Colleagues rifling through your underwear drawer. A boss demanding sex in exchange for promotion. Unsolicited nude photos, innuendo, and assaults.
These are all experiences of women in Western Australia’s mining industry, as told to a State parliament inquiry. Its report was handed down today, revealing sexual harassment is rife at sites run by large mining companies. The landmark report described the harassment as “appalling” and “generally accepted or overlooked”.
The inquiry, which ran for almost a year, was prompted by previous court cases. It received nearly 100 submissions and examined some of the State’s biggest miners, as well as government regulators.
Western Australia’s Government has brought in PwC Australia workplace culture expert Elizabeth Shaw to review the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety’s response to incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the mining industry.
In the Respect@work report, released in 2020, Commissioner Kate Jenkins described sexual harassment as “endemic” in Australia; the burden of which must be more fully taken up by governments and by employers in order for meaningful change to occur.
Those who experience harassment, discrimination and violence must also carry the financial, career, and health costs of that oppression, often without meaningful support or intervention tailored to their needs and circumstances. A cultural shift towards governments and employers shouldering more of the burden that women have suffered under, is a shift towards a “victim-centred” approach which prioritises support, prevention, and long-term cultural change.
No single policy or action will be sufficient – what is needed is a wholesale commitment to cultural change, pursued over time, with ongoing assessment, measurement and collaboration with women affected and experts to ensure that safety from sexual harassment and violence is a human right that is realised in the places where we live, work, learn and socialise.
Implementing the recommendations from today’s report in full would be an important step towards enacting that much-needed cultural change. Afterall these issues are, as Commissioner Kate Jenkins has stated elsewhere, “everybody’s business”.