Sexual harassment and sexual assault can occur in any licensed venue, including live music venues. Sexual harassment and sexual assault can significantly impact upon the safety and well-being of patrons, and can deter people from going out to venues. Patrons can often feel reluctant to speak up if someone is harassing them. There are many steps that venues can take to help prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault, to intervene when it is occurring, to encourage patrons to report incidents to staff, and to respond appropriately when a patron has been harassed or assaulted. By taking action against sexual harassment and assault, venues can help to create safer spaces for everyone to enjoy their night out.
As a workplace, you are required to adhere to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) and the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic). These laws make it unlawful for a person to sexually harass another person in a number of areas including employment, education, the provision of goods and services and accommodation. Employees may also have a claim under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) General Protections and Unfair Dismissal.
Furthermore, under Work Health and Safety laws, an employer must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of its workers. An employer who fails to maintain a safe workplace may be liable under the common law or under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth) or equivalent state or territory law.
Accordingly, employers who fail to take reasonable steps to prevent the foreseeable risk of the harm created by sexual harassment may be in breach of the obligation to ensure a healthy and safe work environment and safe systems of work.
According to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), sexual harassment is any unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour that makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.
Sexual harassment is not interaction, flirtation or friendship which is mutual or consensual.
Sexual harassment is a type of sex discrimination.
Sexual assault is an offence under the Victorian Crimes Act (1958). Any suspected or alleged incidents of sexual assault should be treated and responded to seriously.
Sexual assault is any sexual activity a person has not consented to.
Sexual assault can refer to a broad range of sexual behaviours that make a person feel uncomfortable, frightened or threatened.
- To actively prevent instances of sexual harassment and assault at a venue, adoption of a zero tolerance policy for all forms of sexual harassment and assault, between patrons, staff, performing artists, security, photographers, videographers or any other person engaged to work at, or visiting the venue is required.
- Recognition that women, women of colour, people of diverse gender and sexualities and people with a disability, are primarily the target of sexual harassment and assault by men. However, both can occur to any person, regardless of gender or sexuality.
- Sexual harassment and sexual assault are often supported or promoted by the broader culture of a venue. Venues may contribute towards the prevention of these behaviours by:
- Promoting gender and cultural diversity in the balance of staff, security, performers, photographers, videographers etc.;
- Being inclusive of gender and sexual diversity; and
- Promoting a venue culture that is safe and respectful.
- Venue owners should not direct staff to flirt with patrons and/or dress in a manner that makes the staff member feel uncomfortable. Even in venues that offer adult entertainment or sexualised performance, no staff member should be expected to put up with unwanted sexual advances or harassment from patrons or other members of staff.
- Staff should monitor patrons they believe may be the target of, or vulnerable to an instance of sexual harassment or assault, and actively monitor or check their well-being. Patrons who are intoxicated, or are disorientated, are under the influence of drugs or other substances or appear to be being targeted require an immediate response from staff.
- Gender safety audit (as referenced in this chapter) and staff to monitor areas i.e. toilets and backstage, for improvement in the venue and process for reporting to management.
- Management is required to provide appropriate and relevant orientation to new staff and where possible sub-contractors.
- Management is required to provide appropriate and relevant professional development ie. Training opportunities for all staff.
All staff should be required to:
- Understand and adhere to the venue’s policies for identifying and responding to instances of sexual harassment and assault at all times;
- Take all reasonable steps to identify and respond appropriately to any instance of sexual harassment and assault experienced by or reported to them, or that they become aware of;
- Support other members of staff who need assistance in responding to an incident;
- Support other staff members who experience sexual harassment or assault;
- Recognise, and be respectful of the fact that not all persons who have experienced sexual harassment or assault will wish to be considered or referred to as a “victim”, but that this does not diminish the seriousness of an incident;
- Engage security and police where required;
- Ensure all details of an instance are recorded in the venue’s incident log;
- Ensure staff involved in identifying or responding to an incident feel supported; and
- Ensure police are engaged for all serious incidents.
If an incident is reported to a staff member, or they become aware of an incident or believe there is a likelihood of an incident occurring, all necessary steps must be taken to eject the perpetrator (and if necessary, their friends) from the venue. Wherever possible, the perpetrator’s identity must be sought and recorded in the incident log. Staff have a responsibility to respond to all incidents. Any response to an instance of sexual harassment and assault that displays any of the following behaviours is unacceptable.
- not responding immediately;
- being dismissive or downplaying the seriousness of an incident;
- blaming the victim for what has happened, or justifying the perpetrator’s behaviour;
- ejecting the victim from the venue;
- refusing to eject the perpetrator from the venue;
- doubting or disbelieving a victim or witness;
- not engaging security and police upon the victims request (or automatically in the case of a serious incident); and
- not recording details of the incident, or destroying records or video/audio footage of an incident.
Training & communication
- All staff should be trained in how to identify and respond appropriately to incidents of sexual harassment or assault.
- All staff should be familiar with, and have ready access to the venue’s policy on identifying and responding to incidents of sexual harassment and assault, as well as the venue’s code of conduct and other relevant policies.
- Staff should be made aware that they will not be disadvantaged for reporting or responding to an instance of sexual harassment or assault within the venue.
- It is important to communicate to patrons that they can approach staff if they are being harassed, that they will be believed, and that appropriate action will be taken.
- Communication strategy for staff and sub-contractors (where possible) to adhere to venue policy to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination.
- Active bystander training programs such as those delivered by CoHealth
- The Know the Line program delivered in partnership between the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- Hospitality industry-based staff training, resources and marketing material aimed at addressing sexual harassment in licensed venues such as Respect is the Rule
- Victoria Police’s Sexual Assault: Never Your Fault campaign
- Live Performance Australia’s Code of Practice to Prevent Workplace Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Bullying
CASA House Sexual Assault Crisis Service
The Victorian CASA Forum is the peak body of the 15 Centres Against Sexual Assault, and the Victorian Sexual Assault Crisis Line (after hours). They work to ensure that women, children and men who are victim/survivors of sexual assault have access to comprehensive and timely support and intervention to address their needs.
1800 806 292
CASA Forum: casahouse.com.au
1800 737 732
LGBT Counselling Service
1800 184 527
1800 729 367
MensLine Australia is a professional telephone and online support and information service for Australian men.
1300 78 99 78
Support Act Limited
Wellbeing and First Nations Support Line – 1800 959 500
Good Night Out
Good Night Out is a campaign led by Hollaback! in the UK. The Good Night Out campaign provides training to venue staff on responding to sexual harassment in venues.
LISTEN exists to spark and cultivate a conversation from a feminist perspective around the experiences of marginalised people in Australian music.
Access All Areas
Bystander training: accessallareas.org.au
Women’s Health Victoria
Women’s Health Victoria are committed to improving the social, emotional and physical health and wellbeing of women.
(03) 9664 9300