The number of sexual harassment complaints made to WA’s discrimination watchdog doubled in the past year.
Against the backdrop of the global #MeToo movement, which has put sexual harassment and abuse in the spotlight, WA’s Equal Opportunity Commission received 48 complaints in 2017-18, up from 24 the previous year.
Those complaints included one woman who alleged the owner of a deli, at which she was doing a work trial, asked her questions of a sexual nature, such as whether she had sex with her boyfriend and watched pornography.
It is the most sexual harassment complaints received by the commission since 2015-16.
Sexual harassment accounted for 10 per cent of complaints, behind impairment (27 per cent) and race (18 per cent). Across the board the number of complaints to the commission was up 10 per cent from 430 in 2016-17 to 472.
Acting Commissioner John Byrne said the increase in complaints on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation and race was likely the result of increased awareness of people’s rights.
“It is possible the #MeToo movement may have encouraged people to come forward with complaints about sexual harassment,” he said.
“The release of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s investigation into sexual harassment in Australia’s universities and the Equal Opportunity Commission’s subsequent community education and outreach work may also have impacted on community awareness around sexual harassment.
“Generally it is a good thing that people are coming forward to seek a remedy for acts of discrimination and harassment.
“The number of complaints is always the tip of the iceberg, as we know many incidents go unreported,”
Age-related complaints rose modestly, from 34 to 38, accounting for about 8 per cent of total complaints received.
They included an 82-year-old man whose supervisor referred to him as a “senile old c…”.
The man, who worked as a groundsman, ultimately received a written apology from his boss.
Details of the complaints were in the commission’s annual report table in Parliament.