Parliament House is set to hold a face-to-face training sessions in the coming months about how to deal with sexual assault, bullying and harassment, the ABC reports. The bad news is that the one-hour sessions will be optional for MPs and Senators.
The training comes after former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped inside Parliament House by a then-colleague, as well as a spate of other sexual assault and harassment allegations to rock Australian politics.
The ABC has obtained tender documents for the upcoming training program – which is due to take place sometime after September – which would teach office mangers, chiefs of staff and Parliamentarians about what “behaviours do or do not constitute assault, sexual assault, sexual harassment and serious and systemic bullying and harassment.”
The modules would use practical examples to demonstrate how to “respond appropriately to a disclosure” and outline different “reporting options” if such incidents do arise.
However, while a two-hour session will be mandatory for junior staff, politicians themselves will simply “given the option to attend” a separate one-hour session.
These training program was one of the recommendations of the independent report made by Stephanie Foster from the the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Her report noted that such training should be offered to politicians themselves on a voluntary basis. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a fair few sitting politicians aren’t happy that the training hasn’t been made mandatory for them and their colleagues.
Some of the sitting politicians calling for mandatory sexual harassment training include Liberal MPs Celia Hammond and Fiona Martin, as well as Labor MP Tanya Plibersek and Senators Katy Gallagher and Don Farrell. Some of them have raised their concerns directly with Foster.
“I consider the recommendations in the Foster report regarding education and training for MPs and senators as critically important to ensuring cultural change and prevention,” Hammond told the newspaper.
“I am also of the view that they could be strengthened – and therefore have deterrent and accountability elements – if certain training or education was made mandatory at induction for new MPs and senators and thereafter reinforced with ongoing requirements for each member and senator throughout the life of each Parliament.”
After the allegations we’ve seen come to light earlier this year, any workplace sexual assault and harassment training at Parliament House is a step in the right direction.
It’s just a huge pity that politicians can choose to skip these sessions if they feel like it.
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