Outgoing Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins: “We are on the precipice of change”
Kate Jenkins became the nation’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner in 2016. Her purpose is to advance gender equality and the rights of LGBTIQ+ communities, consistent with the Sex Discrimination Act and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
Kate led the Commission’s collaborative projects on cultural reform with the Australian Defence Force, Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force. Kate’s other projects included: Change the Course: national survey sexual harassment and sexual assault at Australian universities (2017); Change the Routine: Review of Gymnastics in Australia (2021); and Set the Standard: Independent Review of Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces (2021).
Prior to joining the Commission, Kate spent three years as the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner, 20 years as lead equal opportunity partner with Herbert Smith Freehills and many years serving on the boards of Berry Street Victoria, Heide Museum of Modern Art and Carlton Football Club.
During her tenure as Sex Discrimination Commissioner, the world saw the rise of the #MeToo movement and then, Australia had its own moment of reckoning.
Kate Jenkins’s investigations unveiled just how widespread sexual harassment was across the country’s workplaces and how Federal Parliament had developed a toxic culture of bullying and harassment. Her 2020 Respect@Work report was one of her defining achievements.
The Bill gave new regulatory powers to the AHRC to oversee the requirement that employers take steps to prevent all forms of harassment at work.
“It changes our settings from being reactive to also being proactive, so that employers are required to take meaningful action to prevent harassment from occurring…It shifts the emphasis from a complaints-based model to one where employers must take action, and continuously assess and evaluate whether they are meeting the requirements of the duty.”
Kate’s seven-year term in the role as Commissioner is at an end. Sarah Ferguson from ABC spoke with Kate Jenkins just days before she finishes up in the role.
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