Fired Up

Australia Is Finally Talking About Migrant & Refugee Women Experiencing Sexual Harassment At Work

Photo by Flora Maclean
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.
While the past 18 months have seen widespread discussions about sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, there has been less of a focus on the experiences of women from migrant and refugee backgrounds.
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Today, a groundbreaking new survey has been launched that will help inform the country's first national study looking into migrant and refugee women’s understanding and experiences of and responses to sexual harassment in the workplace.
Funded by ANROWS (Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety), the study will be spearheaded by Monash University researchers in partnership with the Harmony Alliance and the National Women's Alliance.
The project comes more than two years after the Australian Human Rights Commission released its Respect@Work report, the product of an 18-month inquiry – led by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins – into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. The report indicated workers from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds amongst several groups identified as having greater exposure to workplace sexual harassment.
What this new survey will strive to do is help researchers "build on the knowledge that migrant and refugee women are more likely to be in precarious employment or hold employer-sponsored visas, both of which can contribute to risk of sexual harassment and impact decisions to disclose or seek support."
"Thanks to the brave advocacy of survivors and the Respect@Work National Inquiry and report, Australia is finally having the conversations we need to have about sexual harassment in the workplace," Nyadol Nyuon OAM, Chair of Harmony Alliance, says in an official press statement supplied to Refinery29 Australia.
"It’s so important that we now understand the experiences of migrant and refugee women who we know are at a higher risk of sexual harassment at work so that we can develop the systemic and cultural responses that are needed to ensure their safety."
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Some women from culturally and linguistically diverse communities are somewhat hesitant to speak up against workplace sexual harassment due to fears of losing their jobs or language and cultural barriers. It makes this project, which is funded as part of the Australian Government’s response to the Respect@Work report, all the more important.
The study will provide evidence to governments, employers and industry groups that will help them identify service gaps, potential training and education opportunities, and how more effective and culturally safe strategies can be devised to prevent and respond to workplace sexual harassment.
"Nearly half of the adult population in Australia are overseas-born citizens, permanent residents and temporary visa holders. It is critical we understand what they are facing and how we can better support them," says Associate Professor Marie Segrave from the Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre.
The project involves a combination of online survey responses, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with key women leaders and diverse groups of women across different levels of English language proficiency, citizenship or visa status, employment status and work settings. The confidential survey, which launched today, can now be accessed here.
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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