Farmers learn ugly truth of workplace harassment at Australian Dairy Conference

By Dairy News

DAIRY FARMERS were faced with some ugly truths about harassment on farms at the annual Australian Dairy Conference.

Facing a packed audience of about 500 people, a young woman outlined her experience of harassment on a remote farm and appealed for change.

The attentive and respectful audience gave her a sustained applause (probably the strongest of any presentation at the two-day conference) and some stood to applaud her courage.

Tiffany Davey said she had travelled Australia when she was 19 and trying to decide what she wanted to do.

“I worked for some of the best and some of the worst and they helped me work out what I wanted to be and also what I never wanted to become,” Ms Davey said.

She told how one property manager had offered $1000 to the first woman to have sex with him.

Ms Davey said in the face of harassment and bad behaviour there was often a feeling that it was something that had to be endured or put up with, but since her experiences, she had come to  understand that it was not acceptable and should never be excused.

Ms Davey, 23, based in Western Australia and now based on her family’s broadacre and lamb production property, said she had devoted her life to working in the agricultural industry.

But in 2018 she was confronted by a research paper which said that seven out of 10 women would face sexual harassment in their careers.

She had earlier dismissed her bad experiences and didn’t think much of it.

“If it’s not okay in an office in the city, why is it okay in the paddock or on a property?”

“I should have reached out to someone for help, but I didn’t have a voice.”

She warned that if the industry was not cleaned up, in today’s environment, the industry would earn a bad reputation.

Ms Davey said she was trolled on social media after she first went public with her experiences, facing accusations of “whining” and inflating the problem.

“This is not an issue about man versus women.

“This is an issue we have to resolve together. It’s not about man hating. We need to call out bad behaviour. It’s about identifying issues and putting in place the steps to rectify it.”

She urged the industry to work together to create a safer place for everyone’s sons and daughters.

In his introduction, conference MC Tom Newton said men still dominated management of many farms and women were not always treated the way they should be.

Mr Newton said sexual harassment in farm workplaces was “the elephant in the room”, and it was about being fair, decent and respectful.

An Associate Professor of Law at the Australian National University, Dr Skye Saunders published the 2015 book Whispers from the Bush — The Workplace Sexual Harassment of Australian Rural Women.

The book drew upon 107 interviews Dr Saunders conducted with women, detailing their experiences of sexual harassment in rural workplaces.