Continued reports of sexual harassment, assault and bullying at work; steps towards change

Wed 07 Aug 2019

Media has continued to highlight ongoing reports of sexual harassment and assault and bullying in workplaces, sporting organisations, universities ...

Media has continued to highlight ongoing reports of sexual harassment and assault and bullying in workplaces, sporting organisations, universities and other organisations around the country.

These are summarised below, followed by steps being taken towards change.

Ongoing reports

Statistics New Zealand released the results of the Survey of working life conducted in 2018, which asked employed people about their work arrangements, employment conditions, and satisfaction with their job and work-life balance. 14% of women and 9% of men said they had experienced discrimination, harassment, or bullying at work during the previous year. Results are available by ethnicity, age group, occupation group and more.

In February 2019, Stuff reported that hundreds of women, and some men, have come forward over the last year to share their stories through the #metoo investigation:

"We found evidence to suggest sexual harassment is endemic in a wide range of industries in New Zealand, in companies of every size. We identified recurring themes in these stories, shared experiences that happened over and over again."

This followed Journalist Alison Mau launching the #metoo investigation into cases of sexual harassment and assault in Aotearoa New Zealand in February 2018, following Newsroom's story about allegations of sexual assault and harassment at law firm Russell McVeagh.

As more women have come forward and media has continued to report people's stories, some organisations have also publically disclosed issues within their workplaces and communities including how they are responding.

Government departments and organisations

The New Zealand Defence Force issued an apology to former naval officer Hayley Browne along with a confidential compensation payment. The apology was issued by Attorney General David Parker on behalf of the Defence Force for not providing a safe work environment after she said she was raped by a British naval employee while on deployment with the Defence Force, and was sexually harassed.

Radio NZ reported statistics from NZ Defence Force (NZDF) showing an increase in reporting of sexual violence since the launch of Operation RESPECT. The majority of reports were made by women. The statistics were included in an update on Operation RESPECT, released to Radio NZ under an Official Information Act request. Operation RESPECT was launched in 2016 to address harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour in the NZDF. Two men also spoke out about sexual violence they experienced at Burnham Military Camp by other men in 1970s. NZDF is piloting bystander training in 2019.

A Police officer was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting another Police officer. The officer has been stood down and is expected to go to trial in early 2020. NZ Police also issued a statement they were conducting an employment investigation into behaviour of off-duty Police officers on the same night, but would not confirm if this was related to the sexual assault charge.

Media reported statistics on the number of staff complaints of harassment including sexual harassment at the Department of Corrections. In 2018, Corrections launched a programme to address sexual harassment, staff training and an 0800 number for staff. 

These events followed complaints of workplace bullying by now Deputy Commissioner of Police Wally Haumaha in 2016. An investigation by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) concluded that Haumaha's behaviour had been "inappropriate and unprofessional" and that he had acted "improperly." The State Services Commission (SSC) reviewed how the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Corrections handled the bullying complaints, found they did not meet standards and made recommendations for change.

Media outlet Stuff reported a lack of response to a senior social worker's reports of bullying and sexual harassment at Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children. After the story ran, more staff came forward to share their stories of workplace bullying at the Ministry.

Stuff reported the State Services Commission has been working to establish a new set of standards to address workplace bullying in government agencies.

Parliament and political parties

The Labour Party is reviewing an internal investigation into complaints made by several party members and officials about bullying, intimidation, sexual harassment and sexual assault by a Labour Party staff member. Their complaints were investigated in March 2019. After concerns were raised about the investigation being mishandled, the party is now reviewing its processes. Media reported several party members resigned over the investigation. 

Several recent reports and surveys have examined bullying and harassment in the Parliamentary workplace and political parties including:

  • The Speaker of the House of Representatives of New Zealand released the report of the independent review of bullying and harassment in the Parliamentary workplace. 
  • The National Party released health and safety recommendations following a review of their health and safety policy. 
  • The New Zealand chapter of the cross-party Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians surveyed female MPs about their experiences with sexism and sexual harassment. 

