Sexism in the judiciary
By Kerry Vernon
BRISBANE — Remarks by a federal Industrial Court judge on April 13 that "It is not unknown for a woman to sleep her way to the top", have drawn outrage and criticism from a wide range of women and women's groups. The remarks were made during an appeal against the reinstatement of former James Cook University drama lecturer Dr Brian Chambers, sacked last year for sexual harassment.
The NSW Bar Association has came out in support of Justice Spender. On April 18 its president, Murray Tobias, was quoted in the Courier-Mail as saying that sexism was not a problem in the judiciary, as evidenced by comparatively few examples picked up in the media.
However, since 1993 a number of complaints have been made against sexist comments by judges in sexual violence cases. Magistrate Pat O'Shane commented that some judges are "women haters" after Victorian Judge John Bland said women who said "no" to sexual advances often meant "yes".
North Queensland Federated Clerks secretary Jimmy O'Donnell said he was aware of 49 complaints of sexual harassment made to James Cook University in the past three years. His union had dealt with a number of complaints, but many women did not think it worthwhile pursuing them. "The system seems unable to police itself. Some women are afraid, and some just see the futility of pursuing their complaints."