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Harassment survey shows slow progress

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins will outline progress on eliminating sexual harassment.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins will outline progress on eliminating sexual harassment. Photo: AAP

Sexual harassment continues to be a common feature in Australian workplaces, according to the latest national survey results.

One-in-three Australians surveyed had experienced workplace sexual harassment in the past five years and only a third thought their employer was doing enough to combat the issue.

The Australian Human Rights Commission surveyed 10,000 Australians and found sexual harassment reporting remained low, with only 18 per cent of incidents reported.

It is the last survey before new laws kick in which will require Australian workplaces to have protections against sexual harassment and ensure gender equality.

Australia’s sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins is set to reveal her perspective on the nation’s progress towards eliminating workplace sexual harassment and improving gender equality.

She will deliver a speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday as she prepares to step down from the role she has held since 2016.

Ms Jenkins is expected to reflect on her seven-year term and discuss Australia’s progress in addressing workplace sexual harassment.

In 2020, her investigation into Australian workplaces revealed widespread sexual harassment and her subsequent Respect at Work report provided key recommendations to the federal government for reform.

Senate president Sue Lines acknowledged the history of “unacceptable behaviour in Parliament House” and recommitted to changing the culture.

“We restate the commitment of the parliament for lasting change to ensure this does not continue,” she said.

“We all have a role to play to set the standard for an inclusive, respectful and professional workplace here in Parliament House and across Australia.”

Speaker Milton Dick said the bombshell revelations were unacceptable.

“We all have an ongoing responsibility to creating a workforce and a workplace that attracts and supports the best people our country has,” he told parliament on Wednesday.

“We all have a responsibility to display exemplary individual leadership.

“We all have a role to play to set the standard for an inclusive, respectful and professional workplace here.”

Ms Jenkins’ landmark Set the Standard report outraged the nation last year when it revealed bullying, sexual assault and sexual harassment was rife in parliamentary workplaces.

A survey of Parliament House employees revealed one-third of respondents had been sexually harassed at work but only 11 per cent reported it.

About a quarter of people said they had been harassed by a parliamentarian.

The report made 28 recommendations including for gender targets among politicians and an independent commission to oversee parliamentary standards.

Parliamentarians have been urged to adopt a workplace code of conduct, as recommended by the report, to lift standards of behaviour and ensure the values of integrity, respect and professionalism are upheld in Commonwealth workplaces.

– AAP

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