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May 15, 2024

Adelaide hospitality industry rife with sexual harassment, says report

Sexual harassment is common in Adelaide’s hospitality industry and half of complaints made by staff to management were not acted upon, according to a new report.

  • Words: Isabella Kelly
  • Main picture: Unsplash

The report said Adelaide hospitality workers submitted 359 testimonies between August and December 2022, with nearly 50 per cent saying nothing was done by management after they reported the incidents.


This article discusses sexual assault.

If this story raises issues for you, call LifeLine on 13 11 14.


Not So Hospitable

Not So Hospitable was founded by Adelaide sexologist and researcher Jamie Bucirde in 2022, inviting hospitality workers in Adelaide to share confidential testimonies about their experiences of workplace harassment.

Testimonies were then used to inform the newly released Not So Hospitable: Sexual Harassment in the Adelaide Hospitality Industry report, in partnership with the University of Melbourne.

Some respondents reported experiencing “countless” incidents, with one saying “every female I know in hospitality has experienced sexual harassment”.

Nearly 90 per cent of victim-survivors identified as female, with 97 per cent of perpetrators reported as male.

Of the 302 testimonies who classified their experience, eight per cent involved a rape, 17 per cent involved unwanted touching, and 15 per cent involved unwanted sexual acts.

One respondent said she worked at a venue which had what she called “sexual assault Sundays”, where the more senior staff were allowed to make sexual jokes and harass the younger staff.

Respondents reported perpetrators abusing positions of power, with one woman saying a male colleague “harassed and assaulted seven female colleagues. Including withholding hours unless they slept with/went out with him”.

Findings in the report indicated that sexual harassment was seen as “an unfortunate but unavoidable ‘part of the job’ for young women”.

There were 33 per cent of victim-survivors aged 15 and under. Perpetrators were reported to be managers in 23 per cent of cases, and venue owners in 19 per cent of incidents.

This picture: Unsplash

Respondents reported established attitudes in the industry contributed to their experience, with one saying she was “encouraged to smile and get on with it” when assaulted by regular patrons.

“Management brought customer loyalty with my dignity,” one person wrote.

“This culture was accepted and encouraged, the power imbalance between the younger female employees and the older male employees…was uncomfortable and left me feeling constantly anxious and objectified,” another wrote.

Workers reported being “forced out” of the industry, with one saying “It’s been seven years and they’ve loomed over every single job I’ve applied for.”

Adelaide Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith says the report was “a wakeup call” which reinforced that “more focus needs to be put on education and training to stamp out inappropriate behaviour”.

“If we want a vibrant hospitality economy, we need to ensure the people working in the industry are safe and respected,” she said.

Not So Hospitable founder Jamie Bucirde. This picture: Johnny von Einem

Louise Dillon, coordinator of the United Workers Union says the nature of hospitality jobs mean sexual harassment and other forms of exploitation are rife.

“The current system of self-regulation isn’t working and needs to be completely re-thought,” Dillon says.

“When hospitality workers are subjected to sexual harassment they are less likely to report. This is often because they don’t think they will be believed, and sexual harassers are often directly employed in positions of power in the workplace.”

The United Workers Union has previously reported nearly 50 per cent of hospitality workers had experienced sexual harassment at work. 

A positive duty on businesses to take “reasonable and proportionate measures” to eliminate behaviours such as sexual harassment in the workplace was introduced in 2022 under a reform to the Sex Discrimination Act, but the report said further changes are needed.

The report recommended “holistic industry training and educational initiatives” be implemented, with mandatory training to be incorporated into existing educations such as the Responsible Service of Alcohol course.

It also called on the government to legislate for accessible education on workplace sexual harassment, with education on reporting violence, legal rights at work and how to access support.

Among a series of other recommendations, the report called for the introduction of an independent reporting body, “to shift the culture of minimisation and lack of accountability”.

Bucirde says the findings “highlight the systemic nature of sexual harassment and assault within Adelaide’s hospitality industry”.

“It is imperative that we take concrete steps to address this pervasive culture of exploitation and abuse,” she says.

“The release of this report serves as a clarion call for industry stakeholders, policymakers and the wider community to collectively work towards creating safer and more equitable workplaces for all hospitality workers.”


If you’ve experienced rape or sexual assault, Yarrow Place is a free and confidential service for people over 16 and offers counselling, advocacy and medical support.
Call 1800 817 421 or 8226 8777 or visit their website.

You can also call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

If this story has raised issues for you, call LifeLine on 13 11 14.

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