Leading figures in Tasmania’s legal community are forming a working group to address sexual harassment within the profession.
It comes after an investigation conducted on behalf of the High Court found that one of its former justices, Dyson Heydon, sexually harassed six female associates. He has denied the claims.
Spearheaded by the Legal Profession Board of Tasmania – the body that receives and investigates complaints about lawyers working in the state – the group will be made up of “progressive leaders” and its objective will be to find ways of stamping out the prevalence of harassment among legal professionals.
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“The goal and direction of the working group will be to identify initiatives to facilitate cultural change in relation to sexual harassment in the legal profession in Tasmania,” LPBT chief executive Frank Ederle said.
“By securing the engagement and commitment of leaders within the legal profession, those important cultural changes in relation to sexual harassment are, in the board’s view, more likely to be achieved.
“Although the final make-up of the working group has not as yet been finalised, it is anticipated that the inaugural meeting of the working group will take place by November of this year.”
A host of influential legal organisations have been invited to participate in the proposed working group, including Tasmanian Women Lawyers and the Law Society of Tasmania.
Law Society president Crystal Garwood said she had been working with interstate counterparts on developing a consensus national approach to tackling the issue of sexual harassment.
“The time for action is now, and all lawyers play a role in creating change to ensure that every member of the legal profession is treated fairly and respectfully,” she said.
“Both female and male leaders in the profession need to continue to speak out in relation to these issues.
“The society has been continuing its work on how bullying and harassment within the profession can not only be minimised but eliminated into the future.”
Tasmanian Women Lawyers president Amanda Thompson said her organisation had been working closely with the Law Society to address the problem.
“It is important that the legal profession and society as a whole understand that sexual harassment will not be tolerated,” she said.
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