Independent Review of Harassment in the Legal Profession

Information for potential participants

The Commissioner for Equal Opportunity has been tasked by the Attorney-General on behalf of the Parliament to conduct an independent review into harassment in the legal profession, following a motion which passed State Parliament last year in October 2020.

The review will consider the existing regulatory framework, policies, and procedures that apply to members of the legal profession and staff who work in a legal workplace, as well as best practice in responding to and preventing workplace harassment.

The review will also consider whether an independent complaints body is required which would allow a person to make an anonymous complaint about a legal practitioner or judicial officer.

Appointing an independent person to independently inquire into the prevalence of harassment, including sexual harassment, in the legal profession in South Australia and to report on the following matters: 

  • The adequacy of existing laws, policies, structures and complaint mechanisms relating to harassment, including sexual harassment, in the South Australian legal profession.
  • Improvements that may be made to existing laws, policies, structures and complaint mechanisms relating to assault and harassment, particularly in light of recent developments in other jurisdictions to treat sexual harassment as a workplace health and safety issue. 
  • Consider the establishment of an independent complaints body as a mechanism for individuals to make complaints in a confidential and supportive environment with appropriate legal protections against recrimination
  • Ensure any independent complaints body:

                (a)   has a diverse membership

                (b)   is transparent in its processes

                (c)   has appropriate investigative powers

                (d)   has avenues for anonymous complaints

                (e)   consults widely with a broad range of stakeholders, and

                (f)    provides for appropriate avenues of redress in the event a complaint is made out; and

  • Any other relevant matters. 

Participating in the review

The Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) will be conducting a survey in 2021 seeking participants experiences of harassment and complaint processes. 

The EOC would also be glad to receive written submissions addressing the terms of reference. 

Written submissions can be provided by email to legalEOCreview@sa.gov.au

If you would like to speak to the EOC, contact us by phone on 8207 1977 or by email to legalEOCreview@sa.gov.au.

Additional information

The experiences and views of those who work or have previously worked in a workplace that provides legal services are vital to this review. 

This includes those who practice the law as well as those who provide legal administrative services, such as: 

  • law clerks
  • paralegals
  • secretaries
  • office administration staff
  • students undertaking a clerkship or legal placement. 

For this review 'workplace' means a place of work where legal services are provided and includes: 

  • a private or incorporated legal practice
  • a government office, agency or department
  • the Courts Administration Authority
  • the Legal Services Commission
  • an educational institution, such as a university or college
  • a community legal centre or free legal clinic. 

Work-related events and travel are also considered extensions of the 'workplace'. 

The focus of the Independent Review of Harassment in the Legal Profession is sexual harassment. However we are also interested in hearing about incidences of harassment that have as their basis one or more of the grounds of discrimination prohibited by the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA) including but not limited to gender identity, sexual orientation, race, disability and age. A full list of grounds can be found at https://eoc.sa.gov.au/what-discrimination/types-discrimination/information-all-grounds 

Parliament has not asked the Equal Opportunity Commission to look into issues of harassment and bullying of a general nature. 

Understanding sexual harassment

Sexual harassment means any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, in circumstances where is it reasonable to expect that the other person would be offended, afraid or humiliated by that conduct. Both men and women can sexually harass and be harassed by either sex.

Sexual harassment is determined from the point of view of the person feeling harassed. It does not matter how the behaviour was intended. What matters is its effect on the other person. 

Sexual harassment can be:

  • unwelcome touching or kissing
  • commenting on a person's appearance
  • comments, jokes or name-calling
  • leering or staring
  • sexual pictures, objects, emails, text messages or literature
  • direct or implied propositions, or requests for dates
  • asking about a person's sexual history or sexual activities.

Mutual attraction or friendship with consent is not sexual harassment.

It is important to know that incidences of harassment disclosed as part of the review process will not be investigated as part of the review. The review is looking at systemic workplace issues and solutions.

Incidents that may constitute unlawful discrimination, sexual harassment or victimisation under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA), may be lodged as a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission.

You will need to undertake this step independently of any contribution you make to the review. For more information about making complaints to the Equal Opportunity Commission, see https://eoc.sa.gov.au/what-discrimination 

The review team may also be able to refer you to another relevant complaints body if you request this assistance. 

Privacy and confidentiality

Participants to the review must consent to the review team at the Office of the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity collecting and using information about you for the purposes of the review. The EOC will store information in a secure manner and in accordance with the State Records Act 1997 (SA).

Information provided in written submissions and/or interviews will not be attributed to the provider or informer in any report produced as part of this review.

Accessibility considerations

If you require special assistance to support your participation in the review please contact the review team on the details below and this will be arranged for you.

    Contact information

    There will also be an opportunity for interested parties to participate in a survey or to request an interview with the Equal Opportunity Commissioner as part of this review.

    Phone: 08 8207 1977

    Email: legalEOCreview@sa.gov.au