Subscribe to News
News  |  Social Affairs

Charities Call to Protect Volunteers Against Sexual Harassment

Monday, 26th November 2018 at 4:51 pm
Luke Michael
Charities are campaigning to fix gaps in Australian workplace laws that are leaving volunteers vulnerable to sexual harassment.

Monday, 26th November 2018
at 4:51 pm
Luke Michael



Charities Call to Protect Volunteers Against Sexual Harassment
Monday, 26th November 2018 at 4:51 pm

Charities are campaigning to fix gaps in Australian workplace laws that are leaving volunteers vulnerable to sexual harassment.

Justice Connect and Volunteering Australia are collating a joint submission to the National Inquiry into Workplace Sexual Harassment, calling to improve the legal protection for volunteers in the workplace.

While employees are given explicit protection from sexual harassment under equal opportunity laws in all states and territories and the Commonwealth, this is not the case for volunteers.

In some jurisdictions – like Western Australia, Northern Territory and the Commonwealth – there are no laws to handle sexual harassment of volunteers.

Mae Tanner, the manager of training at Not-for-profit Law, said in a post #metoo environment, Australia needed to do better at making sure everyone in the workplace felt safe.

She said volunteers and unpaid workers deserved the same legal protection as employees from sexual harassment in the workplace.

“Why should whether or not you earn a wage for your work determine whether you get protection from sexual harassment?” Tanner told Pro Bono News.

“Our state and federal governments need to make this a priority. The laws should be changed so that volunteers have full protection from sexual harassment, wherever they are volunteering.”

Advocates have warned that without a clear legal duty for workplaces to prevent the sexual harassment of volunteers, organisations had less impetus to implement policies and procedures to protect unpaid staff.

Volunteering Australia Policy Manager Lavanya Kala told Pro Bono News she wanted volunteers and other types of unpaid workers to be given full protection from sexual harassment in all Commonwealth and state and territory laws.

She said volunteers were currently vulnerable to sexual harassment as they did not know where to access help.  

“When they have an issue and want to find avenues for complaint, volunteers don’t really have clear and consistent mechanisms to turn to,” Kala said.

“This is problematic, and apart from undertaking workplace mediation or filing a police complaint, generally in these scenarios volunteers will leave their role and not volunteer again.”

Volunteering Australia is conducting a survey on volunteering and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Kala said this addressed in a gap in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s recent sexual harassment in the workplace survey – which did not identify volunteers as a clear group because they were not employees.

“This is an issue because volunteers do comprise such a large proportion of the workforce,” she said.

This made it very difficult to identify how many volunteers have actually experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, Kala added.

“Anecdotally, we are aware that this is happening, but we think it’s really important we conduct this survey and give volunteers the opportunity to have their voices heard,” she said.

The survey will close on Wednesday 12 December.

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

Got a story to share?

Got a news tip or article idea for Pro Bono News? Or perhaps you would like to write an article and join a growing community of sector leaders sharing their thoughts and analysis with Pro Bono News readers?

Get in touch at

Get more stories like this


Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


A fair and just go for all

Maggie Coggan

Monday, 18th November 2019 at 8:25 am

Legal NFP powerhouses unite for global impact

Maggie Coggan

Thursday, 14th November 2019 at 8:38 am

Dos and don’ts of including volunteer work on your resume

Maggie Coggan

Monday, 14th October 2019 at 8:11 am


How are Aussie charities helping in the bushfire crisis?

Luke Michael

Tuesday, 7th January 2020 at 3:21 pm

What impact will the bushfire crisis have on homelessness?

Luke Michael

Wednesday, 15th January 2020 at 4:28 pm

NDIS not yet in tune with the needs of participants

Luke Michael

Monday, 20th January 2020 at 4:46 pm

The rise (and scepticism) of Facebook fundraisers

Maggie Coggan

Thursday, 16th January 2020 at 8:49 am

Subscribe to News
pba inverse logo
Subscribe Twitter Facebook

Get the social sector's most essential news coverage. Delivered free to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

You have Successfully Subscribed!