Social Issues

Canberra apologizes to victims of sexual harassment, abuse in federal offices

Sydney, Australia, Feb 8 (EFE).- Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other officials issued formal apologies in parliament on Tuesday to those who have experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault or bullying while working for the federal government.

The apologies came in response to an independent review conducted last year into workplace culture in parliamentary offices, and were one of the recommendations made.

“We … have sought to silence the valid and just complaints of people because there was fear about electoral consequences,” Morrison said in a speech in parliament, where opposition Labor leader Anthony Albanese also made an apology.

Morrison also apologized to former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins, whose allegation last year that she was raped in 2019 in an office in Parliament House by a co-worker was the trigger for the review.

Higgins was present in parliament for the speeches.

“I’m sorry to Ms Higgins for the terrible things that took place here,” Morrison said. “The place that should have been a place of safety and contribution turned out to be a nightmare.”

“But I’m sorry for far more than that, for all those who came before Ms Higgins and endured the same. But she had the courage to speak, and so here we are.”

“We are sorry for all of these things, and in doing so, each of us take an accountability for change. For those of us who have perpetuated the bullying and violence, the light will come to those behaviors – as it must,” the Liberal leader said.

Higgins’ allegation prompted other women to come forward with complaints about the same man, who is currently awaiting trial.

As a result of these and other complaints, the government launched an independent review, led by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.

The review 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.

“We acknowledge the unacceptable history of workplace bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault in Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces,” reads the government statement, apologizing for these incidents and committing to implement changes to create safe places of work.

“We will aspire, as we should, to set the standard for the nation,” the statement emphasized.

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. EFE


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