Disgraced TV personality Don Burke is facing multiple accusations of varying degrees of sexual misconduct from groping to lude jokes. Among them are allegations of Burke making sexual comments, such as Susie O’Neill’s account of him asking of a flower painting in her home, “Is your c*** as big as that?”
The comment left the former Olympian “flabbergasted” and she complained. Channel Nine took no meaningful action against Burke, something O’Neill considers was an “injustice” as the 2000s incident has “stayed” with her to this day.
By her account, O'Neill did all she could to see that Burke face serious consequences and yet his denial was enough to quash her complaint. This got us wondering if there were any legal avenues for women such as O'Neill to go after men who make sexual comments. In other words, in the eyes of the law, what language constitutes as sexual harassment?
The Sex Discrimination Act is clear.
In Australia, offences of sexual harassment are legislated under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (last updated in July 2016) - specifically Part 2, Division 3.
Under section 28A, the meaning of sexual harassment is defined as a person making an "unwelcome sexual advance, an unwelcome request for sexual favours or engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the person harassed". It also states this applies in circumstances where a "reasonable person" could anticipate that the other person may be "offended, humiliated or intimidated".
The Act clarifies that sexual harassment is unlawful when the behaviour is committed at, among other places, somewhere considered a workplace, between two "workplace participants".