Sep 14, 2023 | Latest News

We want you to be heard!

Drs Jennifer Schafer and Ira van der Steenstraten will be representing the Queensland Medical Women’s Society (QMWS) and Doctors’ Health in Queensland (DHQ) at the Australasian Summit on Sexual Harassment in Medicine on 23rd October 2023 in Canberra, ACT.

Sexual harassment is a difficult problem, that requires truthful, thoughtful, and well-informed collaboration to address. Around the world, doctors – especially junior doctors with intersectional disprivilege – live with unacceptable, unprofessional behaviours. We want to be the catalysts for change.

This Summit will bring together 120 attendees, from all Colleges and disciplines and a variety of organisations, including Law, Medical Education (Universities, Colleges, Hospitals etc), Medical Defence Organisations, Medical Boards, Advocacy groups etc. There will be participants from all stages of training from students to retirees, and from a broad variety of geographical contexts, including rural, regional, remote, and urban Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

The Summit has three aims:

1. At present, a survivor faces a complex raft of options for reporting and managing their situation. By the end of the summit, we want to have a clear picture of the options a survivor has and why they may or may not choose to report to the many organisations who manage harassment. We want to share this map with all of us, so survivors and their treating team can access an overview of their choices.

2. We are currently undertaking the enormous task of bringing together all the policies and processes we can find across Universities, Workplaces, Regulation Authorities, Medical Defence Organisations, and others to see what principles we all share. At the end of the day, we will have a common statement of principles, with a better understanding of the enablers and barriers to their implementation. We understand that the gap between policy and enacted policy is wide and deep.

3. We want to build a community of practice and a basis for further collaboration in research and policy development, not only in Australia, but also across systems in the UK and New Zealand. There is the potential to work together to better understand this wicked problem. After the summit, we will have the opportunity to collaborate internationally to better understand this problem and its management.

We are aware that policy without implementation is, at best, an aspirational whitewash. We want to honestly engage with the vexed issue of why existing policies do not translate into practice, and how we can work together to better understand the policy landscape. We will explore the common components of sexual harassment policies and begin to understand the conscious and unconscious barriers to seeing those policies enacted in practice.

To best represent our medical workforce to create an over-arching policy framework we are inviting doctor or medical student survivors of sexual harassment within the medical workforce to contact one of us if they want and most importantly, feel they can share their experiences, especially to help us understand the roles of organisations in this space. What avenues of help are available and what do they offer but also what are the barriers to reporting?

To contact Dr Jennifer Schafer:; Dr Ira van der Steenstraten:

Please note: We realise this is a very sensitive and emotionally distressing topic and talking about it might bring about intense emotions and memories. Please only contact us if you feel this will not disrupt you too much emotionally and you have a support system available. Look after yourself and ensure to focus on your mental health and wellbeing. Use personal strategies to cope with triggers and make sure you reach out to those within your support system and have your own GP.

DHQ provides an independent, confidential, colleague-to-colleague support service to assist doctors and medical students and is staffed by volunteer senior GP’s with experience in doctors’ health. DHQ 24/7 Helpline: 07 3833 4352

Other avenues if you need someone to talk to, call:

Lifeline on 13 11 14

MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978

Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36

Headspace on 1800 650 890

QLife on 1800 184 527

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Help is only a call away

Call 07 3833 4352

For doctors and medical students only – Independent and Confidential advice