A new government taskforce will be convened to address the sexual harassment and assault of women inside Victoria’s licensed venues, following on from yesterday’s meeting of the state’s Live Music Roundtable.
Minister for Justice and Brunswick MP, Jane Garrett, has actioned the new squadron, the brainchild of music advocacy groups SLAM (Save Live Australia’s Music) and LISTEN, to implement new policies combatting what she calls a “significant problem”.
“Incidents of sexual assault and harassment of women in licensed venues and at music festivals is a significant problem and one which needs to be addressed promptly,” the Minister said in a statement, quoted by SLAM on their official Facebook page. “Particularly in order to create safe spaces for women in licensed venues”.
SLAM have branded the development a big win, with co-founder Helen Marcou telling Music Feeds: “It’s really good news and a very good outcome to have the Minister’s support, and hopefully we’ll get some really good policy happening.”
Marcou says she was inspired to take action after hearing about more and more instances of women being harassed and assaulted, sometimes even violently, at live music events in Victoria. “I was just shocked at the frequency of it,” she said. “And then when we delved a little bit further we found that it was an ongoing thing – a lot of unreported cases.”
One such policy she listed as one of the taskforce’s goals was simply to establish a clear set of sexual harassment protocols inside venues. “So that people know where to report if something happens – who do you go to, do you talk to security or bar staff?” she explained.
“Or having an awareness campaign in venues where we have good practice signs saying ‘We will not tolerate sexual harassment in this venue’. Also having good training of security staff, because there’s a big gap in training we find with security staff across the board.”
“The other idea is to provide an anonymous reporting mechanism, maybe for an app that LISTEN are working on, and to give people choices as to how they do report it because it’s different for everyone,” she continued.
Jane Garrett has also recommended that the state’s Best Practice Guidelines For Live Music Venues be reviewed, to incorporate a new chapter that addresses the problem of harassment.
Although the newly green-lit taskforce has yet to be fully formed, Marcou says it will feature the top thinkers from a number of key organisations.
“It was convened by the Minister so it’ll come through the Department of Justice, so that brings in the executive of liquor licensing, and we also have support from the police,” she explained. “There’ll also be people invited in the taskforce who can provide the hard stats, and Creative Victoria will be involved… because they have a duty of care to performers.”
“We’ve already started work on the details and guidelines,” she continued. “We’re also in the process of having it peer-reviewed – a lot of women’s groups and organisations and music industry stakeholders will look over the policy so it’s got really, really good peer review and input”
“We want to action this straight away, this is the time to act on it.”
And even though, at the moment, the policy revamp is only a Victorian initiative, Marcou believes it will have a national impact. “Because what will happen, for example, is the South Australian Best Practice Guide will be influenced by what we do in Victoria… and the City of Sydney are referring back to the policy work as well.”
“Ideally we’ll roll it out across the whole country.”