Parliament staff to be offered optional respectful workplace training

Dominic Giannini 19 July 2021 17
Parliament House

A new training program for federal parliamentarians has been put out for tender. Photo: File.

Federal parliamentarian staffers will undergo safe and respectful workplace training following a parliamentary workplace review, according to a new tender.

Initially, the program to “inform staff what behaviours constitute assault, sexual assault, sexual harassment and serious and systemic bullying and harassment and what does not” will not be mandatory.

Staffers will undertake a two-hour face-to-face session using practical scenarios while chief of staffs will only need to complete a one-hour face-to-face session in which MPs are given the “option to attend”.

The program is due to start in September 2021 and it is “highly desirable” that it be completed by the end of the year, the tender says.

The training comes after a review into how serious incidents are dealt with inside Parliament House recommended a trauma-informed support system, an independent complaints mechanism, and a face-to-face tailored workplace education program.

The review was sparked by former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins alleging she was raped in 2019 in the then-Minister for Defence’s office by another Liberal staff member.

The allegations sparked a reckoning as hundreds of thousands of Australians participated in the March4Justice rallies a month later, in March 2021, calling for an end to gendered violence and action on the toxic workplace culture within Parliament House.

March4Justice rally outside Parliament House

Thousands of people rallied in front of Parliament House for the March4Justice rally in March 2021. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

The Federal Government then came under fire for how it handled a series of events involving allegations of rape and misconduct.

Just weeks later, on 2 March, 2021, then-Attorney-General Christian Porter outed himself as the Cabinet Minister at the centre of historical rape allegations, which he denies.

Mr Porter was accused of raping a 16-year-old girl in 1988 when he was 17. The allegations were detailed in a dossier written by a woman who has since died.

The accusations led to calls for an independent inquiry into the allegations, similar to the one conducted by the High Court of Australia into former judge Dyson Heydon, as it is unlikely it would be taken to court without the victim.

No inquiry was established.

READ ALSO: Parliament House staff and the nation deserve a safe and secure workplace

Allegations of bullying, stalking and harassment levelled at Liberal MP Andrew Lamming also reignited debate about empathy training for parliamentarians.

Calls for cultural changed then grew louder after Mr Lamming apologised in Parliament after allegations he harassed two women online, before admitting he did not know what he was apologising for.

Mr Lamming was directed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to undertake empathy training, which is not mandatory for MPs, while then-Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Michael McCormack said his party would take the training as well.

Mr Lamming was not stood down. He instead announced he would not contest the next election.

Mr Morrison tasked the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Deputy Secretary Stephanie Foster to conduct a review into how incidents were handled a day after the allegations were made public in mid-February 2021.

Ms Foster handed down her report in early June.

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17 Responses to Parliament staff to be offered optional respectful workplace training
Gabriel Spacca Gabriel Spacca 12:21 am 20 Jul 21


Well, my time of thinking they’re not taking this seriously is certainly coming to a middle.

Jenny Graves Jenny Graves 3:19 pm 19 Jul 21

With the problems that they have up on The Hill, proper training should be given and it should be made mandatory.

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 9:38 pm 19 Jul 21

    Agreed Jenny – also begs the question, what about the pollies?

    Spiral Spiral 5:26 am 20 Jul 21


    Make it mandatory for them all.

    And perhaps send the pollies on the course twice as some of them probably won’t take it all in if they only go once.

Frank Trapani Frank Trapani 2:56 pm 19 Jul 21

When you say “Staff” I hope that you’re referring to all, the Parliamentary people because, they need to be reminded of the PLICIT that is the Code Of Conduct for all Public Servant that being in place since 1999.

PLICIT stand for;

P. Professional

L. Loyalty

I. Integrity

C. Courage

I. Innovation

T. Team Work.

The Public Service Act 1999 (PS Act) requires APS employees and agency heads at all times to behave in a way that upholds the APS Values. Agency heads and Senior Executive Service employees must also promote the Values. All employees must inform themselves of their obligations under the PS Act.

The conduct of public servants, both inside and outside the workplace, can have implications for the confidence the community has in the administration of an agency or the APS as a whole.

The rules, are in place. But, it seems that some politicians just apply the loophole to do as they please and they’re getting away with it…Whilst lower rank public servants if they’re in breach of the same code, they may be given instant dismissal..

Nell Feneck Nell Feneck 2:31 pm 19 Jul 21

What a joke !!

Julie Mylchreest Julie Mylchreest 2:25 pm 19 Jul 21

Optional?? Should be mandatory....especially for politicians and their staffers....

Margaret Lay Margaret Lay 1:47 pm 19 Jul 21

It's 1 hour! Opitional?

Lyn Christie Lyn Christie 12:56 pm 19 Jul 21

Why jyst the staffers?

Luke Ashe Luke Ashe 11:29 am 19 Jul 21

It's like an hour isn't it?

Vander Leal Vander Leal 11:21 am 19 Jul 21

I have worked on the four major departments and for all of them I've had to do the mandatory training about working behaviour...

That sounds like purely a stunt for public opinion...

(and going sooo wrong, as it says "optional")

Avril Pounds Avril Pounds 11:18 am 19 Jul 21

Shouldn't we be learning basic manners and respect in early primary school? Why do adults need special courses to teach them how to be a decent human being?

    May Mac May Mac 1:12 pm 19 Jul 21

    Avril Pounds Exactly!

    Shane Jasprizza Shane Jasprizza 1:49 pm 19 Jul 21

    Avril because it looks like you leave all that at the door when you get a job in the big house, apparently.

    Jane Kim Jane Kim 4:04 pm 19 Jul 21

    Avril Pounds shouldn’t we all be learning those long before we even start school? This sort of learning starts at home.

    I certainly agree with your last sentence. The mind boggles that some people need to be “taught” this!!

Kathy Schneider Kathy Schneider 11:16 am 19 Jul 21

Optional? What a joke!

Stephen Saunders Stephen Saunders 10:09 am 19 Jul 21

Lame as. Might as well send the perps off to the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship, to be prayed over.

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