Sports organisations

High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) and Sport NZ set up an independent complaints service for people to raise concerns about bullying, harassment, inappropriate behaviour and athlete welfare in high performance sports. The service is an interim solution while a system wide permanent solution is developed for both high performance and community sport. More information is available about the service on the HPSNZ website.

A review of Cycling NZ found a culture of bullying, poor behaviour, lack of accountability and an inappropriate relationship. Following this, Stuff reported that High Performance Sport NZ has drawn up a coach-athlete relationship policy framework.

A review of NZ Football substantiated formal complaints of harassment and bullying by the Football Ferns coach, Andreas Heraf.

Sport NZ launched a review of integrity issues in sport in 2018. The review includes a number of areas including sexual harassment and protecting children from abuse. The review launched with a public consultation

Early 2019 also saw calls made for New Zealand Cricket to address concerns about sexism and sexual violence, following Scott Kuggeleijn playing for the Black Caps. New Zealand Cricket and Westpac Stadium were also criticised for removing banners promoting sexual consent during a game.


Stuff reported preliminary results from a study of 2700 students at New Zealand Universities about sexual violence, finding that 41% of women reported sexual assault, and 22% of men. 88% of reported perpetrators were men and 17% of reported perpetrators were women. The research is being carried out by an Otago University PhD student.

The University of Otago student magazine Critic Te Arohi reported stories of sexual harassment and rape at the residential hall Knox College between 2011 and 2017. The story highlighted that college leadership failed to take action despite the women's efforts to report the incidents. Since the story was published, more than 30 more people have come forward with similar reports. The Vice Chancellor of University of Otago called a hui for female Residential Assistants to talk about women's safety in residential colleges.

Media has previously highlighted that sexual assault and harassment is widespread among New Zealand university halls of residence.

Also in early 2019, former Massey University Associate Professor Grant Hannis was convicted of indecently assaulting an 82 year old woman with dementia. He was sentenced to eight months’ home detention, 100 hours of community work and $3000 in emotional-harm reparation. Advocacy group Grey Power called the sentence "shockingly inadequate." One of the reasons his sentence was reduced was "previous excellent character." Female students from Massey University reported they made complaints about intimidation, aggression and inappropriate jokes about sexual assault by Hannis, but the University did not take adequate action.

In 2018, two students at Victoria University came forward about their experiences of making formal complaints of sexual harassment by a tutor and the University's lack of action. At the time, a Victoria University lecturer said one of the issues was the lack of a clear pathway and policy to handle sexual harassment. The University has recently published a draft stand-alone Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy and associated procedures for consultation.

Also in 2018, the New Zealand University Students' Association (NZUSA) investigated allegations an employee sent multiple inappropriate photos to fellow employees working on a campus sexual violence prevention programme. The programme was funded through a contract with ACC, which was subsequently cancelled when the sexual harassment issues came to light.


A former TVNZ employee came forward about her experiences of sexual harassment and assault by a senior employee in 2010 and the lack of response after she reported the incident to human resources. TVNZ released a statement saying they were saddened to hear about the unacceptable behaviour, had a zero tolerance policy and asked others to come forward.

Journalist Alison Mau also spoke about experiences of sexual harassment and pay inequity.


The NZ Law Society is working through changes to their regulatory process for lawyers accused of inappropriate behaviour. The Deans of New Zealand's law schools have developed and agreed to best practice standards for a safe and appropriate culture and environment for law students employed in law firms.

Steps towards change

Internationally, a new international Convention was passed to eliminate violence and harassment at work at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva in June 2019. New Zealand Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff said,

"International agreements are vitally important in ensuring that working people are protected in their own country but also that international law exists which provides further protection. The next step is getting our own Government to ratify this Convention and checking the adequacy of our own national laws and policies to ensure working people are able to work free from violence and harassment."

