The Western Australian Government has outlined a wide range of actions to tackle sexual assault and sexual harassment in WA workplaces in response to the parliamentary inquiry into the fly-in mining industry, fly- out.
Presented in Parliament on Wednesday, the State Government supported the plans to be implemented in key areas such as primary prevention, data and research, a refocused regulatory framework and better support and advocacy for victims of the sexual harassment at work.
As part of the State Government’s response, a new Code of Practice will be developed to help improve safety measures for workers in a workplace.
This code will act as a minimum standard that employers must consider to ensure the safety of their workers who live regionally or remotely.
Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said the Government had also committed to funding a community legal and advocacy service center to provide free guidance and advice to affected Western Australians.
“The State Government recognizes the importance of providing victims of sexual harassment at work with the opportunity to share their experiences, receive psychological support and promote healing,” he said.
“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 complainants from the ‘disadvantage test’.
“The Government aims to introduce these legislative reforms early next year.”
The Government also supports the recommendation to establish a culturally appropriate expert group within WorkSafe WA to investigate, assess and deal with reports of sexual harassment and assault offenses in the sector. This work will also be strengthened by the results of the regulatory review carried out by Elizabeth Shaw.
“These initiatives build on a number of existing programs that the government has advanced.” said Johnston. “This includes the $8.4 million Mental Awareness, Respect and Safety (MARS) program which is increasing responses to mental health, workplace culture and mine safety in the WA mining sector.
“The MARS program oversees a number of projects including the Respect in Mining pilot program, the Thrive at Work in Mining program and a landmark study into mental health, work culture and safety in WA’s mining sector.
“Aware of the landmark study carried out by the Center for Transformative Work Design and regulatory review, the Government will make a further report to Parliament before the end of 2022.
“We support, or support in principle, all of the report’s recommendations for government and encourage industry to also consider how the report’s recommendations can be applied.”
The government’s response to the parliamentary inquiry is available at: https://dmirs.wa.gov.au/enough-is-enough
Women’s Affairs Minister Simone McGurk said everyone had the right to feel safe and supported at work.
“We have a vicious cycle, where women are not attracted to work in the industry, let alone stay in the industry, because of inappropriate behavior and a disregard for women’s experiences,” she said.
“We need more women to work in this sector and we need to be treated with respect. It is imperative that the mining sector works with the State Government to drive cultural change and prioritize prevention and better support for the survivors of victims.
“I would particularly like to thank the women who spoke to the inquiry about their experiences – your courage will help make the industry safer for future generations.”
The Minerals Council of Australia said it was pleased the WA Government recognized and supported the adoption of all 55 recommendations and welcomed its commitment to work with all jurisdictions.
MCA chief executive Tania Constable said the organization was also working closely with the WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy on appropriate actions to prevent perpetrators seeking alternative work arrangements in the industry.
The MCA urges the government to consult the mineral industry on the design and implementation of the range of supported actions.
“It is important that all jurisdictions are consistent in the development and enforcement of legislative and policy settings designed to prevent and respond to sexual harassment,” Constable said.