Fiona Cameron. 

Screen Australia is currently developing a code of conduct on sexual harassment and has plans for it to be linked to funding, chief operating officer Fiona Cameron has announced.

Speaking at the Safer Workplace Strategies forum today in Sydney, Cameron said Screen Australia’s board had asked the agency to develop the code and that it would obligate those applying for production support to take a proactive stance on the issue of sexual harassment in the wake of recent allegations within the screen industry.

The COO explained that it was likely that if breached, government funding would be denied into the future.

“I envisage a code that sets out zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace; that identifies a suitably qualified and experienced sexual harassment contact officer; that clearly spells out what constitutes sexual harassment; that sets out the employer and employee’s rights and responsibilities; that is readily available to all employees; that is talked about on and off the set; that is published on and off the set, and that requires a formal report back.

“This does not have to be an onerous process; in fact it can’t be an onerous process. It has to be easily read. It has to be easily understood and it has to be easily put into practice. If not, it’s nothing other than a ticking the box exercise,” said Cameron.

“And this is not an arse-covering exercise for Screen Australia or for the sector. It’s too important. It has to be a genuine process of education information and changed behaviour. And the sting in the tail, if the code is breached, the government should have the right to refuse further support: no further funding.

“We’re developing this code now and we hope it can have a wider application. Hopefully an industry code will replace the need for this government code, but we won’t wait. The industry can’t afford us to wait. Our reputation and continued support from government is potentially one allegation away from being struck down. It is that important.”

Cameron also used her speech to make a call for more women in management roles in the sector, in particular, lead creative commissioning and distribution roles.

“Only when there is better female representation in senior roles will anything change.”

She posited that a culture that has protected and revered alpha males “whose actions are beyond reproach, beyond repudiation” is the overriding reason for inequality in the workplace.

“From people in the know, this is how it has been forever. People in the know doubt that it can ever change. People in the know must be the ones to call it out every time.

“The behaviour you tolerate is the behaviour you consolidate; it’s time to consolidate a new culture. We’re not asking for much – a culture of mutual respect. The world won’t change unless we change it. And to me, it feels like we have a once in a generation opportunity to do just that.”

At the same forum, Screen Producers Australia business and legal affairs director Mark Donaldson stated during a panel session that SPA is currently in the early stages of drafting with the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) workplace policies on sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying for industry.

The Safer Workplace Strategies forum was conducted today by WIFT NSW to address the issue of sexual harassment in the industry, as well as individual safety and workplace rights. The event was put on in conjunction with a range of industry bodies including Screen Australia, Create NSW, Screen Tasmania, Screen Canberra, Foxtel, ABC, Screen Producers Australia (SPA), MEAA, the Australian Writers’ Guild (AWG), the Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS), the Screen Editors Guild, AFTRS, AACTA, the Screen Diversity and Inclusion Network (SDIN), and Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia.

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