Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, has released the Commission’s new research report, Encourage. Support. Act!: Bystander approaches to sexual harassment in the workplace, which examines the role bystanders can play in preventing and reducing the incidence of sexual harassment.


“This paper, written by Paula McDonald from QUT and Michael Flood from the University of Wollongong, is a comprehensive examination of the way bystander intervention can be applied to addressing sexual harassment in workplaces, drawn from the role it is playing in other areas such as whistle blowing, racial harassment, workplace bullying and anti-violence,” said Commissioner Broderick.


Sexual harassment is unwanted or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that a reasonable person anticipates could make the targeted person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. It is a form of sex discrimination and usually a manifestation of gender-based violence.


Bystanders are individuals who observe sexual harassment firsthand, or are subsequently informed of the incident.


“Bystander approaches focus on the ways in which individuals who are not the targets of the conduct can intervene in violence, harassment or other anti-social behaviour in order to prevent and reduce harm to others,” Commissioner Broderick said.


Ms Broderick said that organisations that are employers have a significant role to play in supporting such intervention.


“If we don’t support and encourage the targets of sexual harassment, and any bystanders, to take action, we run the risk of creating cultures that tolerate sexual harassment,” she said. “It is up to organisations to provide this support and encouragement, thereby making it clear that sexual harassment has no place in our workplaces or in our society.”


Commissioner Broderick said Encourage. Support. Act! recommends a number of strategies to encourage bystander intervention, which she believes have real potential to increase reporting and reduce the incidence of sexual harassment in Australia.


“Development of training programs, grievance procedures, multiple complaints channels and incentives for bystanders to make valid reports of sexual harassment are some of the suggestions,” said Ms Broderick. “Assuring bystanders of anonymity and immunity from legal action and victimisation are others.”


Encourage. Support. Act! Is available on the Australian Human Rights Commission website at: