After two months of sexual harassment and assault scandals, including a claim of rape inside Parliament House, Australia's government agreed to accept a series of recommendations that aim to prevent gender-based abuse and increase accountability for misbehavior in the workplace.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled a "road map for respect" in response to the recommendations from the country's Sex Discrimination Commissioner that would improve workplace culture in the public and private sectors.
According to The New York Times, Morrison's announcement comprises his most comprehensive effort so far to tackle a problem that has been festering for years in Australian politics, with women mistreated, demeaned or sexually harassed, usually without recourse.
The outlet further reported that a federal review focusing on Parliament's workplace culture has also just begun and it may produce additional calls for reform as the demand for demonstrable change has continued to intensify.
To lead this national effort, the Government has outlined a number of measures and reforms set out in the Roadmap, including:
- The creation of the Respect@Work Implementation taskforce to deliver legislative and regulatory reform;
- Simplifying and strengthening the legal framework, existing rights and obligations for employees and employers;
- Supporting greater coordination between agencies and services to ensure workers and employers have access to consistent information.
The Government’s response also places an emphasis on preventative measures, acknowledging more can be done to prevent sexual harassment from occurring in the first place. To support preventative action at the national level, the Australian Government is also committed to:
- Delivering education and training programs across a range of sectors;
- Supporting targeted research and evidence development on prevention strategies;
- Enhancing data collection and evidence gathering mechanisms.
According to NYT, Many of the recommendations, including the creation of a national sexual harassment research agenda and "respectful relationship" training in schools, could take years to develop. And some of the changes announced would simply bring Australia in line with other developed democracies– such as the UK, Canada, and the United States that have passed legislation in the past few years tightening workplace standards for lawmakers.