What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 13 – 19 December 2021

Morrison Government to Take Action On Jenkins Inquiry Into Toxic Culture Before Parliament Returns

The finance minister, Simon Birmingham, has announced a timeline for implementing recommendations from the Jenkins review that highlighted toxic behaviours in federal parliament. The 2 recommendations being implemented are to establish a leadership taskforce and develop a statement on workplace trauma. The statement will be released to the public to acknowledge the traumatic experiences of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault in political offices. This will be delivered after the summer break. These are the first of the 28 recommendations to be implemented by the federal parliament.

MCA Provides Toolkit to Eliminate Workplace Sexual Harassment

Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) released its toolkit from Respect@Work to address and eliminate sexual harassment in mining. The toolkit is an extension of the mining industry’s commitment to tackling sexual harassment and to guide the actions that will be taken to respond to risks of harassment. The toolkit includes educational fact sheets, guidance and templates. The toolkit also addresses “casual” sexism. The toolkit will be further developed throughout 2022.

Basketball Australia Apologies as WNBL Player Cites ‘Racial Discrimination’ Over Braid Rule

On 12 December, Melbourne Boomers player Tiffany Mitchell made a social media post that highlighted racial discrimination in the monitoring of hair styles. Ms Mitchell shared her story of being sent a league email that warned players they would be benched unless they tied up their braids. This rule no longer exists in world basketball. Basketball Australia has since said that the hair rule was sent out by mistake. Ms Mitchell felt targeted by the email. The league has apologised to players impacted by the outdated rule that specifically manages what black people in the league can do with their hair. The Boomers were in support of Mitchell and another team member who wear their hair in braids.

Sexual Assault Is Already Happening in The Metaverse

Recently, Facebook was rebranded to Meta. Meta released a virtual reality platform called Horizon Worlds. The platform is already posing challenges in the area of sexual harassment, and even assault. A user posted in the Facebook official Horizon group, saying, “sexual harassment is no joke on the regular internet, but being in VR adds another layer that makes the event more intense.” The Vice President of Horizon has dubbed the situation as “absolutely unfortunate” and said the feedback will be taken on board. This potentially creates issues for employers, as sexual harassment can occur in a new, more realistic, social media realm.

Landmark Industrial Relations Bill Pass Through WA Parliament

On Thursday 16 December, the WA Government passed the Industrial Relations Legislation Amendment Bill 2021. The changes will increase protection for vulnerable employees in the industrial relations sector. The new laws will also extend coverage of minimum wages and employment conditions to domestic and support workers that are hired by household employers. Easter Sunday is also set to become a public holiday in WA. Other key changes include providing added power to stop sexual harassment with an order, introducing penalties for non-compliance with employment laws from national industrial relations frameworks, and modernising long service.