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NOW Australia, Tracey Spicer’s answer to #MeToo, folds

NOW Australia, the organisation set up in 2018 in a bid to assist victims of workplace sexual harassment and indecent assault, is shutting down.

Veteran journalist Tracey Spicer – who worked on the investigations into Australian media personalities Don Burke and Craig McLachlan – spearheaded the initiative with the backing of stars of stage and screen.

The time is now, Spicer said in 2018

At the time of the investigations, it was understood Spicer would be at the forefront of regularly exposing serial predators within Australia’s media sector. There were, she said in 2018, “plenty of Bill Cosbys in the Australian media and entertainment industry”.

NOW undertook crowdfunding in 2018 with the aim of then connecting survivors of workplace sexual harassment and indecent assault with counselling and legal support. The organisation said it would fund research and education programs, and develop solutions for the future alongside government, business, statutory authorities and the community, legal and health sectors.

At the Radio Alive conference in 2018, Spicer noted Australia’s restrictive defamation laws, combined with the country’s drift towards conservatism and the lack of actual behaviour change, meant the appetite for #MeToo-type exposés was drying up.

Spicer then stepped away from the group after rising tensions, citing vicarious trauma. The organisation also attracted criticism and scrutiny for not achieving what it set out to.

Spicer stepped away from NOW Australia over a year ago 

In closing down this month, NOW Australia said it did not take the decision lightly, but noted “we now find ourselves facing unprecedented times” which put its financial viability under pressure.

“The national funding landscape has changed dramatically. COVID-19 continues to impact individuals, families and businesses across the country. This has created an extremely precarious landscape and as a result, we have chosen to adapt a conservative approach. We have taken the difficult, but fiscally responsible decision to close down.”

Remaining funds, it said, are being shared with the YWCA and Justice Connect to support the Gateway Project.

Despite the closure, NOW Australia stressed that there was more work to be done.

“To the survivors out there – we hear you, we believe you and we acknowledge the impact of your experience. Please know that the fight for workplaces free of sexual harassment continues,” the statement said.

“It is vital that we change the attitudes, behaviours, social norms, structures and practices that lead to sexual harassment in the workplace,” it added. “Important conversations have been had and consensus is building amongst survivors, experts and service providers, both counselling and legal, about how we can tackle this wicked problem. We have seen the momentum. We share the passion. We will continue to work towards change. We are proud to have been a small and active part of these conversations.”

It also noted its achievements throughout its short existence, including a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC) National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, its involvement in the Power to Prevent campaign and Fair Agenda’s Election Scorecard, and its support of Gender Equality Victoria in creating the bystander resource.

Spicer declined to comment due to her extended absence from the organisation.

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