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The state government has backed a program to help eliminate sexual assault at live music venues

Rebecca Russo

The Victorian government has pledged to fully support an initiative aimed at addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault in live music venues – an issue that, despite Melbourne's progressive and strong live music culture, is still prevalent.

Unveiled on Triple J’s Hack program last week, Victorian minister for creative arts Martin Foley has announced they will back recommendations made by a taskforce headed by MP Jane Garett in mid-2015.

Led by MP Garett, the taskforce comprises national lobby group LISTEN and Save Australia's Live Music (SLAM) members Helen Marcou and Dr Bianca Fileborn. They campaigned for a number of key suggestions – one of them being the implementation of a venue policy template on identifying and responding to incidents of sexual harassment and assault in live music venues. 

Minister Foley aims to implement a trial program based on the taskforce's recommendations before the end of the financial year. The pilot program will be rolled out across a bunch of live music venues in Victoria, with suggestions from the taskforce focussing on a training package for venue staff, and advertising and awareness-raising materials for patrons and staff.

One venue that’s been leading the charge to stamp out unsociable behaviour is Melbourne legend Cherry Bar. Owner James Young is enforcing a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment at both the AC/DC Lane stalwart and his other venue Yah Yah’s. Young has been working alongside LISTEN to establish guidelines for staff and security on how to deal with sexual assault.

Back in 2015, Young spoke to The Age“It’s a process of education, and it’s people like me who need to be part of changing things.” He adds: “We now insist on having female security member on duty and we’re educating our security that if somebody talks about sexual assault, we must believe them in full. The matter will then go to one of our bar managers – not to the security team”.

The new government-backed taskforce will be reconvening in the coming weeks to discuss the implantation of the program.

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