Hundreds come forward for Kate Jenkins review into workplace harassment at Parliament House

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins. Picture: Supplied
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins. Picture: Supplied

A first glance at the anticipated review into workplace harassment at Parliament House has been released, indicating hundreds have come forward to share their stories with the Sex Discrimination Commissioner.

Commissioner Kate Jenkins, who was appointed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to lead the review in March, handed in her interim report to government on Monday.

The progress report showed 345 people had come forward to detail their experiences within Parliament House, including nearly 250 female participants.

Nearly three-quarters of the respondents were current or former staffers of Commonwealth parliamentarians.

As of last week, 222 people had been interviewed but she flagged there was still time for contributions.

"There are a number of ways that you can still participate, whether that be through an interview, focus group, submission or the online survey," Ms Jenkins said.

"All contributions are valuable and will ensure the findings and recommendations made in our final report are based on a comprehensive understanding of the nature and culture of Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces."

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A survey being conducted by Roy Morgan will be sent out this month and open for three weeks to investigate the current prevalence and nature of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault in parliamentary workplaces.

More than 3700 current Commonwealth parliamentarians, people who work for Commonwealth parliamentarians and other current workers in Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces are expected to be invited to participate in the survey.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said staff will be given the time and support to participate in the historical independent review.

"This update shows there has already been, and continues to be, strong participation and engagement by current and former staff and parliamentarians, as well as others with experience in parliamentary workplaces," Senator Birmingham said in a statement on Monday morning.

"I continue to encourage all those who choose to do so, to share their experiences, as this will be vital to informing the review and helping to ensure a safe and respectful workplace.

"The government has also been clear about our expectations that staff are given support and time to fully participate."

The final report is expected to be delivered to government in November.

The inquiry was triggered by allegations made by former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins, who went public with sexual assault allegations against a former colleague in February.

A separate review was announced by Mr Morrison to be conducted by deputy secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Stephanie Foster.

Ms Foster delivered a 104-page report in June, which found more than 70 complaints had been made by political staffers in the past four years, five of which related to sexual harassment.

"The most significant gap is the absence of readily accessible, timely, independent, trauma-informed services and response mechanisms, now partially remedied with the introduction of a dedicated 24/7 support line, 1800 APH SPT," the report found.

Following the report's release, the Finance Department issued a tender in its efforts to develop optional training for staffers and parliamentarians on respectful relationships in the workplace.

The Foster review also heard a strong case for change, particularly in the culture of what is considered acceptable behaviour and creating a safe environment to report serious incidents.

"It is a watershed moment for the Parliament, and an opportunity to change the way it balances its pressured, complex, inherently insecure and intensely political environment with its legal and ethical obligations to provide a safe and respectful workplace," the report said.

"This is a workplace like no other, with its unique industrial arrangements, its pace, intensity and complexity, and the fundamentally political nature of its business."

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This story Hundreds come forward in first glance of Jenkins review into parliament first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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