How Tasmanian Women in Agriculture is taking on harassment and bullying in rural workplaces

Women-in-agriculture

Tasmanian Women in Agriculture outgoing chair Belinda Hazell with Tasmania's Primary Industries Minister Guy Barnett and incoming chair Mandy Cooper (L to R).

When a 2018 national survey found that 93% of women working in agriculture have been sexually harassed in some form, a number of initiatives were launched to do something about it.

Now, Rural Business Tasmania (RBT) and Tasmanian Women in Agriculture (TWiA) have issued a response, this week officially launching a series of practical guidance tools specifically focused on rural workplaces in order to help prevent, respond and reduce sexual harassment and other forms of bullying harming rural workers.

The Tasmanian initiative also follows 2019 research by TWiA that found three-in-four respondents in their state have been sexually harassed in some form.

It raised concerns about a culture of male dominance and isolation in Australia’s rural sector, which can increase risks of harassment and bullying, particularly for women.

Supported by a Tasmanian government grant, TWiA and RBT have just released their first videos, offering support for those seeking guidance on calling out bad behaviours, under the slogan ‘Respect, Manners, Decency: Nuff Said’.

The freely available videos and posters feature animations of animal characters, designed to help reflect the rural workplaces they’re targeting.

Rural Business Tasmania chief Elizabeth Skirving said harassment and bullying are not getting enough attention in agriculture.

“It’s something that’s been underlying and there’s probably an acceptance of that behaviour,” she said.

Elizabeth also noted how workplace sexual harassment has significant health, employment and financial impacts on individuals, workplaces and the broader economy.

She quoted figures from the Australia Sexual Harassment Inquiry, stating it’s costing the Australian economy $3.8 billion.

Tasmania’s Primary Industries Minister Guy Barnett officially launched the initiative, noting health and safety at work is a key priority of the Tasmanian government.

“Sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace is never OK, especially for those in rural locations where support may not be easily accessible,” he said in his statement.

“Staying safe and well is everyone’s responsibility, and the more we can do to educate rural employers and workers, the better it is for them and the community as a whole.

“This campaign will ensure employers and workers are better informed about what sexual harassment, bullying, and harassment actions are, and how they should be treated and managed, particularly in relation to their work health and safety responsibilities.”

This year, Tasmanian Women in Agriculture has launched a number of initiatives to support women locally during the pandemic, including a #BuySomethingTasmanian campaign, along with a series of Paddock Talks, featuring interviews with women and online learning initiatives, as well as continued participation in advocacy work in government.

Belinda Hazell is stepping down as chair of TWiA after four years at the helm, with Mandy Cooper set to take over.

This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.

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