WA government outlines plan to tackle FIFO sexual harassment

WESTERN Australia’s government has supported all recommendations related to its role in tackling sexual assault and sexual harassment in WA workplaces, in response to the parliamentary inquiry into the fly-in, fly-out mining industry.

WA mines minister Bill Johnston at Parliament House

WA mines minister Bill Johnston at Parliament House

On June 23 the Community Development and Justice Standing Committee's tabled its ‘Enough is Enough' Sexual harassment against women in the FIFO mining industry report. That report made 24 recommendations around prevention, support for victims and upskilling industry, with 15 addressed to government and nine to industry.

On Wednesday afternoon, the WA government responded, with a promise to develop a code of practice to help improve security measures for workers staying at work camps.

The code will specify the minimum standards employers must consider to ensure the safety of their workers living regionally or remotely.

The government will also fund a community legal and advocacy service centre that provides free guidance, advice and psychological support to victims of workplace sexual harassment.

A culturally appropriate expert group will also be formed within Worksafe WA, to investigate, assess and deal with reports of sexual harassment and assault offences in the sector.

WA minister for women's interests Simone McGurk said there was a vicious cycle, where women were not attracted to work in the industry, let alone stay in the industry, because of inappropriate behaviour and a disregard of women's experiences.

"We need more women to work in this sector and we need them to be treated with respect," she said.

"I would especially like to thank the women who spoke to the inquiry about their experiences -your courage will help make the industry safer for future generations."

WA mines minister Bill Johnston also acknowledged the bravery and resilience of the women who shared their stories with the parliamentary inquiry.

"We support, or in-principle support, all the report's recommendations for government and encourage industry to also consider how they can apply the report's recommendations," he said.

"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."

In its written response to the inquiry the government said there were likely many other women who were not able to tell their stories but were carrying the trauma and ongoing impact of their experience with them every day.

"We believe you; we support you and enough is enough," the government said.

"Sexual harassment and sexual violence in the workplace are pervasive in many industries but particularly in male dominated industries. We are strongly committed to providing safe, healthy and inclusive workplaces for all workers across WA, regardless of industry or size.

"However, a cultural change within the mining industry cannot happen in isolation and perpetrators must be held to account."

The response called on industry to work alongside government to improve reporting processes, strengthen supports to victims and survivors and work collaboratively to share information and training.

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA welcomed the government's response.

CMEWA acting director of policy and advocacy Adrienne LaBombard said the chamber would review the response in more detail with its member companies over the coming weeks.

As a whole, however, she said the chamber welcomed the clarity on the government's proposed approach and the work and level of detail they put into it.

"A clear pathway for addressing the recommendations of the Enough is Enough report will enable us to build on and continue the work already underway across our sector," she said.

"A number of the responses are consistent with initiatives already being advanced by CME's safe and respectful behaviours working group including the need for reporting and support pathways, training and data sharing and provision of industry feedback to support continuous improvement efforts through both the work health and safety commission and incoming mining and petroleum advisory committee."

LaBombard said the mining sector had a strong track record of working constructively with the government, minister Johnston and the industry regulator, to achieve important outcomes and that should continue.

"The WA mining and resources sector remains committed to a zero-tolerance approach to all instances of sexual harassment and sexual assault [and] our aim is to eliminate all forms of unacceptable behaviour from our sector," she said.

"It's why CME and its member companies participated fully in the parliamentary inquiry and why we have committed to acting on all recommendations arising from it that are practical, and which will deliver positive outcomes."

The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies also welcomed the government response

AMEC CEO Warren Pearce said his organisation affirmed its commitment to collaborate with government on the initiatives.

"Over the past 15 months AMEC and member companies have been taking action to address these issues and are continuing to incorporate additional measures as recommended in the ‘Enough is Enough' report.

AMEC and its members are implementing a range of initiatives.

"AMEC has developed a Resources Hub in collaboration with our members, to share best practice and a wide range of tools, policies and initiatives, as well as a list of training and other service providers that can reliably assist industry in proactively combatting sexual harassment in the workplace," Pearce said. 

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A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the mining sector, brought to you by the Mining News Intelligence team.

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