The New South Wales Police Force has called for ‘urgent action’ in a bid to end the organisations’ ‘boys club’ culture and curb levels of sexual harassment. Last year, Australia’s former Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, commenced a report on the impact of the force’s internal culture on female officers. Tony King, President of the Police Association of NSW, remarked that the report’s findings – which were released last week – were ‘disturbing’ and ‘concerning’. From a survey of over 3,500 NSW officers, Broderick found that female officers were forced to conform to a dominantly ‘masculine culture’. More shockingly, one in three female respondents were found to have been sexually harassed by a colleague in the last five years. This is compared to sexual harassment rates of 13 per cent among male officers. Only 15 per cent of respondents said they made a formal complaint about the sexual misconduct, with others reporting that fear of reprisal prevented them from speaking up. In addition to high rates of sexual harassment, female officers were also subject to high rates of promotional discrimination. The report noted that ‘loss of standing due to working part-time [pre and post-pregnancy] creates a cascading effect where women are less likely to be given “the big jobs” which can impact on their opportunities to further progress’. As a result, female officers were found to be under-represented in all leadership positions. Since the Report’s release, NSW Police Commission Mick Fuller has fully supported its 30 recommendations.
Australia’s Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, has said that atheists should be afforded the same protection from discrimination as people of faith. During an ABC interview last week, Cormann stated that the Coalition intends to push for a new Religious Discrimination Act. Mr Cormann said the Government is focused on ‘ensuring that people are not subject to inappropriate, unacceptable levels of discrimination based on their religious belief, or based on not having any religious beliefs at all’. This debate comes hot off the back of Rugby Australia’s decision to sack Wallabies star, Israel Folau, for posting comments on social media that gay people should go to hell. Following Folau’s code of conduct hearing, Tasmanian Liberal senator Eric Abetz has written to the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Fair Work Ombudsman, requesting that the bodies investigate Rugby Australia’s decision to terminate Folau’s contract. Similarly, Barnaby Joyce has used Folau’s case to bargain for religious exemption within an employment context. These controversial positions have attracted backlash from the Coalition’s centre-right, with Attorney-General Christian Porter stating that the Government isn’t in the business of inserting itself into private employment contracts.
According to Jessica Hickman, author of ‘The Bullyologist: Breaking the Silence on Bullying’, the first step in surviving workplace bullying is to document everything. Every time an incident occurs, victims should record the times, dates and details of the conflict. As Hickman wrote: ‘since bullying is a pattern of behaviour rather than a one-off event, everything you can do to prove the abuse is persistent, deliberate and harmful will help’. Hickman recommends that victims of workplace bullying take an immediate screenshot of every offensive email they receive. By documenting everything, a victim will have concrete evidence in the event that they decide to speak up.
The Australian Network on Disability (ANoD) has found that younger demographics that live with a disability experience workplace discrimination at higher rates than their mature counterparts. The ANoD found that people aged 15-24 were 10 times more likely to experience discrimination due to their disability than those aged 64 years and over. Eric Barrett, a 20-year-old living with cerebral palsy, said that he is hesitant to tick the ‘disabled’ box on job applications, as he feels he is more likely to be rejected. ‘I want people to see me before they see my disability’, Eric complained. Eric, who appeared on the ABC series, ‘Employable Me’, said that he wants employers to see what someone with a disability can do, rather than focusing on what they can’t. ‘I think [employers] need to have their understanding challenged to see beyond what is the visual part, or the invisible parts,’ he added. While the Discrimination Act prevents employers from discriminating against people with disabilities, Eric said it happens all the time. This is backed up by ANoD research, which found that employers often overestimate the cost of hiring someone with a disability.