Crime & Justice

Brittany Higgins highlights insecurity prevailing in Australian parliament

Sydney, Australia, Feb 9 (EFE).- Brittany Higgins, who claimed last year that she experienced sexual abuse in Australia’s parliament, prompting other women to speak up and sparking a top-level review into government workplace culture, spoke out on Wednesday after receiving a formal apology from the prime minister and other officials.

Higgins, a former Liberal Party staffer who alleged in February last year that she was raped in Parliament House in 2019 by a colleague, insisted that urgent changes be implemented in federal offices to make them safe for women.

She spoke a day after Prime Minister Scott Morrison, as well as opposition leader Anthony Albanese and both houses of parliament, apologized to her and others who have experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault and/or bullying while working for the government.

The apologies came in response to an independent review sparked by Higgins’ allegations, which was conducted last year into workplace culture in parliamentary offices. They were one of the recommendations made.

“There are 28 recommendations in the Jenkins Review and, without their implementation, we will continue to see this toxic culture exist within our most powerful institution,” Higgins said in an address at the National Press Club, where she appeared alongside Australian of the Year 2021 and sexual abuse survivor Grace Tame.

Higgins called for changes not only in the workplace culture of parliament but also for increasing the presence of women in the legislature and decision-making bodies so that there is a gender balance and safer workplaces.

“Without these changes, women will inadvertently continue to be discouraged from taking up roles within parliament, or take a seat at the leadership table,” Higgins said.

The review, led by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, revealed last November the existence of a toxic work culture in parliamentary workplaces, dominated by men, as well as systematic abuses of power, exploitation, harassment and aggression, including sexual, and mainly against women.

The Jenkins Review revealed that 51 percent of all people currently working in Australian parliamentary workplaces have experienced at least one incident of bullying, sexual harassment or actual or attempted sexual assault.

Tame, who reminded that boys and men are also victims of abuse, emphasized that change depended on three actions.

“The first is for a government that takes the issue of abuse in all its forms seriously. The second is for the implementation of adequate funding for prevention education to stop these things before they even start. The third is for national, consistent, structural change,” she said. EFE


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