Earlier in the negotiating process, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women released a Joint Statement with the Platform of women’s rights mechanisms on violence and harassment in the world of work, expressing concerns about the regressive positions expressed by some States.

In July, the Human Rights Commission released an updated guide with new information on making a complaint about sexual harassment. The guide provides information on: how the Commission's complaint process works, how an employer should deal with sexual harassment complaints, the mediation process for dealing with a complaint, the process if you've been accused of sexual harassment and where other support is available.

WorkSafe published a sexual harassment toolkit for workplaces.

In 2018, WorkSafe was criticised for not acting on sexual assault and harassment in the workplace and bullying.

Newsroom reported the Government will be reviewing the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and looking at how to improve the dispute resolution process.

Related resources

Researcher Garth Baker has written a summary article and detailed report about what the #MeToo movement asks of men and how men can effectively respond for the White Ribbon Campaign.

UN Women published Towards an end to sexual harassment: The urgency and nature of change in the era of #MeToo (2018). This is designed to support policy makers, employers, and activists by sharing UN Women’s work in this area and offering new guidance on policy and practice on sexual harassment. UN Women has also produced a Guidance note on campus violence prevention and response (2018) for universities and university administrators.

Research from the US, Measuring #MeToo: A National Study on Sexual Harassment and Assault (2019), found that 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime. By demographics, young women aged 18-24, Black women, and lesbian or bisexual women experienced the highest prevalence of sexual harassment in the last 6 months. The study found sexual harassment and assault cause people, especially women, to feel anxiety or depression and prompt them to change their route or regular routine. The study also found while sexual harassment and assault are highly prevalent, accusations are very rare. Only 2% of men and 1% of women said they had been told that they sexually harassed or assaulted someone, indicating significant under-reporting and few formal complaints.

More information

For background information and previous stories on workplace sexual harassment and assault see our previous news stories:

Sexual harassment and assault highlighted on International Women's Day, March 2018

Spotlight remains on legal profession's responses to harassment, abuse and assault, April 2018

Organisations and sectors remain in spotlight on workplace harassment and assault, June 2018

Report published on review into law firm handling of sexual harassment and assault, July 2018

Media continues to highlight workplace sexual harassment, more organisations respond, November 2018

Related media

The Rachel MacGregor Trust Welcomes High Court Damages Decision, Highlights Shortfall, Press Release: The Rachel MacGregor Trust, Scoop, 17.11.2021

Colin Craig ordered to pay $400,000 to press secretary he harassed, Stuff, 16.11.2021

Calls for independent investigation into abuse in New Zealand gymnastics, Stuff, 03.08.2020

Young Act sexual abuse allegations, Newsroom, 23.07.2020

Men and women behaving badly: Why won't MPs sign a code of conduct?, Stuff, 22.07.2020

New review finds a 'code of silence' among the problems dooming plan to eliminate sexual violence in our military, NZ Herald, 16.07.2020

NZDF failed to tackle 'code of silence' on sexual assault, harassment — report, Stuff, 16.07.2020

Woman sexually harassed in the Air Force starts new claim for compensation, RNZ, 01.07.2020

I complained to Labour of a sexual assault. Then I read about it in the news, The Spinoff, 05.12.2019

Labour Party camp scandal: No conviction for assault after sex charges dropped in plea deal, NZ Herald, 28.11.2019

Public service 'susceptible' to misuse of power for sexual gain - petitioner, Stuff, 11.11.2019

Police Commissioner announces independent review of how police address bullying, RNZ, 22.10.2019

Council action over accused doctors overturned by district court, NZ Herald, 13.10.2019

Auckland doctor accused of rape can still practice, Newstalk ZB, 13.10.2019

Where to for Me Too, conference asks, RNZ, 04.10.2019

Not easy to end Craig’s legal omnishambles, Newsroom, 04.10.2019

Police sanction officer for harassing female staff, RNZ, 03.10.2019

Law lecturer outs himself as subject of 'unjustified' harassment complaint, Stuff, 03.10.2019

