The Australian Music Industry’s Finally Waking Up To Its Sexual Harassment Problem

At least half of all women in Australia have experienced sexual harassment, abuse or violence. That’s 1 in 2 that has been sexually harassed, 1 in 3 that has been physically abused and 1 in 5 that has been sexually abused. Let that sink in. With #FiredUp, Refinery29 Australia makes an ongoing commitment to spotlighting this serious and pervasive issue with the goal of dismantling gendered violence in Australia.
As widespread discussions about sexual harassment in the workplace have taken place in Australia over the past 18 months, the music industry is finally tackling the issue head on.
A national survey was recently conducted as part of the industry's independent review looking into sexual harm, sexual harassment, and systemic discrimination, asking music professionals to have their say and share any details about the prevalence of these issues in the biz.
"The results of the survey will allow everyone in the music industry to understand the lived experiences of many music professionals," says Alex Shehadie — the review's principal reviewer — in an official press statement.
"This is the first step towards developing meaningful strategies to address the risks that can lead to sexual harm, sexual harassment, and systemic discrimination, and to ensuring that everyone in the music industry can thrive."
After closing earlier this week, the survey's results will now be reviewed before recommendations for reform will be published in two months' time. Survey participants were not required to have a particular story or incident to report on, and the questionnaire could be completed anonymously.
Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich from Aussie rock trio, Camp Cope, says music environments have not always been safe for spectators as well as industry professionals, and this survey was an important step in elevating voices that may have been silenced until now.
"It is no secret that the music industry can be an unsafe place for some people. I was told when I was young that attending concerts and music festivals as a young woman would put my safety at risk, and I heard the horror stories. We all have," Hellmrich tells Refinery29 Australia.
"That didn’t change when it became my profession as a grown woman. In my own workplace, I’ve been made to feel unsafe and discriminated against. It feels as though, especially here in Australia, we choose to accept this as the reality of being involved with the industry. To constantly be cautious and careful. Some choose to ignore it, or condemn those who speak out against it. This needs to change.
"I think having these experiences heard and important voices elevated in a space that is safe and confidential are important steps in making that change happen."
The national survey is just one part of a wider music industry review launched at the start of this year and executed by an independent consultancy company. It also entails seeking written submissions, and conducting confidential interviews and focus groups with people from the industry.
Artist Jaguar Jonze also reacted to the news of the survey when it had launched on May 30, urging her peers on Instagram to "please share, add your voice and be part of the change."
Jonze joined forces with several professionals in the music industry to create the Temporary Working Group, striving to evoke cultural change amid the #MeToo movement. In fact, it's the Temporary Working Group — with support from industry organisations APRA AMCOS, ARIA, PPCA, Australia Council, and Support Act — that selected the consultancy company to undertake this review.
"We hope that it leads to a national consultation strategy to truly understand the systemic problems that plague our music industry," Jonze told Refinery29 Australia in September last year.
"To be able to create change, we need to hear from everyone and grow awareness of the issues that are actually at play. To deliver a national consultation strategy that is fair and able to hear from everyone is so difficult. It has taken a lot of time to ensure it is a thorough and democratic process."
She first spoke publicly about sexual assault in the music industry in May 2021 during an interview on Channel 10 news and current affairs show The Project.
Photo by Naomi Rahim/Getty Images
Jaguar Jonze
The singer spoke of her own experience and claimed she had been assaulted by two producers. She chose to go public with her personal experience to highlight the seriousness of the issue and to hold the industry accountable.
"It was important for me to speak up because I was tired of the environment I was working in," she told us. "I deserve safety. My fellow vulnerable people deserve safety. But all of us survivors, especially, deserve justice.
"We just aren’t seeing enough accountability and responsibility taken by the industry yet to ensure that our working environments are safe and protected."
The post-survey report will be released at the end of August.
If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual or domestic violence and is in need of support, please call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), the National Sexual Assault Domestic Family Violence Service.
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