There are unacceptably high levels of sexual harassment and discrimination in Victoria Police, according to a damning new report.
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission conducted the research.
It wants the government to give it more powers to conduct investigations as a result.
Harassment ‘rife’ in Victoria police
The first of the reports, published in 2015, found sexual harassment was rife in Victoria Police.
A different report found homophobic “banter” in addition to discrimination against LGBTIQ officers is also common.
Finally, the third report found 25.8 percent of female employees and 9.8 percent of male employees reported experiencing sexual harassment.
Victims still fear retribution if they speak up
Furthermore, the most recent report notes the force has failed to establish a victim-centric complaints process recommended in the first report.
Respondents said senior officers are still able to get away with harassment.
Additionally, 30 percent said they feared retribution if they reported harassment or discrimination.
One respondent said personal information about their private life “was shared amongst other employees and discussed openly in attempts to discredit my reputation”.
Call for stronger powers
The report includes a recommendation that the Commission be granted greater powers to undertake investigations.
Stronger powers under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 will allow it to conduct similar work on less open organisations.
For example, Victoria’s fire services, which boycotted a similar investigation in 2016.
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Commissioner praises senior management
Despite the latest findings, the Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission did note a significant cultural shift in the organisation.
Additionally, it said senior management had committed to make its workforce more gender-equitable.
Commissioner Kristen Hilton praised the top ranks of Victoria Police for listening and also for accepting criticism of its past failings.
She said leadership from the top is “absolutely critical” to achieving systemic change.
Hilton told Guardian Australia:
“They have been prepared to listen to the quite harrowing stories of members in their workforce, and that’s shown quite a lot of humility.
“Being able to say: ‘Yep, we did not protect our people very well’.”
“It was just apparent to them that views inside the organisation around not respecting women, or sidelining women, or denigrating women, and working in an environment which was not gender equitable, was influencing the way in which they responded to or understood family violence.”
Gender pay gap narrowed
Another promising development is a narrowing of the gender pay gap by almost 2 percent since 2016.
The gap fell from 9.5 percent to 7.6 percent in 2018.
Women earned an average salary of $78,508 compared with an average salary of $86,734 for men.
Women received 40 percent of promotions to command appointments between 2015 and 2018.
While one in 10 women applying for promotions in that period were successful, compared with one in 20 men.
Clearly top brass wants to see change
Miles Heffernan from Sexual Harassment Claims praised Victoria Police for the audit.
“Police forces are ‘boys clubs’ with harassment and discrimination of women and LGBTIQ employees accepted too often,” he said.
“Despite some of the concerning findings in this latest report, it is clear the top brass of Victoria police want to see change for the better.
“Good on them for opening their doors and taking advice and for also implement strategies to make that happen.”
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