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2 Overview of Listening Tour findings: Listening Tour Report

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Listening Tour Report A report of the Listening Tour consultations in


2 Overview of Listening Tour findings

The Listening Tour had three key themes, identified by the Sex Discrimination
Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick ("the Commissioner") before the Tour as likely to
guide her work towards achieving gender equality in Australia. These were:

  • Economic independence for women;
  • Work and family balance across the life cycle; and
  • Freedom from discrimination, harassment and violence.

The three key themes resonated strongly with women and men in the Australian
community. Overall, participants in the Listening Tour supported the continuing need
for a national gender equality agenda, to achieve full and equal participation of women
in all spheres of life. This report contains the stories, opinions and ideas of
participants about how Australia can achieve full, and lasting, gender equality.

The aim of this report is not to provide a close analysis of what participants said,
but to provide an accurate and respectful account of the contributions made during the
Listening Tour.

2.1 The themes of the Listening Tour were
reflected back to the Commissioner as central to the daily experience of gender

The stories told during the Listening Tour provide qualitative support to the
quantitative research evidence around the three themes. These stories give a powerful
human dimension to the statistics on women's status in Australia; the struggle of men
and women to balance paid work with unpaid caring work; and the ongoing problem of
violence, discrimination and harassment against women.

Women reported on the barriers to their career progression and workforce
participation, providing individual narratives to explain the under-representation of
women in senior leadership positions. Many older women shared their anxieties of
poverty in their later years, consistent with the statistic that half of women aged
45-60 have $8000 or less in retirement savings. 1

Men and women expressed their difficulties in sharing work and family
responsibilities, and their disappointment at the lack of a legislated paid leave
scheme for parents. Men reported on the pressure that they felt to be the primary
breadwinner within families and the long working hours that prevented them from sharing
time and caring work with their partners, children and other family

Consistent with HREOC's research showing that 41 per cent of women
experience sexual harassment and 28 per cent of women experience it in the
workplace,2 many personal experiences of sexual harassment were
shared, along with concerns that making a complaint would result in "career death".
Stories about the impact of long term violence on a woman's ability to fully
participate in the paid workforce were told, adding a personal dimension to statistics
estimating the cost of domestic violence to business as $500 million per year.

2.2 The themes of the Listening Tour represent
a set of interconnected and interdependent issues that cannot be considered in
isolation from each other

A key finding of the Listening Tour is the interconnectedness of each of the three
themes. For example, pay inequity is a contributing factor to the gender gap in women's
retirement savings. Pay inequity also influences decisions within families on how paid
work and caring responsibilities are shared. The movement of women in and out of the
paid workforce due to caring responsibilities is another factor contributing to the
gender gap in retirement savings.

Structural barriers in the workplace prevent women from balancing their paid work
and caring responsibilities, reducing their workforce participation and their economic
independence. The same structural and cultural barriers prevent men from taking up a
greater share of caring responsibilities. Violence, discrimination and harassment also
impact on women's ability to engage in paid work, affecting their economic

The interconnected nature of these issues means that examining and addressing one
issue in isolation will not deliver the systemic change required to achieve full gender
equality. Each issue needs to be considered in the context of its causal and connecting

2.3 Stark differences amongst women, based on
race, disability, age, sexuality and socio-economic status, mean that a gender equality
agenda must take into account disparate groups of women.

It is important to note that although there were shared experiences amongst women
who participated in the Listening Tour, there were also stark differences based on the
intersection of gender with race, disability, age, sexuality and socio-economic status.
For example, for Indigenous women in remote communities, the issues of primary concern
were basic living conditions such as the ability to live safely, and access to housing,
education or employment and health care.

For women in low paid industries, particularly those in female dominated sectors,
better pay and basic workplace conditions such as tea breaks and access to toilets were
highlighted as chief concerns. For refugee women, access to education and employment
without the fear of racial discrimination was most important along with the need for
social acceptance of cultural difference.

For women with disabilities, the ability to live safely and have autonomy over one's
life decisions was noted as a critical issue, alongside the ability to access education
and employment.

An effective gender equality agenda must recognise and illuminate the particular
disadvantage faced by different groups of women, just as it is must address the shared
experiences of women as a whole.

2.4 Attitudinal change is a central means of
achieving long term gender equality

A number of policy and project ideas were provided to the Commissioner to advance
gender equality under the three key themes. Of them, the need for education to change
attitudes and build skills was the most commonly reiterated. For example, education on
salary negotiation was proposed in order to close the gender pay gap and increase
women's economic independence. Educating the community on the value of unpaid work and
educating employers and employees on effective flexible work practices were offered as
suggestions to overcome the paid and unpaid work conflict. Participants also suggested
that sexual harassment could be countered through education on its impact and cost.

Underlying these suggestions was a clear message from the community that gender
inequality is a pervasive and deep rooted phenomenon that will not be successfully
addressed without significant attitudinal change.

2.5 Listening Tour framework

The Listening Tour commenced in November 2007 and included consultations across
every State and Territory of Australia before concluding in April 2008.

