Sexual harassment expert launches new rural research project
Three years after publishing her groundbreaking thesis detailing a ‘cultural epidemic’ of sexual harassment in rural Australian workplaces, Dr Skye Saunders has turned her attention to the complaints processes around sex discrimination.
The new research project comes just months after fierce public criticism that Catherine Marriott’s name was leaked when she made a confidential sexual harassment claim against former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to the WA National Party.
An Associate Professor of Law at the Australian National University, Dr Saunders published the 2015 book, Whispers from the Bush – The Workplace Sexual Harassment of Australian Rural Women.
The book drew upon 107 interviews Dr Saunders conducted with women from all over Australia, detailing their experiences of sexual harassment in rural workplaces.
The research showed 73 per cent of employees surveyed said they had been sexually harassed by a colleague, while 70 per cent said they had witnessed a colleague being harassed in the workplace. In the agricultural industry, 93 per cent of women interviewed said they had been harassed.
Now Dr Saunders wants to investigate the processes around making a complaint of sex discrimination within a rural workplace.
“In a nutshell I want to look at that pivotal moment when they decided to make a complaint, what was the impetus for making the complaint and what was their experience of the complaint process,” she said.
“Did they feel support? Did they feel ready to go to conciliation if that was part of the process and was the process actually worth it?”
Dr Saunders said the research, titled Defying Gravity, was important because it could identify the practices and systems that had previously served to constrain women from pursuing workplace equality.
In the agricultural industry, 93 per cent of women said they had been harassed.
She said the importance of a robust complaints process was highlighted through the leaking of Catherine Marriott’s name.
“It was a terrible situation..it shone a light on the critical nature of confidentiality in the complaints process, what it means and why it is important,” she said.
Dr Saunders expects to finalise the research by the end of 2018.
Originally Published by The Katherine Times, continue reading here.