‘Prawn and porn nights’: Top silk reveals sexist culture

The woman leading the state government's domestic violence taskforce has lifted the lid on the shocking "prawn and porn evenings", chauvinist judges and misogynistic behaviour she was forced to put up with during her career.

Former Appeal Court president Margaret McMurdo is the first high-profile judiciary member to lend her voice to the chorus of women speaking about their experiences, candidly revealing that when she started as a paralegal, the office walls were "covered in girly posters", including "bare-breasted women".

She said she had to "prove myself to the boys", including judges who wouldn't allow women to wear pantsuits to court.

 

Former Appeal Court president Margaret McMurdo. (AAP Image/Claudia Baxter)
Former Appeal Court president Margaret McMurdo. (AAP Image/Claudia Baxter)

 

Justice McMurdo is leading the Queensland government's Women's Safety and Justice taskforce, which will look at coercive control laws and likely review consent legislation.

She said she could vividly recall breaking new ground as a student at the University of Queensland where she studied a Bachelor of Laws.

"When I started, one of the men's toilets in the law school had just been made into a women's toilet and so it still had graffiti on the walls about the female law students," she said.

"The UQ Law Students Association was very much a male place - they used to have prawn and porn evenings. Just walking into a law lecture or into the law school in those days was a bit of an act of courage because you'd be leered at and there was a group of boys who would be giving you scores out of 10 for your hotness - that's the sort of thing you had to put up with."

 

 

Justice McMurdo, the first woman to be appointed a Queensland District Court Judge in 1991, said the profession had lost many talented young women who struggled to overcome misogynistic attitudes in workplace culture.

"(When I started as a paralegal) many of the walls at the office were covered in girly posters - bare-breasted women," she said.

She also had to contend with judges with chauvinist attitudes.

"There were judges who wouldn't allow women to wear pantsuits to court," she said.

 

Justice McMurdo said there had been a cultural shift in the previously male-dominated field, but enduring sexism necessitated momentum for continued change.

"It was only in 1990 that we had no women judges, not even a woman magistrate, in Queensland. Now our Chief Justice of Queensland and the Chief Justice of Australia are (both) women," she said.

"Only in the last couple of years has the bar association had its first female president."

She said recent events had set in train an essential reshaping of the public perception of domestic violence and sexual assault.

"We've got to keep the conversation going and make sure the community understands that we need (change) to make for a safer and happier and more prosperous society," Justice McMurdo said.

 

As Royal Commission Chair Honourable Margaret McMurdo AC in court during the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants.
As Royal Commission Chair Honourable Margaret McMurdo AC in court during the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants.


Originally published as 'Prawn and porn nights', bare-breasted posters: Top silk reveals sexist culture

 



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