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speaker

Skye
Saunders

Australia's Leading Expert in Sexual Harassment in Rural Communities

Profile

Dr Skye Saunders is an Associate Professor in the School of Law at the University of New England and is a recognised expert in the field of sex discrimination law.

Current Work:
Skye also has a background as a sex discrimination lawyer and continues to consult as special counsel on sex discrimination matters for various law firms.

She is an Honorary Associate Professor at the Australian National University College of Law (where she was formerly the Head of the School of Legal Practice), is the Deputy Chair of the ACT Ministerial Advisory Council for Women and twice served as the Vice President of YWCA Canberra.

Skye has been researching, presenting and consulting on issues of workplace sexual harassment for more than a decade. Her work 'Whispers from the Bush- The Workplace Sexual Harassment of Australian Rural Women' (2015, Federation Press) was the first Australian research to explore the complex issue of sexual harassment in rural and remote workplaces.

In 2017 the Victorian Women's Trust produced a short documentary film called Grace Under Fire which is based on Skye's research on sexual harassment in rural workplaces.

In 2018, 2019 and 2020, Skye was selected to attend the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York with the YWCA Australia delegation. Skye was also recently awarded the Chancellor’s Distinguished Young Alumni Award (University of Canberra).

Expertise
Talking Points

From Whispers to Song

This foundation keynote focuses on changing the pitch of sexual harassment culture in Australian rural workplaces.

When Skye’s pioneering research uncovered a ‘cultural epidemic’ of sexual harassment in Australia’s rural workplaces, it shone a light on an uncomfortable reality.

Not content to simply be a conversation starter, Skye set about offering a solution.

Strike A Chord is that solution. In this keynote, discover a framework for achieving lasting and meaningful unity in workplaces by giving voice to and creating awareness among three key groups: men, women and employers.

‘Strike A Chord’ refers to the creation of a harmonious ‘chord’ through the alignment of three congruent tones. This harmony occurs when each group plays to its truest strength in the workplace.
Underpinning ‘Strike A Chord’ is a philosophy of encouragement, empathy and tapping into the inherent strengths of each individual in the workplace to play their unique role in effecting cultural change. Each stakeholder group will be equipped with fresh insights, perspectives and tools to disrupt unhealthy patterns of engagement.

Key Takeaways
What is- and is not- regarded as sexual harassment under Australian law;
- How a culture of sexual harassment can become ‘stuck’ over time;
- How common it is for a culture of sexual harassment to develop in Australian workplaces;
- The hidden perspectives which influence the attitudes of men, women and employers who work in a culture that normalizes sexual harassment;
- Why sexual harassment harms individuals in each stakeholder group- and how;
- What individuals in all three stakeholder groups need in order to play a powerful role in shaping a refreshed, thriving workplace culture;
- Practical tools and action plans for each respective stakeholder group;
- The benefits to be had when all three stakeholder groups play their part to ‘Strike A Chord’!

In Confidence

Sex discrimination laws in Australia are not always easy to understand or follow - but it’s critical for the protection of all employers that they take the time to do both.

That’s why this session is essential for any employer or senior manager with a duty of care to their employees.

Against the #MeToo backdrop of increasing public awareness around sexual harassment, Skye will break down the meaning of the law including the practical steps that all employers must take to prevent liability for workplace sexual harassment. She will delve into strategies for more confidently conducting conversations about sexual harassment and why this is critical for a thriving business.

As a starting point, Skye will explain the definition of legal sexual harassment with reference to recent case law that should be understood by all those in senior leadership positions. Using a dynamic combination of story, film and media, she will demonstrate ways that sexual harassment impacts the wellbeing, performance and interpersonal relationships of workplace individuals. She will also present a clear overview of the risk to employers of not taking practical steps to prevent and deal with the behaviour, including paying significant amounts in damages.

Building upwards from the basics, the session will explore what a workplace leader should do if they witness sexual harassment taking place in the workplace or if a sexual harassment complaint is received.

Key Takeaways:
- What workplace sexual harassment is- and is not- at law;
- Why sexual harassment damages individuals- and businesses;
- What is practically required of all employers to prevent sexual harassment;
- What the implications are for employers if these practical steps are not taken;
- How to confidently respond to sexual harassment complaints, including the conduct of ‘uncomfortable’ conversations;
- Why workplace culture will thrive if all practical steps to eliminate sexual harassment are taken.

True Champions

In this deeply moving keynote, Skye invites men to be agents for positive change in A culture of sex discrimination. With her trademark non-judgmental and warm approach, she helps them understand why gender equality is vital and opens eyes in unexpected ways.
The words ‘sexual harassment’ are suddenly popping up everywhere we turn- in our daily news feed, on social media, on television and increasingly, in conversation. All of this message saturation can be overwhelming and confronting, perhaps making us less interested in the issue. We might worry about situations that we have played a part in previously. We might simply turn our thoughts to other matters when we hear the issue of sexual harassment raised. At the end of the day, surely it’s one of those things that can be someone else’s worry- particularly when we already have enough on our plate?
The thing about sexual harassment, though, is that it has a tendency to sneak into our cultural experience at work without us even noticing. Over time, we can develop a tolerance for the behaviour. When this happens, little by little, the standard of behaviour that we consider to be acceptable at work can become less than healthy and respectful. We become immune to its impact. We might notice that our workmates are sailing a bit too close to the wind with their own behaviour, but we find ourselves laughing it off even if we sense that it might have left another co-worker feeling uncomfortable. When this happens, deep down we can feel some level of disappointment in ourselves- but we try shake it off because ‘it’s just the way that things are done around here’.
Against the backdrop of these hidden fears, worries and feelings, Skye is the voice of calm clarity. In this talk, and with her trademark warmth and empathy, she shows how men can more consciously play a role in building a healthy workplace.
Drawing on the inherent strengths of men, she shows how they can shape the way that ‘mateship’ in Australia can work to build thriving, positive culture.
First, Skye will draw on her expertise to unpack what sexual harassment is- and what it is not- under Australian law. She will guide her audience to consider ‘the line’ which separates acceptable behaviour from behaviour that might be sexual harassment. Using film to provide vibrant examples, she explores why it is that ‘the line’ can be different for different people and why it is so important to keep this in mind.
With sensitivity and perception, Skye then taps into the hidden power of words and gestures- and ultimately, the power of kindness. In doing so, she creates a platform for considering the impact that sexual harassment has on individuals when words and gestures are of a sexual nature in the workplace. Drawing on more than 107 interviews which she has conducted with rural employees and employers all around the country, Skye shares stories about the impact of sexual harassment on ordinary Australians and, in doing so, appeals to both hearts and minds.

