Statement on Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces

As Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, I welcome today’s announcement from Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham. I acknowledge the importance and urgency of this Independent Review (Review) into the workplaces of Parliamentarians and their staff, established by the Federal Government, in consultation with the Presiding Officers, the Opposition, minor parties and independents.

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s work to establish this Review will begin immediately, and we will soon outline the process of how staff members can engage with the Review. We recognise the significant public interest in this issue and the need to ensure matters will be treated with sensitivity, confidentiality, and trauma-informed.

This Review will hear the experiences of current and former Commonwealth Parliamentarians, current and former staff of Parliamentarians, and staff working within the Parliament. I urge every staff member to share their experiences with us via a confidential written submission or interview. Your first-hand experiences will be critical to this Review and will build a safer, more equal workplace for everyone.

This Review will build on the landmark findings of Respect@Work, my National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces 2020. That Review, on the nature, prevalence and drivers of workplace sexual harassment, found that workplace sexual harassment is an insidious issue that affects every industry; no profession is immune. We will also draw on lessons and findings from other sectors and internationally.

As Australia’s national human rights institution, the Commission is uniquely positioned to undertake a Review of this nature. The Commission is an independent statutory authority whose independence is enshrined under the Australia Human Rights Commission Act (1986). The Commission’s experience in undertaking independent, vigorous and confidential cultural reviews is evidenced by our previous work, including the Review into the Treatment of Women in the Australian Defence Force, Change the Course: National Report on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at Australian Universities, and our periodic national surveys on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.

Investigations into individual matters or allegations will not form part of this Review. I urge Commonwealth Parliamentary staff to access the Parliamentary Support Line on 1800 APH SPT or 1800 274 778, which will provide them with support or referrals to police or other specialist services. If staff wish to report a criminal offence, they should contact 000 or police services in their jurisdiction.

The final report with findings and recommendations of the Review will be tabled in Parliament in November 2021 and published on the Commission’s website at that time.

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