One in three people currently working in the Parliament of Australia have experienced some form of sexual harassment while working, according to a new report released Tuesday.
The report, Set the Standard: Report on the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces, was authored by the Australian Human Rights Commission. The commission was tasked with the assignment after a former staffer publicly alleged she was raped in the Parliament House in 2019.
The report states that, aside from sexual harassment, approximately 37 percent of employees have experienced some form of bullying while working. Just over half of all people working in parliament have also experienced at least one incident of bullying, sexual harassment, or sexual assault.
The level of sexual harassment is consistent with the national average of 33 percent from the 2018 National Survey on Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces. However, the current report was derived from employees that still worked for parliament and did not take the opportunity to include former employees, unlike the previous survey. There is a possibility that number of incidents is higher than the report confirms.
The report also indicates that “people who bullied or sexually harassed [employees] were predominantly in a more powerful position than the person experiencing the behaviour.” Over half the number of people who experienced sexual harassment, and over three-quarters of people who experienced bullying, told the commission that the perpetrator was someone more senior than themselves.
Those surveyed described “feeling that the only options were to tolerate the misconduct or leave, rather than expecting that the misconduct would be addressed.” Many confirmed they experienced “negative personal and career consequences . . . as a result of making a complaint.”
The report made a series of 28 recommendations to improve the situation. These include having parliamentary leaders openly acknowledge the findings of the report and the harm caused by bullying, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. They also include having an external and independent review of progress made, and implementing gender equality and diversity initiatives to combat the “boys club” culture of parliament.
The report also strongly encourages parliament to hold offenders accountable for their actions. The report recommends adopting “clear and consistent standards of conduct” moving forward, including the application of consistent consequences for offenses.