It’s been over two-and-a-half years since the launch of NOW, a not-for-profit, non-partisan organisation for people across all industries who have been sexually harassed in the workplace.
Since March 2018 the organisation first lead by journalist Tracey Spicer AM has been involved in the Power to Prevent Campaign, Fair Agenda’s Election Scorecard, and the Australian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC) National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, which published its fourth batch of submissions in July.
However, an article published by Buzzfeed News over the weekend unpacked NOW’s initiatives and focus since its launch and claimed it made promises it couldn’t keep.
NOW Australia’s Board has responded to the article with a statement which details its movements from launch until now.
The organisation addressed Buzzfeed‘s report which said NOW promised a triage service for survivors and is yet to provide one.
“In these early days, we came to the view that we couldn’t, shouldn’t and wouldn’t be taking disclosures as an organisation given we did not have the necessary scale, expertise or resources,” reads the statement.
“While we signposted this on our website from mid-2018 (and in the Chair’s report at our November 2018 AGM), we have rightly been criticised for failing to communicate this sufficiently.”
NOW has said it is working with Justice Connect on a funding proposal to develop an Online Sexual Harassment Tool for help-seekers. It would offer “plain language practical legal information on sexual harassment and, where appropriate, connect them to legal assistance.”
NOW said it has created a three-year strategic plan, which has been built on consultation feedback – including with the 80 key stakeholders and experts it engaged in the women’s services and legal sectors – and on the guidelines within its AHRC submission.
“We have listened and learned,” NOW said.
“There is an enormous opportunity ahead of us to create change. We are in this for the long haul,” NOW said. “We hope that our collaborators and all Australians can build trust with us and that we can work together to end sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.”
Read NOW Australia’s statement in full:
NOW Australia was launched as an organisation in March 2018 in response to #MeToo and inspired by the boldness of Time’s Up.
Our launch campaign was based on the concept of creating a triage service.
It quickly became clear that we did not have adequate resources nor enough legal or counselling expertise to support survivors in a trauma-informed way. Post-launch feedback pointed out that existing services were already stretched and, rather than start a new service, we needed to focus on supporting base-line funding for those already doing the work.
In these early days, we came to the view that we couldn’t, shouldn’t and wouldn’t be taking disclosures as an organisation given we did not have the necessary scale, expertise or resources. While we signposted this on our website from mid-2018 (and in the Chair’s report at our November 2018 AGM), we have rightly been criticised for failing to communicate this sufficiently.
As a Board and an organisation, we acknowledge the disappointment in the survivor community. We know that disclosure is a highly personal process that deserves time, care, honour and meaningful action if requested.
We apologise unreservedly for any confusion or hurt caused.
Over the past 18 months, we have worked hard to understand and learn from our early errors and missteps.
From mid-2018, Kristine Ziwica, our part-time Interim Executive Director, consulted with more than 80 key stakeholders and experts in the women’s services and legal sectors. We thank them for their generosity in sharing their knowledge and experience. The unanimous feedback was for us to focus on advocacy and support via other means including ensuring people experiencing sexual harassment can access legal assistance.
This year, based on that feedback, the NOW Australia board has worked hard to ensure that the money entrusted to us has been used to correctly scope our way forward. Beyond the mandatory operational costs such as insurance and tax, we have focused on building on the foundational work of Kristine Ziwica. This included hiring our current part-time Executive Director, Dr Genevieve Burnett.
We are proud of our achievements so far:
● A comprehensive submission to the Australian Human Rights Comission’s (AHRC)
National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
● Our involvement in the Power to Prevent Campaign
● Our involvement in Fair Agenda’s Election Scorecard
● Our support of Gender Equality Victoria in their creation of an excellent bystander
resource to combat sexism and online harassment.
We are currently working with Justice Connect on a funding proposal to develop an Online Sexual Harassment Tool that will guide help-seekers through a user friendly process so they can find plain language practical legal information on sexual harassment and, where appropriate, connect them to legal assistance.
It is always important for activist and feminist movements to reflect on both successes and failures. We acknowledge and pay respect to the many people who have worked hard and continue to work hard for gender equality and to eliminate violence against women. They have done so with minimal resources and insufficient recognition. We both appreciate and applaud their efforts. We are committed to working with them to achieve meaningful change.
We have listened and learned. We have created a solid three year strategic plan building on the recommendations and guidelines within our AHRC submission and incorporating the feedback from our wide consultations.
Our three pronged advocacy and collaboration focus is on:
- Better prevention
- Stronger regulation
- More effective support.
Shortly, the Australian Human Rights Commission will release the results of its world first national inquiry into sexual harassment. As a result of the inquiry, important conversations have been had and consensus is building amongst survivors, experts and service providers, both counselling and legal, about how we can tackle this wicked problem.
We look forward to working with them, many of whom have carried this work long before NOW’s existence, to little fanfare, to make those recommendations a reality.
There is an enormous opportunity ahead of us to create change. We are in this for the long haul.
We hope that our collaborators and all Australians can build trust with us and that we can work together to end sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.