Union and producers say enough is enough when it comes to theatre industry sexual harassment

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) has issued a press release (reproduced in full below) a few hours after news of the revelations of allegations against actor Craig McLachlan in 2014 during the Gordon Frost Organisation’s production of The Rocky Horror Show.

Its statement says it is working with “state theatre companies” to “work collaboratively towards solutions. The outcomes of this work will potentially be a template for the entire live theatre sector, including independent and musical theatre.”

Today’s revelations in Fairfax Media and the ABC that GFO lawyers had threatened to sue the women who made the claims about McLachlan might suggest that the MEAA needs to widen the input into its planned template.

However, Live Performance Australia (LPA) which represents all live performance producers including GFO, has also issued a statement today saying it has been developing “new guidelines for the live performance industry to underpin a robust, industry-wide set of policies to prevent discrimination, harassment and bullying, and for procedures to deal with allegations of inappropriate conduct, harassment or bullying”. (See full statement below).

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Protecting theatre workers from sexual harassment

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) – the union for performers and other theatre workers – expects that 2018 will prove to be a watershed year for the treatment of sexual harassment and bullying in live theatre.

A new collaborative approach proposed by MEAA and adopted by state theatre companies shortly before Christmas could pave the way for more effective policies to deal with sexual harassment, assault and bullying across the entire live theatre sector, says the director of MEAA’s Equity section, Zoe Angus.

Early this year, a national forum will be held involving MEAA, major state theatre companies, and freelance artists to drive real change and lasting solutions in live theatre.

Ms Angus said a goal of the forum will be an agreed set of policies and procedures to deal with allegations of sexual harassment, assault and bullying.

The collaboration with theatre companies follows a survey by MEAA of 1124 people working in theatre which found 40% had experienced sexual harassment and 14% had been sexually assaulted.

But 53% of victims and said they had never reported sexual harassment, criminal misconduct or bullying for reasons ranging from worries about professional repercussions, a belief that they did not think anything could be done, fears that reporting would worsen the situation, or hope that it would resolve itself.

And 47% of those who did make a report felt the situation was not handled well and in some cases, it even got worse.

“Fear of reprisals or that making a complaint will damage their careers has in the past discouraged victims from formally complaining about sexual harassment or bullying,” she said.

“In other cases, performers have not been made aware of how to make a complaint, or complaints have resulted in no action.

“The state theatre companies have acknowledged these problems and we welcome their acceptance of our offer to work collaboratively towards solutions.

“The outcomes of this work will potentially be a template for the entire live theatre sector, including independent and musical theatre.”

The full survey of theatre workers’ experiences of sexual harassment, assault and bullying is available on the MEAA website.

STATEMENT FROM LIVE PERFORMANCE AUSTRALIA 

“As the peak employer body for live performance in Australia, LPA strongly supports safe and respectful workplaces for everyone, without exception.

“Workplaces should be non-threatening, respectful, safe and free from all forms of harassment. All employees have the right not to be sexually harassed or discriminated against in the workplace. That is the law. No excuses.

“LPA has been developing new guides for the live performance industry to underpin a robust, industry-wide set of policies to prevent discrimination, harassment and bullying, and for procedures to deal with allegations of inappropriate conduct, harassment or bullying.

“Many LPA members already have policies and protocols in place. However, there is an important role for LPA in providing our members with template policy and procedure guides and supporting the capability of all industry participants to meet their legal obligations as employers.

“We will work closely with the MEAA to address these serious issues and to drive cultural change across our industry.”

 Erika Heynatz and Crag McLachlan in The Rocky Horror Show

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