Equal Opportunity Commission Final Report of South Australia Police released

South Australia Equal Opportunity Commissioner Dr Niki Vincent has formally presented her final report focused on changing perceptions, experiences and practices that support gender equality and cultural change in the South Australia Police (SAPOL).

The review was first initiated by Commissioner of Police Grant Stevens back in April 2016 when the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) was invited to undertake an independent and transparent review of SAPOL.

Commissioner Stevens called for the review as part of a health check to ascertain the status and extent of sex discrimination, sexual harassment and predatory behaviour within South Australia Police (SAPOL).

After significant analysis based on a series of internal surveys, staff focus groups, workshops, personal interviews and three previous progress reports, the final report has now been compiled and made public.

Six key areas were covered in the final report recommendations including some aspects of leadership, workforce management, training and development, flexible workplace cultures, dispute resolution and complaints, well-being and support services.

As a result of the 38 recommendations from the first report in 2016, SAPOL established the Project Equitas team to action and implement those recommendations.

A total of 33 recommendations have already been fully implemented with the remaining five recommendations well underway.

The EOC final report has acknowledged SAPOL has made significant progress on in the following areas:

  • New support systems established, including the Diversity and Inclusion Branch, to assist personnel who experience discrimination, harassment and bullying.
  • Establishing a new complaints resolution unit.
  • Establishing the policy framework for flexible working arrangements.
  • Reviewing and updating online training modules with the purpose of increasing awareness of sex discrimination and sexual harassment.
  • Development of a new performance management system known as iEngage.
  • Developing and implementing a new exit management strategy.

In the final report, Dr Vincent has praised Commissioner Stevens for his push towards a more progressive and inclusive police organisation.

“I commend the Commissioner of Police Grant Stevens for his courageous and comprehensive commitment to tackling these issues, first by inviting my office to undertake the 2016 review, and then by supporting action taken through South Australia Police to comprehensively address these issues,” she wrote in her opening message.

In additional comments she said: “No one should have to experience sexual harassment or sex discrimination at work, and through its response to the 2016 Independent Review of Sex Discrimination, Sexual Harassment and Predatory Behaviour in the South Australia Police.

“SAPOL has demonstrated that they have a shared commitment to putting a stop to this unacceptable behaviour, as well as to the promotion of gender equality in the workplace,” Equal Opportunity Commissioner Dr Niki Vincent said.

“I am more confident that the work environment at SAPOL today is a fairer, more respectful and safer place than it was in 2016. We made 38 recommendations to SAPOL to address concerning findings in our 2016 review, which were accepted and since then, most of these have been implemented.

“Making the kinds of sweeping changes that were needed required courage and commitment and I commend the Commissioner of Police for his leadership in making this a top priority.

“This fourth and final Equal Opportunity Commission report shows considerable progress has been made, but cultural change is not a quick fix. Our latest report includes advice to SAPOL about how to continue its momentum, addressing the key challenges and barriers to gender equality within its workforce.”

Dr Vincent said challenges included a low level of trust from staff that reports of sexual harassment will be confidential and that SAPOL will act on them, uncertainty around commitment of leaders to cultural change and a perceived lack of responsibility to managing gender equality in SAPOL.

“Where there is a lack of trust or faith in an organisation to manage sexual harassment complaints appropriately, SAPOL has under reporting so the true extent of the problem isn’t seen,” Dr Vincent said.

“There also needs to be greater communication around the consequences for perpetrators of sexual harassment and sex discrimination, to show that inappropriate behaviour is taken seriously and addressed.”

Commissioner Stevens thanked the South Australia Commissioner for Equal Opportunity Dr Vincent and her team for their contribution and detailed advice as to the outcomes of the in-depth review.

“I will be closely examining and considering the recommendations of the final report, however I have made a commitment to continuing Project Equitas into the future,” said Commissioner Stevens.

“While we have made some good gains I acknowledge that some SAPOL employees continue to be victims of some form of sex discrimination, sexual harassment or predatory behavior. This remains unacceptable behaviour and my commitment to dealing with this is unwavering.

“I strongly believe that SAPOL has been a leader in publicly addressing and tackling these issues, both across the public sector and the private industry.

“I actively encourage all SAPOL employees to read and embrace the EOC final report maintaining my commitment to transparency right through this process. The final report is also available to everyone in the community to read on the EOC and SAPOL websites.

“I fully acknowledge that change takes time, however I am very proud of the achievements we have made so far as an organisation. I am prepared to back us on that future journey through better leadership, education, training and commitment to that long-term cultural change “, he said.

Commissioner Stevens added “I, and my executive leadership team, are committed to continuing the momentum that we have already generated to make SAPOL a diverse and inclusive organisation where all people are safe, respected and supported to reach their potential.”

Minister for Police Corey Wingard acknowledges how difficult it can be to create and implement change within long-standing organisations.

“Progress has already been made within SAPOL which is encouraging to see. But as with any major cultural shift, there is always more that can be done,” he said.

“I look forward to seeing the future progress of Project Equitas along with the long-term impacts created by the hard work undertaken by all SAPOL employees.”

The report is available here: https://eoc.sa.gov.au/initiatives/sapol-monitoring-project

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