SYDNEY, Australia — Top lawmakers in Australia, the prime minister among them, formally apologized on Tuesday to employees in the federal Parliament for a culture of pervasive sexual harassment and assault in the nation’s halls of power.
The apology, endorsed broadly among the political parties, was a recognition — if overdue and performative, some activists said — of the widespread calls for change after a damning review last year of Parliament’s toxic workplace.
That report, spurred in part by a former parliamentary employee’s account of being raped in the defense minister’s office, painted a chilling portrait in which powerful men faced few consequences as they crossed boundaries with young female staff members, sometimes with alcohol present.
“Any bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault is unacceptable and wrong,” said Andrew Wallace, the speaker of the House of Representatives. “We say sorry.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison echoed Mr. Wallace. “Sorry is the start,” he said, adding that he wanted politics to be a place where young women, in particular, could follow their dreams, rather than “have them crushed by brutality and the misuse of power.”
The acknowledgment that parliamentary leaders had failed to ensure a safe workplace was the first in a series of measures suggested by the review, which was compiled by Kate Jenkins, Australia’s sex discrimination commissioner.
The review found that one-third of employees in Parliament had experienced sexual harassment, with rates reaching 40 percent for women. About 1 percent of the 1,700 people surveyed said they had experienced actual or attempted sexual assault.
The report came nine months after Brittany Higgins, a former staff member for the center-right Liberal Party, said she had been raped by a colleague in 2019. The allegation rocked the country’s center of power, spurred other women to come forward with their own allegations, and prompted outraged protests across Australia.
Full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/08/world/australia/australia-apology-brittany-higgins.html