The aims of the Listening Tour were to test the validity of the proposed themes and
to gauge whether there were other major issues that needed to be considered as part of
the Commissioner's agenda and future work plan. An additional aim was to gather
qualitative information about current issues and possible future action.

The objectives of the Listening Tour were to:

  • confirm the Commissioner's priority issues as set out in the themes;
  • highlight new issues and possible future action to feed into the Commissioner's
    strategic planning process;
  • connect widely and build strong relationships with key stakeholders;
  • build public momentum on the issues and on the role of the Commissioner and the
    Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in addressing them;
  • build the Commissioner's profile across diverse groups in the community,
    including those who may be marginalised in public debates to ensure a heightened role
    for these groups in the Commission's gender equality work;
  • gather stories and case studies for media and other public work to improve public
    understanding of gender equality in practice; and
  • build a virtual community around the issues of gender equality to strengthen
    collaboration and communication between disparate groups and individuals.

The guiding principles of the Listening Tour were participation, inclusion and
diversity. For this reason, there was a specific focus on reaching marginalised groups
including women with disabilities, Indigenous women, culturally and linguistically
diverse women, women of diverse sexualities and workers from low paid occupations and
industries. The Tour included visits to metropolitan, regional and remote

2.6 Liste ning Tour methodology

To meet the Listening Tour objectives a variety of consultation tools were

2.6.1 Open community consultations

These events were held in partnership with local agencies and advertised widely
through email lists, websites and paper mail outs. The format of each consultation was
to highlight the issues for each theme using statistics, show a video narrative of a
personal story relating to the theme and then open up to participants to share their
experiences and ideas. There was also time given for participants to raise other issues
and put their idea forward on what the Commissioner should prioritise in her term.

2.6.2 Women's and men's focus groups

These focus groups were targeted to specific industries to meet the Listening Tour
objectives. The focus groups were structured with targeted questions designed to draw
out personal experiences, opinions and ideas related to the themes.

2.6.3 Service provider and community group meetings

The aim of these meetings was to seek community feedback on the three themes with
specific reference to disadvantaged and marginalised views. Meetings were also held
with specialist service providers to gain knowledge of particular issues raised in
community consultations and focus groups.

2.6.4 Meeting with Ministers, Members of Parliament and government agencies

Meetings with Ministers, Members of Parliament and government agencies were held to
brief the Commissioner on current government initiatives and planned initiatives
relating to the themes of the Listening Tour. Opportunities for further collaboration
were also discussed at these meetings.

2.6.5 Academic roundtables

The academic roundtables were designed to inform the Commissioner of any emerging
research and policy issues relating to the Listening Tour themes. The roundtables were
also a forum to discuss how HREOC could work collaboratively with researchers. It
should be noted that the research included in the report is not an exhaustive
literature review, but a summary of the research that was presented to the Commissioner
during the Listening Tour.

2.6.6 Business roundtables

Employers were invited to provide feedback on the three themes through structured
roundtables. At the roundtables, each theme was introduced and a video was shown to
illustrate the issues. Then participants were invited to share their experiences and
ideas for addressing the issues.

2.6.7 Interactive website with blog

The website was designed to allow members of the public to contribute to the
Listening Tour themes online. The website contained information about the Tour, a blog,
case studies and regular diary entries from the Commissioner outlining her findings and
raising new issues as the Tour progressed.

2.6.8 Communications and media

To meet the objective of raising the Commissioner's profile and building public
momentum for the Listening Tour themes, a communications and media strategy was
developed to support the physical Tour. This included opinion pieces in relevant
newspapers and interviews with a diverse range of national and local media

2.7 Listening Tour events

As part of the Listening Tour, 90 events were held between November 2007 and April
2008 with an estimated total of 1000 participants. In addition, 128 people contributed
to the Listening Tour through the blog, and 39,612 viewers read the Commissioner's
Listening Tour diary from its establishment in November until the end of April, with a
total of 66,826 hits.

The Commissioner and staff visited each state and territory, as follows:

Date Location
26 Nov - 30 Nov South Australia
03 Dec - 07 Dec New South Wales
11 Dec - 14 Dec Tasmania
21 Jan - 25 Jan Victoria
28 Jan - 01 Feb ACT
17 Mar - 21 Mar Western Australia
25 Mar - 28 Mar Northern Territory
21 Apr - 24 Apr Queensland

2.8 Bibliography

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, '20 Years On: The Challenges
Continue, Sexual Harassment in the Australian Workplace' (2004)

Kelly S, 'Entering Retirement: the Financial Aspects' (Paper presented at the
Communicating the Gendered Impact of Economic Policies: The Case of Women's Retirement
Incomes, Perth, 12-13 December 2006)

VicHealth, 'The health costs of violence: Measuring the burden of disease caused by
intimate partner violence' (2004)


[1]S Kelly, 'Entering Retirement: the Financial Aspects'
(Paper presented at the Communicating the Gendered Impact of Economic Policies: The
Case of Women's Retirement Incomes, Perth, 12-13 December 2006)

[2]Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, '20 Years
On: The Challenges Continue, Sexual Harassment in the Australian Workplace'

[3]VicHealth, 'The health costs of violence: Measuring the
burden of disease caused by intimate partner violence' (2004)