Review finds 1 in 3 staff in Australian federal parliament experience sexual harassment

  November 30, 2021   News ID 5149
Review finds 1 in 3 staff in Australian federal parliament experience sexual harassment
One in three people working in federal parliament have experienced some kind of sexual harassment there, according to a review of workplace culture sparked by rape allegations made by Brittany Higgins.

Canberra, SAEDNEWS: Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins carried out the review, which was released in parliament today. The review found more than half of all people in Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces experienced at least one incident of bullying, sexual harassment or actual or attempted sexual assault. Prime Minister Scott Morrison released the report, thanking those who contributed to the review including Ms Higgins.

"Her voice has spoken for many, as this report shows," he said.

Ms Higgins said she hoped the review and its report "inspired immediate action".

"I want to thank the many brave people who shared their stories which contributed to this review. I hope all sides of politics not only commit to but implement these recommendations in full," she said.

Mr Morrison said it was "appalling" and "disturbing" that 33 per cent reported some kind of sexual harassment.

"I wish I found it more surprising," he said.

Ms Jenkins said despite knowing there were issues within parliament she was "a little shocked" by the response to the review.

She also noted that while men and women spoke of their experiences, the harassment and bullying was disproportionately aimed at female staff and MPs.

"There is sometimes a temptation to say that because of its role in national life it is an exceptional workplace," she said.

"Being exceptional does not mean we should make exceptions."

The report said while some people spoke positively about working in parliament "too often we heard that these workplaces are not safe environments for many people within them".

"Largely driven by power imbalances, gender inequality and exclusion and a lack of accountability," it said.

"Such experiences leave a trail of devastation for individuals and their teams and undermine the performance of our Parliament to the nation's detriments."

The report also makes a range of recommendations, including targets to achieve gender balance among parliamentarians and parliamentary staff, and for progress to be publicly reported.

Mr Morrison said parliament should set the standard for workplace behaviour and it had failed to do so.

"Just because this is a challenging environment … this is no excuse to normalise inappropriate, unhealthy and unprofessional behaviour," he said.

"I think the recommendations cover all the right territory.

"I don't care what your job is or what your responsibilities are, nothing justifies that."

The review's report said women experienced sexual harassment at a higher rate compared to men, at 40 per cent compared to 26 per cent.

It said while respondents were not asked to describe their experiences, people shared stories with the review in submissions and interviews.

"The MP sitting beside me leaned over. Also thinking he wanted to tell me something, I leaned in," one person told the review.

"He grabbed me and stuck his tongue down my throat. The others all laughed. It was revolting and humiliating."

The report also detailed the impact harassment and bullying had on the people who experienced it, including suicide attempts, hospitalisation and relationship breakdowns (Source: ABC.AU).