Brittany Higgins at the #March4justice. Source: Twitter
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  • One in three federal parliament employees has experienced some form of sexual harassment, according to a report by the Australian Human Rights Commission
  • The report titled Set the Standard was released in parliament today by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, who carried out the review
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison highlighted it was “appalling” and “disturbing” that 33 per cent of employees reported some form of sexual harassment
  • Female parliamentarians faced sexual harassment at the rate of 63 per cent, while the national average of sexual harassment for females is 39 per cent
  • As part of the Human Rights report, 28 recommendations within four principles were suggested to address the bullying and sexual harassment data presented

One in three federal parliament employees who responded to a review of the workplace culture of Parliament House say they have experienced some form of sexual harassment, according to a report by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The report titled Set the Standard was released in parliament today by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, who carried out the review.

The report was sparked by rape allegations made by Brittany Higgins, which stated she was sexually assaulted in parliament house by a senior colleague.

“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,” Ms Higgins said.

In a response to the report, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, thanked Ms Higgins, saying “her voice has spoken for many, as this report shows”.

Mr Morrison also highlighted it was “appalling” and “disturbing” that 33 per cent of employees reported some form of sexual harassment.

“I wish it found it more surprising,” he said. “But I find them just as appalling.

“And that’s why the actions I think that are recommended do cover all the territory that enable us to take us forward. And what I’ve seen in there has only reinforced my view about the actions that we’ve already taken.”

Not just a number

Out of the respondents, minority groups were more likely to face workplace sexual harassment or bullying at a disproportionate rate to the corresponding national average.

Female parliamentarians faced sexual harassment at the rate of 63 per cent, while the national average of sexual harassment for females is 39 per cent.

In addition, 24 per cent of male parliamentarians experienced forms of sexual harassment.

People who identified as LGBTQI+ experienced a higher rate of sexual harassment by more than 20 per cent in comparison to those who identified as heterosexual and those who preferred not to say.

Commissioner Jenkins said, “a lack of clear standards of conduct, limited accountability and power imbalances, combined with the high-intensity, high stakes nature of the work, the pursuit of political power and advantage” were among the reasons for the results.

Framework for action

As part of the Human Rights report, 28 recommendations within four principles were suggested to address the bullying and sexual harassment data presented.

The first principle was for leaders to “prioritise a safe and respectful culture, set clear expectations and model safe and respectful behaviour”.

The second principle includes diversity, equality and inclusion with a focus on an even standard of respect for everyone.

Third and fourth principles prioritised everyone having clear roles and responsibilities alongside clarified standards of behaviour with appropriate reporting of any discrepancies.

“There is a stark contrast between the complexity and gravity of the work being done in parliamentary offices and the lack of sophisticated workplace structures and practices to support this work,” Commissioner Jenkins said.

“That can and should change.”

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