Sexual harassment in local government

Overview

Objective

To determine whether local councils provide workplaces free from sexual harassment.

Issues

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s 2018 National Survey found that one in three people over the age of 15 have experienced sexual harassment at work in the past five years. Sexual harassment at work can have wideranging impacts, such as psychological harm, social isolation, health issues and economic loss.

The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 requires employers to protect employees, volunteers and unpaid workers from sexual harassment in the workplace. In addition, the Local Government Act 2020 requires each local council to have a Councillor Code of Conduct that outlines expected behaviour for councillors and procedures for resolving complaints or alleged breaches.

Reporting and recording sexual harassment complaints can be complicated, as the behaviour is often accompanied by other forms of victimisation. Unclear and inefficient investigation processes also discourage individuals from making a complaint. The lack of data around sexual harassment makes it difficult for local governments to monitor and understand trends across the sector.

This audit will investigate the prevalence of sexual harassment across the local government sector and assess the effectiveness of councils’ actions to detect, respond to and prevent it.

Proposed agencies

Ararat Rural City Council, Corangamite Shire Council, Frankston City Council, Latrobe City Council and Moreland City Council.

Have your say

We want to hear about your views and, if relevant, your experiences of sexual harassment in the local government sector.

By sharing your experiences, you will help us:

  • measure the prevalence of sexual harassment in local government
  • understand its impact on local government workers and councillors
  • learn more about the contexts in which harassment is more likely to occur
  • identify ways for councils to improve their training and complaint handling

If you are a current council employee or councillor, you can share your thoughts and experiences by participating in our survey. If you are a former employee or councillor or have been involved with local government in different ways, you can make a submission to VAGO.

Participate in our survey

VAGO is conducting a sector-wide survey on sexual harassment in local government from June 2020. It will be open to all current staff and councillors at participating councils. VAGO has invited all councils to take part. To find out if your council is participating, contact your Human Resources team.

We will keep your responses confidential, anonymous and secure. Click here for more information.

Make a submission

We are interested in hearing from individuals (such as former council employees and councillors) and organisations about their views on how councils respond to sexual harassment.

We will treat all submissions confidentially. We may use material from submissions to comment on themes across the local government sector. We will not provide your submission to other parties without your consent, unless required by law.

We may include quotes from your submission in our report. These will only be included if we have your consent and they will be anonymous. We will not identify your name, specific role or your council.

Make your submission here.

Privacy and confidentiality

All survey responses and submissions are confidential, anonymous and secure.

The Audit Act 1994 prohibits us from disclosing information gathered during an audit, other than in reports to Parliament. We cannot and do not give access to audit-related information and documents through freedom of information requests.

Please note that VAGO cannot investigate allegations of sexual harassment. If you would like to make a formal report of sexual harassment, you may do so by speaking to your relevant council contact or by contacting Victoria Police, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, or the Australian Human Rights Commission.

You can read more about our information privacy here.

Support and complaint options

Telling someone about an experience of sexual harassment can be distressing. You can access counselling and other support through

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