The Mariya Taylor case: Air Force servicewoman's fight for justice after sexual assault by her superior, Stuff, 03.10.2019

Bay of Plenty policeman offered female colleague $20 for sex act, Bay of Plenty Times, 03.10.2019

University sex assault and bullying concerns prompt mandatory courses, funding for counsellor, Stuff, 29.09.2019

Mariya's battle: Will Court of Appeal grant compensation in NZDF sexual abuse case?, NZ Herald, 29.09.2019

Terms of Reference for CAA Review released, Beehive Press Release, 24.09.2019

Employment action taken against Oranga Tamariki residential staff after grievances upheld, Stuff, 24.09.2019

Mayor knew for months about councillor allegations, Stuff, 22.09.2019

Alison Mau: Rachel MacGregor's win is one for all workers, Stuff, 19.09.2019

Massey students call for action against sexual violence at the university, Stuff, 19.09.2019

Colin Craig sexually harassed Rachel MacGregor, High Court judge finds, Stuff, 19.09.2019

Ending Sexual Violence Together, Press Release: Te Ohaaki a Hine – National Network for Ending Sexual Violence Together (TOAH-NNEST), Scoop, 17.09.2019

Young women are receiving death and rape threats, so what are we doing about it?, Stuff, 25.08.2019

Universities moving 'far too slowly' in addressing sex attacks, student leader says, Stuff, 23.08.2019

Enough is enough. NZ universities need to reckon with rife sexual misconduct, The Spinoff, 22.08.2019

Massey University accused of mishandling allegations of a violent sexual assault, Stuff, 21.08.2019

Public servants deserve a safe working environment, Press Release: Public Service Association, Scoop, 21.08.2019

Defence Force experience shapes new public service harassment rules, Stuff, 20.08.2019

New rules aim to stamp out inappropriate workplace behaviour for public servants, Stuf, 19.08.2019

Alison Mau: Labour's sexual harassment blind spot needs fixing, Stuff, 18.08.2019

Under investigation: Top national sports coach probed by police after sex abuse allegations by teen girls, NZ Herald [premium], 15.08.2019

#MeToo: Sexual abuse and rape claims to ACC soar - 'It is sheeting home to every one of us', NZ Herald, [premium], 15.08.2019

Labour Party members allowed right to appeal investigation, RNZ, 12.08.2019

Civil Aviation Authority probe not sufficiently independent says industry group, NZ Herald, 12.08.2019

Navy rape survivor says Attorney General's apology long time coming, RNZ, 07.08.2019

Why a code of conduct may not be enough to change the boys' club culture in the Liberal Party, The Conversation, 06.08.2019

Five-year fight: Napier's Hayley Browne finally gets apology from Defence Force over sexual harassment, NZ Herald, 06.08.2019

#Metoo and the need for a lawyers' union, Stuff, 26.06.2019

Civil Aviation Authority had evidence to prosecute instructor who allegedly groped student mid-air, NZ Herald, 25.06.2019

Colin Craig defamation suit: 'Enough is enough', judge says, Stuff, 17.06.2019

'You don't belong here': A Muslim MP on racism in politics, Stuff, 13.06.2019

How big is the problem of sexual violence in New Zealand’s universities?, One News, 09.06.2019

NZ workplaces need to completely rethink their approach to sexual harassment, The Spinoff, 04.06.2019

University saying 'no' to sexual harm, Opinion: University of Otago Vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne, Otago Daily Times, 03.06.2019

After Haumaha and Maxwell, can bullying laws be fixed? Newsroom, 28.05.2019

Simon Bridges defends National Party workplace culture review, NZ Herald, 28.05.2019

The National Party's culture review fails to mention what prompted it, Newhubs, 28.05.2019

