Whispers from the Bush: The Workplace Sexual Harassment of Australian Rural Women

Author(s): Skye Saunders

Non-Fiction

Australian women are enduring a cultural epidemic of workplace sexual harassment in remote and rural workplaces – the experience is rife, rampant and as hard to contain as any infectious disease. Whispers from the Bush – The Workplace Sexual Harassment of Australian Rural Women is the first book to focus upon the nature, pervasiveness and reporting of sexual harassment in rural Australian workplaces.


Drawing upon 107 interviews conducted with rurally located employees and employers about their experiences and observations of sexual harassment at work, it shines a light upon a phenomenon largely hidden or minimised by silence, distance and an atmosphere of ‘saturated masculinity’.


The book seeks to give voice to the ‘whispers from the bush’ by exploring themes such as: the impact of male dominance and mateship on the nature and prevalence of sexual harassment within the rural workplace; the complex survival behaviours adopted by many rural women in response to sexual harassment as it occurs – most surprisingly, extending to women blaming women; rural employee and employer attitudes towards the disclosure of sexual harassment; and the limited reach and effectiveness of laws against sexual harassment in rural Australia.


The book concludes by making practical recommendations for the commencement of national dialogue about sexual harassment in rural Australia, towards a cultural adoption of zero-tolerance.

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May Whispers From The Bush break the silence of rural women. May it empower and strengthen them to speak out and no longer put up with mistreatment. May it contribute to solidarity among our sisters in dusty, remote places. All of us who live or lived in these places – and have parts of our heart remaining there even when we have moved on - owe Dr. Saunders a debt of gratitude." – Melinda Tankard Reist, Advocate for Women and Girls

"I commend Dr. Saunders for giving voice to women in rural and regional areas whose lives have been harmed by sexual harassment. As the daughter of a farming family in rural Victoria who launched out into the world of journalism through my local newspaper, it is only fully now, decades later, that I look back and see the entrenched sexism that, being young and lacking the language to describe, I didn’t know how to deal with.

The senior editor’s hand on my leg in his car (taking me ‘under his wing’ as a work experience student), the ruler up my skirt (made to feel I’d asked for it and told to stay out of the ‘lay out’ room where the man worked, though I had to walk through it to get to the toilet), the sexually loaded jokes about my body, descriptions of sex acts I didn’t understand (especially when a male radio announcer friend dropped by), the male bonding over assessing the bodies of any woman passing through the building, the porny calendars on the walls of the print room, and so on.

My few female co-workers didn’t object. You were expected to joke along with the boys, not to be a pain or ‘hung up’. To be both young, unformed in feminist thinking and not knowing I had any rights, made speaking out almost impossible. As well, this was a community where the second class status of women was not named.

The indigenous woman married to a white man who turned up to work on the family property with a black eye most days, the wives of certain migrant workers never allowed to leave their homes, the mothers in my street struggling to raise their children with family income downed in a partner’s beers. One of the first pieces I wrote as a cadet journalist was about the opening of a women’s refuge in my town. These experiences were the seedlings of my later feminist activism.

So I welcome this book. When Dr. Saunders told me about it, my first thoughts were: at last.

May Whispers From The Bush break the silence of rural women. May it empower and strengthen them to speak out and no longer put up with mistreatment. May it contribute to solidarity among our sisters in dusty, remote places. All of us who live or lived in these places – and have parts of our heart remaining there even when we have moved on - owe Dr. Saunders a debt of gratitude." – Melinda Tankard Reist, Advocate for Women and Girls

Foreword by David Morrison, Former Chief of the Australian Army


Preface


Acknowledgments


About the Author


1. Reduced to Silence


2. Listening to the Distant Whispers


3. The Dramatic Backdrop of the Bush and Gendered Harm Within It


4. 'It’s All A Bit Different Out ‘Ere …': Special Characteristics of the Bush and Their Effect on Reporting Rates


5. 'When the Boys Come Out to Play …' Sexual Harassment and the Impact of Male-dominated Working Environments


6. 'So Help Me, God ...' A Comparison of (Un)Successfully Litigated Sexual Harassment Complaints from Rural and Urban Australia


7. 'Fit In or F#$@ Off!”: The (Non) Reporting of Sexual Harassment in Rural Workplaces


8. 'Just the Boys Havin’ Fun!' The Nature, Pervasiveness and Manifestations of Sexual Harassment in Rural Australia


9. 'Stripping Off the Layers …' Sexual Harassment 'Survival' Behaviours in Rural Australian Workplaces


10. 'A New "Coo-ee"'! - An Australian Bush Transformation


11. Conclusion: 'From Whispers from the Bush to Voices of Hope'


Bibliography


Appendix 1 - Interview Questions for Rural Employees


Appendix 2 - Interview Questions for Rural Employers Index

General Fields

  • : 9781760020385
  • : Federation Press
  • : Federation Press
  • : December 2015
  • : 1.3 Centimeters X 13.8 Centimeters X 20.8 Centimeters
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Paperback
  • : English
  • : 331.41330994
  • : 240
  • : Skye Saunders