I wasn’t intending to write this post. Not because I didn’t want to; I hadn’t thought about doing so. Like so many other people I watched Geoffrey Rush emerge from a defamations hearing against the Daily Telegraph. Like so many people I thought that’s over and done with – and moved onto the next thing in my life. That is until I read an article by Anne Marie Peard on ArtsHub. At that point it struck me also that the silence has been deafening.
In her article, Anne Marie is referring to the industry wide silence following the trial. I want to pick up on the theme from an organisational perspective. Everyone, especially women and others that are vulnerable due to their gender, sexuality, religious beliefs or culture, are entitled to come to work and to be safe at work.
While there is legislation to guide safe workplaces, this is not just a legal requirement, it is a moral imperative. Noone deserves to be unsafe at work. Those that feel unsafe at work deserve to have access to processes for reporting their experiences. Business owners and managers have an obligation to investigate, take remedial action and create a safe workplace.
As Anne Marie stated, the silence from the industry on this matter alone has been deafening. Where are the assurances from theatres, galleries and arts organisations that they are committed to creating safe workplaces? Where are the commitments that all employees, volunteers and contracted people will be safe, have access to whistleblower protection, will have their claims investigated in a professional manner and will not become victims, again, in the process?
It is not sufficient for employers to say ‘we thought we had a safe workplace’ because it is clear that many, if not every workplace is unsafe in one way or another. Employers must go beyond thinking they have a safe workplace; to knowing they have a safe workplace. The defamation case highlights a single fact. In our workplaces we must to extend our thinking in regards to workplace safety, beyond traditional workplace accidents, to include processes that ensure total safety; physical, emotional and wellbeing, of every employee, at all times.
Today a father, a daughter, a mother, a son or a friend will go to work in a gallery, a theatre, a studio or an arts organisation, and something will happen to someone, someplace. It may be a workplace injury, it may be racism, it may be sexual assault or it may be that they were made to feel less worthy than they are. This should not occur in the workplace. It should not occur outside of the workplace.
We cannot remain silent. We must learn from the past and the present to change the way we do things in the future. A tragic court case, where there are no winners, has raised an issue and as business operators, each of us has a responsibility to ask, are the people that work for us safe? If you are not sure there is help and resources available to you.
Written by John Coxon, publisher of art4u.australia. If your arts organisation would like to review its workplace safety compliance contact art4u