Statement on Review of Sexual Harassment in Victorian Courts

1 June 2021

The Faculty of Law at Monash University welcomes the recent report and recommendations of the landmark Review of Sexual Harassment in Victorian Courts.

The report and its recommendations follow other recent condemnations of sexual harassment in judicial workplaces, made in public statements by senior judges (including the Chief Justice of Australia) and other senior members of the legal profession, and by the Council of Australian Law Deans (CALD) and member law schools.

We fully support and join with the Victorian Attorney-General, Chief Justice of the Victorian Supreme Court, and other heads of jurisdiction and peak professional bodies in Victoria, in condemning and addressing the serious problem of sexual harassment in the various branches of the legal profession.

Sexual harassment in the legal profession is a long-standing problem. Its occurrence is unacceptable. It affects all branches of the legal profession, within and beyond Victoria, as demonstrated by the equivalent recent report by the International Bar Association (IBA) on sexual harassment in the global legal profession, Us Too? Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession.

The culture of passivity and silence, and the lack of collective action that protects perpetrators and silences victim-survivors, must end.

As a leading Victorian law school, Monash Law takes these matters and the welfare of our affected constituencies very seriously. There is no place or tolerance for sexual harassment at Monash University and Monash Law. It is expected that our students and staff treat one another with mutual concern and respect. We have students and recent graduates who work during university and beyond in judicial and other legal workplaces where they are entitled to feel safe from any sexual harassment. We have staff and alumni who share our desire to play their part in changing cultures and behaviours to eradicate sexual harassment in all legal workplaces and within society, and who have relevant academic expertise and professional experience to contribute in helping the Victorian Government and Victorian courts and tribunals to implement successfully the recommendations of the Review of Sexual Harassment in Victorian Courts.

At Monash Law we recognise our role in contributing to a healthy culture in the legal profession. Every lawyer – judge, barrister, solicitor, corporate counsel, and graduate – begins their professional journey at law school. Attitudes and behaviours must be embedded from day one, in both the formal education and informal socialisation of the future legal leaders of society.

We acknowledge that public and thought leadership is necessary on such matters from senior members of the legal profession and its peak and representative bodies, and that this responsibility extends to law schools as part of the legal profession.

We take seriously our responsibility to ensure that the professional experiences of our current students and graduates occur in safe workplaces. Some of these work experiences occur in partnered legal clinics, organisational placements, and other work-integrated learning opportunities. We also support and guide students as they apply for clerkships, judges’ associateships, and other graduate employment positions. In all cases, we are conscious of doing all that we reasonably can to support students and to safeguard their well-being in both academic and professional settings.

We take seriously our responsibility to provide Monash students with a safe place to learn. We have communicated with our students that if they experience, see, or hear about any sexual harassment, we will listen and they will be supported. Monash University has the policies and facilities to support our students in this regard, including Monash’s Safer Community Unit. Any staff that become aware of sexual harassment, or are concerned for a student's wellbeing, should reach out to the Safer Community Unit to seek confidential advice and guidance. The Safer Community Unit and Monash Law are here to support any members of our community who witness or experience sexual harassment in a study or workplace context.

The Monash University bSafe app also has comprehensive information about the internal and external support services for victim-survivors of sexual harassment or assault.

We support and shall work with the Monash Law Students’ Society and the members of the Student Consultative Forum, along with Monash’s Respectful Communities team, on initiatives to raise awareness about and to address sexual harassment.