Swimming NZ faces Human Rights Tribunal over secret report, Stuff, 26.05.2019

Otago law students not ready to forgive Russell McVeagh, Stuff, 22.05.2019

Security escort for Green MP Golriz Ghahraman after death threats, Stuff, 21.05.2019

Workplace Relations Minister orders probe into bullying, Stuff, 21.05.2019

New lawyers union calls for change in the legal sector, Press Release: New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Scoop, 20.05.2019

Slut-shaming for women and protection for men: is this system fair?, Stuff, 12.05.2019 

Rape complainant will never forget shock of seeing the Facebook photo that triggered trial, Stuff, 11.05.2019

Russell McVeagh ties to law schools re-evaluated, Otago Daily Times, 03.05.2019

Leading New Zealand athletes get complaints service from HPSNZ, Stuff, 02.05.2019

Alison Mau: National's 'nothing to see here' routine says everything about bullying culture, Opinion, Stuff, 21.04.2019

'I know I'll never see justice': Man speaks out about being raped in the army showers, NZ Herald, 19.04.2019

Uni group taking a stand against sexual violence, Otago Daily Times, 18.04.2019

Name stays secret for police officer charged with indecently assaulting fellow cop, NZ Herald, 17.04.2019

Police officer on sex charges keeps name secret for now, Stuff, 17.04.2019

National Party may not have approached its women MPs in culture review - Simon Bridges, Radio NZ, 15.04.2019

Anonymous sexual harassment disclosure policy floated at Victoria, Stuff, 15.04.2019

Knox College sexual assault claims not dealt with years ago - students, Radio NZ, 15.04.2019

'Entitled' attitudes questioned, Otago Daily Times, 11.04.2019

College club ditches awards, Otago Daily Times, 10.04.2019

National Party refuses to say if women MPs were interviewed in culture review, Newshub, 09.04.2019

Ex-student opens up about toxic culture at Otago uni hostel, says she was raped, Radio NZ, 09.04.2019

Knox College says it is working to address complaints, Otago Daily Times, 06.04.2019

Wally Haumaha will not apologise over 'improper and unprofessional' behaviour, Stuff, 06.04.2019

Otago University students told to 'pay for bed linen' after rape report, Stuff, 31.03.2019

Waikato University gives students tools to prevent sexual violence, Radio NZ, 28.03.2019

Complaints of sexual harassment 'culture' at Otago student residence, Radio NZ, 27.03.2019

IPCA investigating alleged sex attack and inappropriate police behaviour claims, Stuff, 12.03.2019

Conversations Documentary Tells Untold Stories of Women, Press Release: NZME, Scoop, 07.03.2019

More TVNZ sexual misconduct allegations: Worker told to resign or be sacked after flashing at office party, Stuff, 07.03.2019

Balance for better this Women’s Day means inclusion, Press Release: National Council of Women, Scoop, 06.03.2019

Maggie Barry bullying claims: Staffers from three government departments raised concerns while she was minister, NZ Herald, 02.03.2019

Spring Hill prison managers 'hauled over coals' over bullying allegations, Stuff, 28.02.2019

WorkSafe under fire for not prosecuting bullying and harassment cases, Stuff, 13.02.2019

Motorsport driver accused of sexual connection with minor, NZ Herald, 11.02.2019

Workplace bullying inquiries long overdue?, Newsroom, 12.02.2019

Social worker alleges widespread bullying in Children's Ministry, One News, 09.02.2019

Justice's blindfold appears to have slipped in Grant Hannis' sexual assault case, The Listener, 31.01.2019

Mixed verdict in trial of rising motorsport star Faine Kahia, Stuff, 22.11.2018

Bullying, drinking and inappropriate relationships at Cycling NZ, Radio NZ, 15.10.2018

'Dangerous, antisocial and often unlawful behaviour', Radio NZ, 22.08.2018

WorkSafe fails to take a prosecution on a single bullying case, Radio NZ, 17.08.2018

Image: from Pexels

More news articles about CommunityGovernment