Taking a stand against harassment in the creative industries

In the last 18 months, the Australian creative industries have been rising to the task of making their workplaces safe from harassment and bullying, and ensuring that the consequences of contravening their codes – current and new ones – would be dire.

In the last 12 months, the creative sector has worked with great energy to deal with the issue, however, problems still remain. As Claire Spencer, CEO of Arts Centre Melbourne has said, “We’re not in a regular corporate office environment. If you have people working on a stage, if they are in that creative environment, it presents a different set of challenges than what you get in a corporate environment. In addition, the music and arts sectors work with freelancers and contractors on a project-by-project basis, all with their own work cultures, and have to warn them contraventions of their codes will instantly cancel contracts.”
Coming up in a few weeks is the Industry Code of Practice from Live Performance Australia, the Melbourne-based national body that covers all aspects of live performance. A draft code for members to provide feedback on covered the legal obligations of employers, initiatives to keep the workplace safe, and how to resolve issues when they arise. Already other associations like Theatre Network Australia indicate they will adopt LPA’s code as their own.
While #metoo and celebrity court cases created the impetus for change, warning bells had started clanging before. Curtin University issued a report where half tolerated sexual harassment as “normal” and none reported their experiences to authorities. Associations say some women are still not sure what harassment constitutes, are fearful of reprisals, and reluctant to play the victims. Education and support systems remain a key focus to tackle the problem. For some, the conversation has also extended to ensuring the needs of those in the LGBTQ+, disability and First Nation sectors.
Here’s a recap of what recent advances offer. Creative Victoria’s Respectful Workplaces initiative brought together a group of sector partners to address the issues and advice on what policies and support systems needed change.  Creative Victoria also launched a pilot project with the Centres Against Sexual Assault and the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing to stamp out sexual harassment at music venues.
Arts Centre Melbourne and major performing arts companies as the Australian Ballet, Opera Australia and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, took an official stand against sexual harassment. Arts Centre Melbourne also has the Wellbeing Collective to improve mental health support services for arts workers.
The Confederation of Australian State Theatres is working on new policies after a Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance survey of 1124 people working in theatre found 40% experienced sexual harassment and 14% sexually assaulted. Games Developers Association of Australia is working on such initiatives as the Girl Geek Academy to entice more females into the industry. Respectful Workplaces includes a list of online resources for individuals and organisations at.vic.gov.au/Respectful-Workplaces.