Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

The head of WA’s top body industry resource body has told a parliamentary inquiry into sexual harassment in the FIFO industry that it is a struggle to attract women to the sector.

Paul Everingham, Executive Director of the Mining and Energy Chamber of Western Australia, told the Parliamentary Committee that his group had not done its job until every last mine site was secure.

But he said that while ensuring that a greater level of diversity within the sector was often highlighted as a way to eradicate sexual harassment and sexual assault, it was not so easy to achieve.

“A large portion of the public is talking about improving it by getting more diversity on my sites,” he said.

“So until we get our ship under control, I think we’re going to struggle with diversity.”

Female representation ‘fixed’

Everingham said women’s work participation in the industry had stagnated at around 20 per cent for some time, while noting that some companies, such as BHP, had managed much higher female participation at almost 50 per cent.

“But we are not doing anything right if the figure is stuck at 20 percent,” he said.

“So that’s what I focus on, how do we get from 20 to 50 percent?

“We went from zero percent mainly in the 70s, it was not legal for a woman to go underground, I think, until the mid-1980s.

“Certain cases of sexual assault and harassment will only make the task of attracting talented women to mining even more difficult.”

Recruitment not down: BHP

After giving evidence later in the day, BHP’s Brandon Craig said that although he had had some fear of continuing to attract women to the sector after media reports and allegations of sexual assault and harassment at mining sites, they had not committed it.

“We haven’t actually experienced diminished recruitment,” he said.

“It’s really important to us. We want BHP to be a very attractive place for us, where women want to join us, they want to work with us.”

Everingham said a working group had been set up in the industry to deal with the problem and a number of protocols and practices were being considered.

Among those he mentioned included the introduction of anonymous reporting for individuals in all mining companies as well as the use of better screening controls through police records prior to employment.

The working group had also discussed and looked at the possibility of introducing a register of offenders, which would prevent the possibility of someone being laid off in one company only to be employed by someone else.

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