Charles Waterstreet responds to sexual harassment allegations


University of Sydney law student Tina Huang alleged barrister Charles Waterstreet sexually harassed her in a job interview and on her first day of work. This is his response.

I have more flaws than the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building in Dubai. One of them is to make a joke of everything if I can. As you can see, I must now reluctantly make a statement, as a ripple has become a tsunami, and it affects the wellbeing of not just myself but those who I serve: my family and my friends. It is time to “man up”, if that phrase does not offend the editor of the New Matilda, which is why I always prefer the Old Matilda, or even Waltzing Matilda for that matter.


Student alleges lawyer sexually harassed her

The University of Sydney has banned criminal barrister Charles Waterstreet from advertising for paralegal staff on its careers hub after a female student alleged he sexually harassed her in a job interview.

It is a serious matter to be accused by an online magazine, who had the audacity to ring me at 5pm on Friday evening, to answer questions of a deadline set for midday Monday. The Editor’s online website refers to the fact that he sold his house in Canberra in order to fund his dream, and had attached a “GoFundMe” advertisement to continue his crusade, having already spent $10,000 on deep research of my alleged life, spanning Instagram and other social media platforms. I am thinking seriously about setting up my own GoFundMe page to pay my defamation lawyer. Ironically for a lawyer, I abhor personal litigation as in my experience it achieves very little except for the lawyers. I am forced to defend myself now, as only my staff and I are privy to the facts. I have a series of emails that reveal the full extent of my correspondence with Tina Huang.

In August this year, I advertised on CareerHub for a “Paralegal and Personal Assistant”. The duties were to include researching criminal law as well as media-related duties, because at that time, I was working as a writer for Penthouse and on my own projects. In particular, I had been asked to speak at Sydney Contemporary on a panel entitled Post Porn: Art, Feminism and Sex in the Age of the Internet. The talk topic concerned the resurgence of the “Post Porn” movement in response to conventional pornography, and posed the question: “In this day and age, can pornography be empowering? And, does it have a place in art?”

In the CareerHub advertisement, I specifically cautioned that candidates require “a strong stomach for the distressing materials prevalent in complex criminal trial and a sense of humour in the face of the unexpected”. It required availability of three days a week or more, and availability to work on weekends. The advertisement did not contain a request for a photograph, contrary to New Matilda’s research.

I received a number of applications, a number of whom I interviewed, and one of whom is currently typing this statement. I received an application from Miss Huang, a third-year arts/law student at the University of Sydney, who attached her two-page CV and a special page detailing “the reasons I believe I would excel in such a position”. Her CV indicated a dedicated and ambitious researcher, with a significant academic record from a number of international institutions. In particular, I was impressed by Miss Huang’s description of herself as a freelance writer, involved in the Sydney Writer’s Festival and Editor of Honi Soit 2017.

The credentials which were of real importance to me, in light of the forthcoming speaking engagement and some recent criminal law matters of which I had been briefed, were that Miss Huang was a workshop presenter at “fEMPOWER​”, facilitating workshops on feminism for high-school students on the feminist genre of “ficto/auotcriticism”; had been a panellist on the Sydney University Law Society’s “Intergenerational Experiences of Feminism” panel, and had been a speaker at “Radical Sex and Consent Week”. My legal practice had led me to defend a number of clients and corporations involved in the porn industry, and I also wrote for The Sydney Morning Herald and other publications, advocating for a broad and tolerant church in matters involving sex, religion, race and free speech.

Much of my writing and general persona involves irony and the “pricking of balloons” where intolerance and hypocrisy are concerned. My alleged sense of humour has not served me as well as I would like. Some find me funny, some find me boring, others couldn’t give a fig. For reasons that a host of psychiatrists have attempted to analyse, I use humour as my stock in trade: in court and in real and unreal life. These are the facts.

After receiving Miss Huang’s application, I enthusiastically sought to arrange an interview, and set out the reasons that I was particularly interested in her skill set. I wrote “your CV reads like a mirror of my own” and that “I am fuelled by the emerging knowledge that women are stronger, volcanic, powerful and repressed for 5000 years”. I went on to highlight some of the cases I was involved with – “murder, drugs and money, sex slaves” – and another which is sub judice.

The panorama of criminal cases which come across a barrister’s desk on a daily basis would astonish many. The work of criminal defence chambers would include within at least 60 per cent of matters, in one way or another, sex: ranging from the rise in digital prevalence of child sex videos, catapulting the work of the old “vice squad” from virtually nothing when I came to the bar to more than half. On any given day, multiple briefs must be dealt with efficiently and contemporaneously. I would imagine that doctors and nurses at emergency wards would have a very similar experience with patients presenting with diverse and multiple injuries.

In retrospect, despite Miss Huang’s assurance that “not only did I develop a strong stomach for distressing materials but I learnt to engage with clients in a a [sic] sensitive, but efficient manner”, I feel that, given my own peccadilloes, the type of cases I was then currently involved in and my tendency to speed-read applicants, Miss Huang might have felt like a vegetarian turning up to work at an abattoir.

