Vic courts sexual harassment review called

Helen Szoke will review practices to prevent sexual harassment in the Victorian legal system.
Helen Szoke will review practices to prevent sexual harassment in the Victorian legal system.

Cultural change is needed to stamp out sexual harassment in Victoria's legal profession, a top barrister says.

Harassment in Victorian courts will be examined in an inquiry announced by the state government on Monday, after accusations were levelled at former High Court justice Dyson Heydon.

Former Victorian human rights commissioner Helen Szoke will lead the review, initiated jointly by Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and the Courts Council.

Dr Szoke is also a member of the Judicial Commission of Victoria, a former Oxfam Australia chief executive and former race discrimination commissioner for the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The review has the support of the legal profession.

A survey last year found one in three people in the profession had experienced sexual harassment in their careers.

Victorian Bar President Wendy Harris QC said robust measures were needed to prevent harassment and to support victims and witnesses who speak out against it.

"It is very clear from evidence across the legal profession that we need to take steps to strengthen the culture and change practices within the profession so that sexual harassment is called out," she said.

Sam Pandya, who heads Victoria's Law Institute, said they were committed to working with the profession to stamp out sexual harassment.

Training to encourage cultural change and proactive engagement was part of that, he said.

"Every member of our profession has an active role to play in creating and sustaining workplaces and cultures that are respectful, inclusive and do not tolerate sexual harassment," he said.

Separately, the state government will also review policies and practices of law firms that provide services to government.

The investigations come after allegations against Mr Heydon in June.

An independent investigation commissioned by the High Court found six former judge's associates were harassed by Mr Heydon when he worked at the court.

He denies the allegations.

Australian Associated Press