Tue. Aug 9th, 2022

First-year Liberal student Melissa McIntosh said this week that Parliament should become a place where everyone is respected, protected and listened to.

“I can tell you that everyone in Canberra has felt shocked, worried and sick that a young woman who is employed may experience sexual abuse in what is our second home. This should never happen, ”she says. “We all want to make sure Brittany Higgins is the last person to go through this in our workplace.”

Women’s Minister Marise Payne said on Friday that the events of the last three weeks had been “disturbing, disturbing and terrible” and had shown that Parliament was “clearly not immune to such issues”.

Despite the efforts of individual female MPs is modest, Australians hear that Parliament is not a safe place for women.

Caitlin Figueiredo founded Jasiri Australia’s Girls Take Over Parliament program to encourage more young women to consider a political career and equip them with the skills to do so. Over the past few years, 95 percent of those implementing the two-month program, including a term in the House of Commons, have said they will pursue politics.

A survey of past participants this week showed that less than one in three would now engage in politics in some way. Nine out of 10 said that right now there was no way they would consider running for office.

Tame emphasized this sentiment when we were asked at the National Press Club on Wednesday if she would ever consider running for office. “Nooooooooo,” was her reply.

At the same time, an Essential Research survey among 1,074 Australians found that three out of five did not trust political offices to ensure that work was a safe place for women. Two-thirds said the government was more interested in protecting itself than women who had been assaulted, and 61 percent said politics had a particular problem with harassment and abuse, more than other workplaces.

Figueiredo says that even though she thought the negative stories about parliamentary culture would have some impact, she was shocked by the results.

“I can not tell you how heartbreaking it is to hear what these young women are telling us,” she says.

“They want to get involved in politics, but they do not feel safe, they do not feel that their voices are heard, they do not feel that women in politics are supported or even considered as human beings.

“It feels like we are setting up our country for failure. By not making politics safe for everyone, we are actively discouraging the next generation of young women and leaders from wanting to enter public service, from wanting to shape our country for the better. ”

Higgins made public her allegations – in the early fourteen days of parliamentary sessions – before formally complaining to police, securing days of pressure on Morrison, Reynolds and other ministers about who knew and did what and when. It culminated in Reynolds being hospitalized for a pre-existing heart disease the same day she was due to speak at the National Press Club, and AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw wrote to MPs with the instruction they were to pass on to police about any criminal allegations. behavior immediately.

In the midst of all this, Labor’s Senate Leader Penny Wong and Green Senator Sarah Hanson -Young – both South Australians – received an anonymous dossier describing historic allegations of rape against Attorney General Christian Porter. They passed it on to the police. Liberal MP Celia Hammond, who was originally tasked with reviewing the culture of coalition members ‘offices, also received a copy, drawing the Prime Minister’s’ office to the attention.

The ABCs Four corners aired a story on Feb. 26 outlining allegations that an unnamed cabinet minister had raped a woman at a school debate in 1988 when he was 17 and she 16. The woman took her own life in June last year.

Attorney General Christian Porter at his press conference on Wednesday, denying allegations that he raped a member of his high school debating team when he was 17.

Attorney General Christian Porter at his press conference on Wednesday, denying allegations that he raped a member of his high school debating team when he was 17. Credit:Trevor Collens

After days of online speculation about the minister’s identity, Porter held an emotional press conference on Wednesday to deny himself and deny the allegations. “It just did not happen,” he said repeatedly.

Hours before Porter fronted the media, the nation heard from Tame again. She again urged survivors of sexual abuse to use their voices, to be brave and courageous and for governments to listen and adopt national reforms.

“It is up to us as a society, as a country, to create a space, a national movement, where survivors feel supported and free to share their truths,” she said. “Let’s drive a paradigm shift of shame away from those who have been abused, and onto abusive behavior.”

Just as Tame’s words in January inspired Higgins to speak, the employee who shares his story has made others come forward. Three other women spoke anonymously to the media about their experiences of the same man Higgins has allegedly raped her. Worksafe ACT has seen an increase in reports of sexual harassment. That Herald and Aging is aware that other employees are now considering what to do with their own stories of bullying and sexual harassment.

Six-Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins is now seeking these stories from current and former employees, elected officials and others working in the House of Parliament for an independent review of its work culture. She will make an interim report in July and a final one in November in order to offer ways in which Parliament can transform itself into an exemplary workplace. A similar review by the South Australian Parliament, published last week, found that sexual harassment and bullying were widespread but rarely reported.

Federal Gender Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins will lead the review.

Federal Gender Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins will lead the review.Credit:Paul Jeffers

Just a year ago, Jenkins handed his landmark, nearly 1,000-page report on sexual harassment in the workplace to the government. She received 460 submissions, many from anonymous people, held 60 consultations and made 55 recommendations. Her office estimates that the government has started work on implementing three of these; Payne says nine are underway. Recently appointed Assistant Attorney General Amanda Stoker oversees the work for which Christian Porter was Minister Jenkins gave the Respect @ Work report in January 2020.

For help call the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counseling Line: 1800 737 732. Lifeline: (13 11 14 and lifeline.org.au), the suicide call service (1300 659 467 and suicidecallbackservice.org.au) and beyond blue (1300 22 4636 and beyondblue.org.au).

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