After staying silent about her rural workforce experiences, it was at a public speaking engagement that Belinda Hazell resolved never to stay silent again.
"I looked out from the podium and saw some women, who were about the same age I was when I first entered the rural workforce, and I realised that someone needed to speak up and it would be me," she said.
The Emeritus chair of Tasmanian Women in Agriculture and recent winner of the Tasmania Award for Excellence in Women's Leadership recalled her experience of sexual harassment in the rural sector.
As someone who experienced regular inappropriate touching during her time in the workforce, she resolved then that the script needed to be flipped.
"My challenge is to start these conversations, to be having them now [on sexual harassment and appropriate behaviour in the workplace], let's not wait until an incident has occurred," she said.
Data shows that 90 per cent of women who are working in the agricultural sector have experienced some form of sexual harassment.
Ms Hazell was recognised with the national award through her work with Tasmanian Women in Agriculture; she recognised the national award with the national award, which included creating a suite of educational resources for businesses about harassment and respectful relationships in the workplace.
She said her own experience spurred her to develop the resources, including video and other promotional materials.
Worksafe Australia has also been in discussion with Ms Hazell about adopting the resources. TWiA launched the resources last year at a function at Brickendon.
Ms Hazell said it was the time that employers took more responsibility to encourage and enforce respectful relationships at their workplace and be more supportive of the increasing number of women entering the rural sector.
IN OTHER NEWS:
The issue of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour is a topical one after Tasmanian Grace Tame was awarded Australian of the year.
It also comes amid the swirling storm surrounding conduct in federal Parliament.
RURAL WOMEN 'INVISIBLE'
Womens' participation in the rural sector is a tale as old as time, but Ms Hazell said for too long, they were treated as the invisible worker.
"When Women in Agriculture was founded in 1994 there were only two photos in the national archives that featured rural women, and they were in the background," she said.
"Women have been working on the land since day dot. Of the agricultural workforce globally 80 per cent of it is women," she said.
"But they are invisible. They are not valued."
International Women's Day 2021:
While there were some positive steps forward, Ms Hazell said it was up to everyone to ensure agricultural workplaces were safe places for women to work.
She said she wanted to encourage and lift women participating in the rural sector and encourage others to do so.
"Don't let your gender be a roadblock. There are opportunities to enter the rural sector if you are willing to find a way."
Ms Hazell said rural women were crucial to the Tasmanian Government's target to grow the state's agricultural sector's value to $10 billion by 2050. Winners of the national award were notified last week, which Ms Hazell said was "a really nice surprise."
CHOOSING TO CHALLENGE
Ms Hazell said this year's International Women's Day Theme, choose to challenge, resonated strongly with her.
"90 per cent of women who are working the agricultural sector have experienced harassment in the workplace," she said.
"So, for me, the challenge is to start that conversation now. My challenge is for people to sit down and have those conversations [about respectful relationships and inappropriate behaviour] at the beginning, don't wait until after an incident."