Taking Action Against Sexism And Sexual Harassment

24 September 2019

The Andrews Labor Government is helping reduce sexism and sexual harassment by supporting a pilot program that teaches bystanders how to step in and take action against offensive behaviour.

Minister for Women Gabrielle Williams today launched a new toolkit on bystander interventions, which offers a ‘ladder’ of responses that escalate according to behaviour.

The pilot program currently being held in two universities will be extended into workplaces, thanks to $145,000 from the Labor Government.

The innovative project is the result of a two-year research partnership between the Labor Government, VicHealth, the Behavioural Insights Team, University of Melbourne and Victoria University.

The project focused on identifying ways to encourage bystanders who witness sexism and sexual harassment to step in and take action.

Organisations are increasingly interested in encouraging bystander interventions, but there are currently few evidence-based resources available to support them.

VicHealth and the Behavioural Insights Team along with the University of Melbourne and Victoria University developed intervention options and tested them with students and staff this year.

Research before interventions found 90 per cent of respondents thought it was right to take action after witnessing sexism or sexual harassment – but only 32-39 per cent actually took action.

However, bystander intervention increased by 10 per cent in the group that received intervention education.

These methods are outlined in the new toolkit now available for universities and Victorian organisations – Take action: Empowering bystanders to act on sexist and sexually harassing behaviours.

The Take Action resource outlines four steps that organisations can take to teach staff about how successfully intervene and provides evidence-based guidance for each step. It is available at

Quotes attributable to Minister for Women Gabrielle Williams

“Too many women experience sexual harassment – whether it’s at university, on a train or at work. It’s not okay, and this toolkit will help people step in and stop it.”

“Bystander intervention is a critical part of changing community attitudes and preventing sexism and sexual harassment – we’re giving more Victorians the skills to do that.”

Quote attributable to VicHealth Executive Manager of Programs Kirstan Corben

“We want people to be active bystanders – call out that colleague who makes sexist jokes, talk to your manager if women are treated unfairly in your workplace and challenge players who use sexist sledging on the sports field.”

Reviewed 19 August 2020

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