to suffer sexual harassment at work, or in any other part of their lives.

"We already know that the personal and career consequences of workplace sexual harassment are very significant."

AAP reports that more than 20 per cent of Australians over 15 have experienced sexual harassment, with 68 per cent of cases happening at workplaces around the country.

The landmark inquiry will delve into sexual harassment laws and examine official complaints made to state and territory anti-discrimination bodies.

It will also study the causes behind workplace harassment, the role played by technology and social media and how the problem is addressed at the moment.

Economic modelling will also be used to show how much harassment is costing individuals, businesses and the country.

Federal Minister for Women Kelly O'Dwyer told Fairfax the government had ordered the inquiry in response to increasing pressure to crackdown on workplace sexual harassment.

"Australian women have the right to be safe in their homes, in their communities and in their workplaces," Ms O'Dwyer said.

"No person should have to suffer sexual harassment at work, or in any other part of their lives."

 

The inquiry is at least partially the result of the tireless work of Ms Spicer, who has been working with Fairfax and ABC journalists to highlight high-profile cases for months.

But she told 9 Honey sexual harassment also occurred across all industries and that regular Australians also deserved to be heard, not just those in the arts and entertainment industries, where the movement has been largely focused so far.

She said it was a "red letter day" for Australia and that change was needed "to protect the next generation of Australian workers, for the sake of our daughters and also our sons".

 

"This is something I've been privately agitating for since October last year," she told 9 Honey. "I commend the Federal Government and in particular the Minister Kelly O'Dwyer for taking action that will reveal the structural faults in the current system.

" … it's important that the terms of reference are wide enough to effect real, long-term reform, and that the government of the day acts on its recommendations. Globally, we're in uncharted territory here."

The #MeToo movement began in October last year after actor Alyssa Milano asked women to respond to her tweet with the hashtag if they had experienced sexual abuse or harassment in their lives.

The response was both swift and immense, and it eventually lead to the downfall of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and other huge stars.

 

- with AAP copy

 


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