In a powerful conclusion, Skye then makes a clarion call to her audience. She invites her audience to consider the role of mates in looking out for one another and holding one another to account. In the same way that mates will hang onto the car keys to protect each other from the implications of drink driving, they can play an important role in making sure that each other’s words and gestures make a positive impact in the lives around them. Ultimately, Skye champions the strength of spirit that is a trademark of top Aussie men as a commodity that cannot be under-estimated in the context of developing a thriving workplace community.

Key Takeaways
- What workplace sexual harassment is- and is not- at law;
- The real impact that sexual harassment can have on people’s hearts, minds, spirits- and pockets;
- Why it is easy for sexual harassment to become ‘normal’- even when we don’t intend it to be;
- Why it’s the perfect time for us to ‘draw a line’ and set new standards for the way that we engage as men and women;
- The powerful role that ‘top blokes’ can play in setting and upholding positive, new standards;
- A set of tools and strategies for responding ‘informally’ to any sexual harassment that is witnessed- including strategies for ‘mates helping mates’;
- A call to action for strong, courageous champions on the ground.

Empowered

This is a powerful keynote for all women and girls in the workplace. It will instil a clear understanding of workplace rights and fresh new confidence to expect high standards of behaviour.

Sometimes sexual harassment has a tendency to sneak into our cultural experience without us even noticing. A tolerance for the behaviour can quickly develop. When this happens, little by little, the standard of behaviour that we accept can be less than healthy and respectful. We don’t always pause to challenge the behaviour because we think we might be creating ‘a storm in a teacup’. The irony is, however, that when we turn a blind eye we are effectively giving tacit condonement to that behaviour and allowing it to become a part of the cultural experience for everyone in the workplace. Sexual harassment has a tendency to become incrementally worse over time- so we need to be courageous in setting our standards today.

The good news is that momentum is gathering as women all around the globe challenge workplace sexual harassment workplace and other forms of discrimination. Whilst this momentum is positive, it can also be overwhelming. It can feel as though we are caught in a swirling tornado of law, newspaper articles, social media commentary the voices of our loved ones as we think about how we should respond if we experience or observe sexual harassment. Skye is the voice of calm in that storm. In this talk, and with her trademark warmth and empathy, she shows how women can confidently rise to their truest strengths in response to sexual harassment.

As a starting point, Skye walks her audience through a careful comparison of what sexual harassment is- and what it is not. She also explains the level of safety from sexual harassment that all women in the workplace can expect at law.

With sensitivity and perception, Skye provides an insight into the complex drivers of sexual harassment. These insights then become a clear platform for considering the array of possible responses to the behaviour.

With reference to the drivers of sexual harassment and drawing on illustrative film and stories, Skye canvasses a range of practical, informal strategies for responding if we experience or witness sexual harassment.

She then goes to on explain the formal strategies that are available to women for responding to the same. Various pros and cons of the respective strategies will be considered- including resources such as time, energy, interpersonal dynamics and money.

After exploring the informal and formal options available to women, Skye highlights the unique roles of ‘comfort’ and ‘courage’ as women play a critical role in changing aspects of sexual harassment culture for this generation and for those in years to come.

Key Takeaways:
- What workplace sexual harassment is- and is not- at law;
- What standard of behaviour the law states that all employees are entitled to;
- What the drivers of sexual harassment are known to be;
- A set of tools and strategies for responding ‘informally’ to any sexual harassment that is experienced or witnessed and the pros and cons of an informal approach;
- A set of tools and strategies for responding ‘formally’ to any sexual harassment that is experienced or witnessed and the pros and cons of this formal approach;
- Why responding to sexual harassment has the power to change culture for all sorts of people;
- The roles of comfort and courage in changing culture.

Workshop for Young Women and Girls

Skye has rich experience in facilitating tailor-made workshops designed to inspire, encourage and empower young women and girls from year 7- year 12. Skye will specially design a workshop to suit your needs. Please get in touch with Saxton to arrange a discussion with Skye.

Workshop for Young Men and Boys

Skye has rich experience in facilitating tailor-made workshops designed to inspire, encourage and empower young people from year 7- year 12. Skye will specially design a workshop to suit your needs. Please get in touch with Saxton to arrange a discussion with Skye.
Feedback
Skye is an incredible speaker, who presents with warmth, intellect and compassion. She navigates difficult issues with tremendous tact and passion - I can’t recommend her highly enough Country to Canberra

The warmth and passion Skye emanates makes her suitable for a diverse range of public appearances and media interactions.

Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association

Skye speaks truth and reality which stops you in your tracks, inspiring all people with dignity and respect.

National Country Women's Association
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