Australian Government Announces Independent Review Into Parliament House Culture
Sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins will lead an investigation into workplace culture at Parliament House.
The move comes following explosive claims made by former Liberal staff member Brittany Higgins, who dropped a major bombshell alleging a former colleague raped her in the Defence Industry Minister’s office in March 2019.
In a new statement, Jenkins said: “The vital cross-party support for this independent review, coupled with the opportunity for current and former staff to participate in the review, creates the foundation for long-term positive cultural reform to make our Parliament safe and respectful.
“We recognise the significant public interest in this issue and the need to ensure matters will be treated with sensitivity, confidentiality, and be trauma-informed.
“I urge every staff member to share their experiences with us via a written submission or interview.”
She will hear from both current and former staff, as well as elected representatives and others who have worked or currently work in Parliament.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham added that an examination into how Parliament treats women was ‘long overdue’.
“The fact is that the Parliament of Australia should set the standard for the nation,” he said.
“The Parliament of Australia should set the example for others to follow.
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“The Parliament of Australia should reflect best practice in the prevention of, and response to, any instances of bullying, sexual harassment, or sexual assault.”
He said it was ‘so important to get this work done and to get it done properly.’
“It’s important for the victims of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault. It’s important for their loved ones. It is also important for the many innocent bystanders who have found themselves in workplaces or environments that are under question or under a cloud at present,” he said.
University of Sydney media and sexual violence expert Professor Catharine Lumby said that while she was pleased the examination would take place, she warned it was only the ‘first step toward reform.’
“The second step … is to look at how this is going to be embedded into the DNA of political culture,” Professor Lumby told The Canberra Times.
“Too often we have inquiries and they are not followed up with evidence-based education programs that genuinely engage people and give them reasons to buy in and really understand the problem.
“Then it’s got to be ongoing and evaluated and further research should be done.”
The review will give an update in July and a final report will be made public in November.