Seminar explores barriers between women and justice in Australia's legal system in context of sexual harassment

NO HELP: Van Badham said people did not feel confident in the justice system to pursue justice. Picture: GLENN DANIELS
NO HELP: Van Badham said people did not feel confident in the justice system to pursue justice. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

A seminar held in Bendigo on Thursday evaluated the legal framework with which victims of sexual harassment could pursue justice.

Talking Justice, a forum created by the Loddon Campaspe Legal Centre, explored the battle fought by women to feel safe to share their stories of sexual harassment and abuse.

With the #MeToo campaign gaining momentum and more women coming forward to share their experiences, some have suggested that due process is not being properly extended to the accused.

This idea was explored by three guest speakers at Bendigo town hall.

GUESTS: Three guest speakers attended the seminar at Bendigo town hall. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

GUESTS: Three guest speakers attended the seminar at Bendigo town hall. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

One of which was writer, commentator and activist Van Badham, who detailed a number of situations where people she knew, or had heard of, did not feel confident in the justice system to pursue justice.

“There’s a very serious obstacle that stands between women and justice,” she said.

“I'm trying to get my head around the idea of why anyone would think that women would put themselves through the excruciating process of trying to seek justice in this country if they were trying to falsify their claim. 

“We have a justice system that doesn’t position women at the centre of the justice process.” 

Ms Badham said Australia had inherited a justice system that was inherently prejudiced against women, citing South Australian law which in 1995 finally introduced legislation outlawing rape within a marriage. 

QUESTIONS: John McPherson, Partner at Arnold, Dallas, McPherson, moderated the seminar. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

QUESTIONS: John McPherson, Partner at Arnold, Dallas, McPherson, moderated the seminar. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

Ms Badham said while the #MeToo movement had empowered women, and encouraged them to tell their stories, the legal system in Australia was still lagging behind.

“We are in a horrendous twilight in Australia between an awareness of the problem, its solution, and the murky world of injustice between them,” she said.

Ms Badham said women were  going to be trapped in a situation where they were actively discouraged from pursuing justice because of what has happened to them. 

“Until we can ask that question of women 'how can we make you feel safe', they will continue to feel trapped,” she said. 

The seminar also heard from Kate Wright, chief executive officer of Loddon Campaspe Centre Against Sexual Assault, and Moira Rayner, a self-employed workplace lawyer and investigator. John McPherson, Partner at Arnold, Dallas, McPherson, moderated the forum, which took questions from the floor.

Video – Talking justice