Three women who were sexually harassed by former High Court Justice Dyson Heydon have received a confidential settlement.
Rachael Patterson Collins, Chelsea Tabart and Alex Eggerking have all signed non-disclosure agreements about the terms of the settlement, but the “historic” agreement was confirmed by their lawyer on Monday.
“Women can succeed in the quest for truth and accountability in cases of sexual harassment, even involving some of the most powerful individuals and institutions in the land,” Josh Bornstein said.
He described himself as “exceedingly proud, chuffed and stoked” for his courageous clients.
Mr Heydon, 78, served on the High Court from 2003 until 2013.
The three women came forward in 2019 and negotiations for a settlement have been ongoing for nearly three years.
In June 2020 the High Court publicly apologised to six women after allegations of sexual harassment of them by Mr Heydon were upheld by an independent investigator.
Mr Bornstein said the three women he represented had been unable to pursue the legal careers they’d dreamed of after their experiences working at the High Court in Canberra.
He is representing a number of other women alleging they were sexually harassed by judges at state and federal levels, and said a cultural revolution was under way.
Further compensation settlements could be in the pipeline, he said.
Mr Bornstein said the three women wanted to share their strong belief that women should not feel ashamed to pursue financial settlements in these cases because sexual harassment will only recede when there’s recognition of the cost to organisations and individuals involved.
“It’s not always the case, but sometimes the legal process can overcome a severe power imbalance,” he said.
Attorney-General Michaelia Cash said Ms Collins, Ms Tabart and Ms Eggerking’s bravery at coming forward was recognised.
“These women have told us about what they have been through during, and since, their times as associates of the High Court and the serious impacts on their lives,” she said in a statement, allowed for in the terms of the settlement.
“We have listened to them and we apologise.”