Tuesday, 08 December 2015

Victoria Police to tackle sexist workplace behaviour

A report handed down today by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has identified a high prevalence and tolerance of sexual harassment within Victoria Police, along with substantial evidence of a sexist organisational climate where women are overwhelmingly the targets.

“It takes strong leadership and courage to tackle a problem of this magnitude. Victoria Police command should be commended for commissioning this review. It demonstrates a very clear commitment to promote gender equality and prevent violence against women in its own ranks.

“I am looking forward to working closely with Victoria Police as they move to a new era where the sexist practices and attitudes of the past will be consigned to history,” Commissioner Kate Jenkins said.

The Independent Review into sex discrimination and sexual harassment, including predatory behaviour in Victoria Police is the largest organisational review of its kind into sexual discrimination and sexual harassment undertaken outside the US military. Over 5000 members, or nearly a third of the force, took part in the Review which consisted of surveys, interviews and written submissions.

The high participation rates, which also included interviews with over 150 staff, site observations and input from a panel of experts both within and outside the force has revealed the prevailing culture has resulted in significant harm to the mental and physical health of many members, with over 40 per cent of women surveyed experiencing some degree of sexual harassment.

“Although a review such as this will at times be uncomfortable, it is important to go through this process so that the harm that is being done to employees can be acknowledged, addressed and acted upon,” Ms Jenkins said.

“Tackling violence in the community has been a key priority for Victoria Police. Now it is time for the force to turn their attention inwards and acknowledge that sexual harassment, gender inequality and the everyday sexism prevalent within its own ranks must end.”

“There is no place for sex harassment and sex discrimination in our society. In Victoria Police it exacts an unacceptable toll on its employees. It contradicts Victoria Police values and it is unlawful.

“This is a significant piece of work which other employers can learn from,” Ms Jenkins said.

The Review has also revealed how the impact of sex discrimination and harassment has resulted in isolation and exclusion within the workplace for many members. It also identifies economic loss and reduced opportunities for professional development and advancement for many women members and for a smaller number of male officers, particularly those who identify as homosexual.

Chronic under reporting of incidences of sex discrimination or sexual harassment has also been revealed as staff are generally fearful of personal or professional repercussions that may stem from making a complaint or seeking support.

Victoria Police approached the Commission in 2014 to undertake the review. The Review has been conducted under the Commission’s research powers contained in section 157 of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010.

The Review makes 20 recommendations aimed at changing the system and culture within Victoria Police. The Commission will audit the implementation of the recommendations by Victoria Police in 18 months and again in 2018 with a further independent progress report at that time.

See the report: Independent Review into sex discrimination and sexual harassment, including predatory behaviour in Victoria Police Phase One Report 2015


Visit the Independent Review website.

Media conference

WHO: Kate Jenkins, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner

Graham Ashton AM, Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police

WHEN: Wednesday 9 December, 8.30 am – 9. 30 am

WHERE: Victoria Police Centre, 637 Flinders Street

VEOHRC media contact: Anna Craig

Phone: (03) 9032 3482 | Mobile: 0459 114 657 | Email: anna.craig@veohrc.vic.gov.au