I have the benefit of Miss Huang’s New Matilda Blog The Insider, titled “#THEREALRAKE: A Sense of What’s Possible – Calling Out Charles Waterstreet”, and an article by the Editor himself, titled “#THEREALRAKE: Charles Waterstreet, A Law Unto Himself”, and a third, titled “#THEREALRAKE: Barrister Charles Waterstreet Showed Masturbation Video To Law Student During Job Interview”. My memory, which will be confirmed by my assistants’ recollection and resort to contemporaneous emails, have assisted me to address the matters that occurred.

In the course of Miss Huang’s two days, which involved discussion with her and other assistants concerning current cases, my work at Penthouse, my upcoming talk at Sydney Contemporary and communications of my legal, literary and private life, I would have discussed and shown her illustrations of cases and materials for my publication. I will attempt to address the main allegations.

The editor of New Matilda initially suggested, via personal email, that I showed Miss Huang a video of myself receiving a “hand job” and asked me to respond to this allegation. Miss Huang’s blog, however, indicated that it “a video of someone receiving a hand job”, and photos of naked women. Whilst I cannot reveal the specific matter, one case did involve a female client sending me 102 stills and videos of the other party’s communications with herself. That case is still before the courts and that material constitutes evidence. As such my assistants were responsible for collating that material for presentation in court, which is now evidence.

Photos of naked women form part of the evidence in another case which is currently before the courts, part of my work with Penthouse, and as such would have been present on my phone, in my email inbox, and in hard copies of Penthouse in chambers. I do not doubt that Miss Huang saw such photographs, and I also may have referred her to an article in Penthouse.

As to “sex parties” – I have yet to be invited to one. As to having many girlfriends and enjoying threesomes, I refer to an article about myself in the July 2017 issue of Penthouse in which I gave answers to questions on this subject matter.

As to exclusively hiring women under 25 who are “pretty young things”, I note that this myth emanates from a Daily Telegraph article in 2014 about “Charlie’s Angels”, and was a flippant throwaway line first made by one of my assistants during an interview. I would also note the assistant, who has since left, was one of the first to offer her support to set the record straight.

The editor of New Matilda quoted the article where I said, “many barristers insist on a CV, I just insist on photos”. The comment was obviously made in jest. I do not recall the comment “boat person”, although I often refer to myself as a boat person, as many white Australians came to Australia by boat in the 1840s. I also represent refugees pro bono and again, humour falls on deaf ears sometimes. As to the case which I referred a “presumption of consent” applied, that is a matter currently before the courts, about which I openly discussed the contextual background. As to missing a payment on sex toys, I believe Miss Huang is referring to my account at Baby Likes to Pony, a first-class women’s lingerie store in Darlinghurst, which was without doubt overdue. As to organising dates with women, it would have been to confirm restaurant bookings.

In reference to the editor’s stories and requests for funding, I am happy to provide a full glossary of the terms commonly used in chambers. The reference to “drug dealer” would apply to my friendly local pharmacists, Steve and Sandra. Alternatively, it may have been used to refer to a client charged with drug possession or supply. The reference to women snorting cocaine off my body is a joke I fondly tell, since I have been sober for 21 years with respect to alcohol and illicit drugs. The rest of the editor’s expansive profiling would suggest that he was born without the funny bone or a sense of irony (or may have sold it with his house). Everyone is entitled to their opinion, least of all me.

The circumstances of Miss Huang’s exit are not accurately reported by New Matilda and subsequent articles. The facts are, on August 24 I asked Miss Huang if she could help me prepare notes for my talk as panellist on “Post Porn” at Sydney Contemporary, and attached the relevant invitation. Miss Huang replied on that she was “excited to talk about this with you!”, and sent some preliminary thoughts in full paragraphs. She ended the email with “Hope this is what you were after! See you soon.” On August 26, Miss Huang replied to another request for help with writing that I had sent that morning, saying: “Always happy to help with anything related to feminism and/or your writing! Have you had a chance to read through the preliminary notes I wrote for you? If you’re comfortable with the sentiments contained within them, I can find accompanying images. Let me know what you’re [sic] thoughts for the talk are though.” I never heard from Miss Huang again after that point, until the editor of New Matilda called last Friday at 5pm. I do not wish to add to Miss Huang’s distress any further, but felt I had to set the record straight.

If something good were to come of this, it was to have a frank discussion about the criminal law workplace: To reveal how the nature of the work impacts upon those who practise in the trenches, and those who may encounter it. As reported in The Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday, magistrate David Heilpern said, when delivering the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation lecture, “…it is time to lift the veil for the benefit of the judiciary, but also for the system of justice itself.”

For the avoidance of all doubt: I do not condone sexual harassment in any form.



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