The Guardian – Journalist Tracey Spicer ‘humbled’ by Australia Day honour

Journalist and feminist Tracey Spicer says she feels “incredibly honoured and humbled” to be among almost 900 people named in the Australia Day honours, for her work in media and as an ambassador for charitable and social welfare groups.

Spicer has been leading investigations into media identities accused of sexual misconduct, harassment and assault following the Harvey Weinstein revelations.

As well as her recent work on sexual harassment in the media, Spicer has been a prominent journalist for almost 30 years, presenter, columnist and author, and an ambassador for a number of charities and social support services including World Vision, Autism Spectrum Australia, Domestic Violence NSW, and Dying With Dignity.

Spicer said that although her recent work on sexual harassment in the media industry would have come too late to be considered as part of the Order of Australia process (which can take 18 months to two years), the work was having more of an impact than ever before.

“I’ve never seen such a groundswell of mainstream support for a women’s rights campaign. So far, I’ve received well in excess of 1,000 messages from women, telling their stories of sexual harassment and indecent assault in the media and entertainment sector.”

It was now time to take action to ensure structural change within the media and all industries to protect women, Spicer said.

Appointed as a member of the Order of Australia, she has long rallied against sexism in the workplace. In 2006 she was fired from Channel Ten soon after returning from maternity leave. She sued the company for damages, claiming she was discriminated against because of her age and gender, later settling out of court.

Spicer said that one in two women still experienced pregnancy or maternity discrimination in the Australian workplace.

“While conditions have improved in the TV business since I initiated legal action against Network Ten, more subtle forms of pregnancy discrimination permeate many workplaces.

“So, while we have policies and procedures in place, there remains a rump of cultural resistance to the idea of ‘working mothers’.”

In 2012 an open letter by Spicer titled Dear Mr Sexist received global attention for its takedown of the behaviour of an anonymous superior at work.

Her memoir, The Good Girl Stripped Bare, was published last year, and detailed her rise through the Australian media industry and the treatment she encountered along the way.

Spicer’s work as a mentor for younger women in the media industry was also recognised in her Australia Day honour and she says her advice has become much more practical rather than simply about motivation or inspiration over the years.

“Mentoring makes my heart swell … sharing stories, ideas and strategies is so powerful. What I specifically bring to the role is an honest, warts-and-all account of working in the media.

“I see no point in saying ‘You go girl!’ like some 90s-style cheerleader. Women need real-world strategies and solutions, as well as sisterly encouragement. They need to know exactly what steps to take if they are sexually harassed or discriminated against. Because I’ve been through this, I can offer real and practical support.”

Spicer said the fact that the honours list was still just 33% women demonstrated that society needed to value women’s work equally to men’s and that there was a need to look at the make-up of the Council for the Order of Australia, “which is by no means gender-balanced”.

“It’s disappointing … we need to nominate more women. After all, women do the bulk of society’s unpaid labour and volunteer work.”