A General Guide for Responding to Homophobic Harassment
If you or someone you know has been subject to homophobic harassment, or if you have witnessed an incident of homophobic harassment, you CAN do something about it. Harassment is a community issue that affects everyone. Whether you are gay, lesbian, trans, bisexual or straight and whether you are receiving or witnessing harassment we encourage you to Take Action and stop the harm.
One’s physical safety is of utmost importance. If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions you need to act now and always put safety first.
If you are a victim of the harassment remove yourself from the situation where the physical danger or threat is occurring (if possible) and call the police – 000 in an emergency.
If you are a witness to an act of physical aggression, or a friend of someone who has suffered physical aggression report the incident to the police.
If the threat of physical attack is not immediate but you feel it could happen at any moment then you should contact your local police station. They will be able to help you make the necessary arrangements to reduce the risk of physical attack occurring.
If you answered ‘no’ to all of the above questions keep reading for further support.
Please note: Sometimes the person who has the most power to change a situation is the person causing the harassment. If this is the case we suggest you look at approaching someone who has a higher status (if possible) to this person, or to someone that may be sympathetic to the situation. Some companies provide anonymous complaint hot lines which may be appropriate in certain circumstances.
Before contemplating bringing legal action in any court or tribunal you should carefully consider what other options you may have to resolve the dispute. Legal proceedings are not always the most effective or the quickest way of resolving any dispute. You should first consider seeking legal advice that will take into account your particular circumstances. For more information about the law visit Get Informed.
If the situation does not resolve – it is time to consider making a formal complaint or taking legal action. Read more about this below.
Below is a flow chart of avenues for formal complaints and legal action.
In addition to the dispute resolution service, VEOHRC can also provide general confidential information on discrimination and your rights under Victorian law, and how to make a complaint.
If you think you have experienced homophobic harassment, or believe you have been otherwise discriminated against or victimised, you should contact the VEOHRC for further information about the law and the complaints process.
You should try to bring a dispute to the VEOHRC as soon as you can. Generally the sooner a complaint is lodged the easier it is to try and resolve.
What is the VEOHRC dispute resolution process?
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission provides an impartial, fast, flexible, and free dispute resolution process to help people resolve discrimination complaints and complaints of sexual harassment, and racial and religious vilification.
Through its dispute resolution services, the VEOHRC can help parties:
Complaints can be made in any language and the VEOHRC can arrange a free interpreter in your language or a sign language interpreter, if required. They can also help you complete your complaint form if you require assistance.
Complaints to the VEOHRC are resolved through a process known as conciliation. This is where the people involved in a dispute talk through the issues with the help of the VEOHRC, and with the aim of reaching an agreement on how the dispute will be resolved.
The aim of conciliation is for the complainant and respondent to reach an agreement about resolving the complaint. The VEOHRC does not have the power to make orders or award compensation. Many complaints are resolved at conciliation and outcomes may include:
Taking legal action under the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act
If your complaint is unable to be resolved through mediation at the VEOHRC, you are able to bring a legal action at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (“VCAT”) .
Before contemplating bringing legal action in any court or tribunal you should carefully consider what other options you may have to resolve the dispute. Legal proceedings are not always the most effective or the quickest way of resolving any dispute.
VCAT is a tribunal for dispute resolution designed to be accessible to people who are not legally represented.
VCAT hearings are generally less formal than court hearings. Legal or other representations at a VCAT hearing are generally not required, parties to a VCAT hearing usually represent themselves. However, any party can be represented by a lawyer or advocate. If, for example, VCAT gives permission and all parties agree, or one party is represented. VCAT also offers free interpreter services for hearings.
After you make an application, VCAT may require you participate in a number of procedures including attending a directions hearing, mediation or a compulsory conference prior to a hearing, with the aim of settling the dispute. Alternatively, the application may proceed directly to a hearing. At a hearing, you and the alleged wrongdoer can call or give evidence, ask questions of witnesses and make submissions. VCAT delivers its decision either at the end of the hearing or as soon as possible after that.
If VCAT decides that you have been discriminated or victimised, it can order the other person to stop further unlawful acts, pay compensation or do certain things to redress the loss or damage.
If you remain unable to resolve your complaint, then you may initiate legal action against your employer under the federal workplace laws . There are particular legal requirements you may have to meet before commencing legal action. You should consider these carefully, and seek legal advice or assistance before proceeding with this course of action.
Before contemplating bringing legal action in any court or tribunal you should carefully consider what other options you may have to resolve the dispute. Legal proceedings are not always the most effective or the quickest way of resolving any dispute. You should first consider seeking legal advice that will take into account your particular circumstances.
When you make a complaint to WorkSafe Victoria, an advisor will assess whether the alleged behaviour towards you creates a health and safety risk. The advisor will usually ask you a range of questions (such as specific details of bullying incidents, whether you have spoken up at work about bullying, and the impact of it on your health). The advisor may also request you put the complaint in writing and if the advisor believes further action is required, they may refer the case to a WorkSafe inspector.
The WorkSafe inspector will investigate the case and may visit your workplace to speak with your employer and colleagues to assess whether and how your workplace deals with bullying. The inspector may issue an improvement notice to your employer if they believe your workplace’s measures are inadequate to address bullying. The inspector visit will usually resolve bullying concerns.
However, the inspector may investigate the case further where:
The investigation may lead WorkSafe to commence legal action (prosecution) against your employer for their offence under occupational health and safety laws.
The Victorian Police takes prejudice motivated crime seriously and encourages reporting of such crimes for a safer community.
If you are a victim of prejudice motivated crime, report to your nearest police station.
If you have witnessed prejudice motivated crime, report to Crime Stoppers confidentially with any information that you can provide.
Please note: Not all incidents of harassment are the same. Therefore, whether some of the options or recommendations above are applicable depends on the given situation. That is OK. This information is being provided to give you an understanding of the different options and services available, as well as to provide you with a best general guidance for taking action. This information is not a substitute for legal advice. For more information about sourcing legal advice, please see Find Support.