WA Government responds to sexual harassment inquiry

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Monday, 26 September, 2022 - 12:00
Policy & legislation
Western Australia

The Western Australian Government recently outlined a wide range of actions to tackle sexual assault and sexual harassment in Western Australian workplaces in response to the parliamentary inquiry into the fly-in, fly-out mining industry.

The McGowan Government has supported or supported in principle, all recommendations pertaining to the state government.

The plans will be implemented across key areas such as primary prevention, data and research, a refocused regulatory framework and better support and advocacy for victims of workplace sexual harassment.

As part of the government’s response, a new Code of Practice will be developed to help improve security measures for workers staying at workplace accommodation.

This code will act as a minimum standard that employers must consider to ensure the safety of their workers living regionally or remotely.

“I call on the industry to ensure our mining sector is accountable and responsive to community standards,” said WA Mines and Petroleum; Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston.

“We need to work together to build a culture of respect as women have a right to work in safe workplaces that are free from sexual harassment.

“We cannot be complacent when it comes to inappropriate workplace behaviours; there is much to be done and the McGowan Government will continue to advocate for change.”

The Government has also committed to funding a community legal and advocacy service centre to provide free guidance, information and referrals to affected Western Australians.

In line with recommendation 20, the government has already committed to changing the law to bring WA’s definition of what constitutes sexual harassment in line with other Australian jurisdictions and to remove the ‘disadvantage test’ complainants.

The government aims to introduce these legislative reforms early next year.

The government also supports the recommendation to establish a fully resourced, culturally appropriate expert group within WorkSafe WA to investigate, assess and deal with reports of sexual harassment and assault offences in the sector.

“We have a vicious cycle, where women aren’t attracted to work in the industry, let alone stay in the industry, because of inappropriate behaviour and a disregard of women’s experiences,” said WA Women’s Interests Minister Simone McGurk.

“We need more women to work in this sector and we need them to be treated with respect.

“It’s imperative the mining sector works with the State Government to lead cultural change and prioritise prevention and better supports for victim survivors.”