Attitudes changing on harassment, says expert

The reporting of, and investigation into alleged sexual harassment by an AFL club official is symptomatic of a "long-awaited correction that is occurring" within the Australian sport industry and wider world, according to the nation's peak advocacy body for women's sport.

Yesterday the AFL confirmed that "a club had reported a complaint under the respect and responsibility policy, which they want investigated. It involves an allegation of sexual harassment.

"The AFL notes that the person has strongly denied the allegation and welcomes an investigation into the complaint and will fully cooperate," the rest of the AFL statement read.

The club of the alleged perpetrator has not been disclosed, nor has it been revealed whether the incident was reported to police. The AFL would not comment further on the allegation. That news comes after last week's revelation that an AFL staffer was forced to resign following a "string of sexual harassment complaints" from women at league headquarters.

In October Richmond player Nathan Broad was suspended for the first three games of 2018 for sharing a photo of a topless woman without her consent. Police dropped an investigation into his conduct. In July, AFL executives Richard Simkiss and Simon Lethlean resigned over workplace relationships.

Women in Sport board member Louise Evans told Fairfax Media that these incidents being reported, and dealt with, was early evidence of a "correction" in the sporting industry towards sexual harassment and misconduct.

"The reason women are able to report it [alleged sexual misconduct or harassment] now is because Australian sport is experiencing a women's sport revolution and all the major sports want to get onto the bandwagon," Evans said. "In a saturated market like Australian sport, women's sport is a new frontier. To get the best talent on and off the field you have to clean up your backyard and have a safe, respectful working environment for women.

"I've been around sport long enough to know that it probably won't ever be totally eradicated, but there is certainly a major, long-awaited correction that is going on. I think we are only at the tip," Evans said.

"Everybody knows - I worked in sport as a reporter starting in 1986 - that it's incredibly different now for young women in sports.

"The sports know they have a lot of work to do to continue to clean up their backyard and they know in the past, sexual harassment has occurred that's been under-reported and people in positions of power have turned a blind eye."

This story Attitudes changing on harassment, says expert first appeared on The Age.