21 July 2021

Parliamentarians, hundreds of staff step forward for Parliament culture review

| Dominic Giannini
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Thousands of people rallied in front of Parliament House for the March 4 Justice in March following Brittany Higgin’s allegation. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Nearly 350 people – including a dozen current or former Commonwealth parliamentarians – have participated in the culture review into parliamentary workplaces, the Australian Human Rights Commission’s interim report reveals.

Run by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, the independent review is analysing the work environment of Commonwealth departments and parliamentary offices, and whether they reflect best-practice in preventing, and responding to, bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault.

The review was sparked by allegations from former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins that she was raped by a colleague in the then-Defence Minister’s office in 2019.

Seven in ten people who have come forward are women, and three-quarters of the participants either work, or have worked, for Commonwealth parliamentarians.

Ms Jenkins said the review was trying to form a comprehensive picture of the environment and culture within parliamentary workplaces.

“I have been inspired by the courage, determination and insights of those who have already come forward and shared their experiences as part of the review,” she said.

“We have heard about the challenges faced and your ideas for change, and it has been a privilege to be trusted with your experiences.

“Your commitment and drive for positive cultural change is clear. I look forward to paving the way for a workplace culture that is safe and respectful for all.”

Kate Jenkins

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins is expecting to hand down her final report in November. Photo: AHRC.

A survey will also be sent to around 3700 current Commonwealth parliamentary staff this month to get a snapshot of the current culture in Parliament House and the offices of Members and Senators.

Just over 120 interviews have been conducted as part of the review and a further 125 are registered for an interview.

There were 124 submissions relevant to the review submitted as of 14 July 2021.

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

Ten information requests for data on employee demographics, complaints, external service providers and policies and procedures have also been sent to the Department of Finance, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, parliamentary departments and relevant external agencies.

The review will not look into specific allegations of bullying, sexual harassment or sexual assault. The full report is expected to be handed down in November this year and will be publicly available.

Submissions close on 31 July 2021. Interviews and focus groups will conclude in early August. For further information about the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces, visit the Australian Human Rights Commission.

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