Media Releases

Parliament needs to set the example for respect in the workplace

This week, we have witnessed more examples of disrespect in Federal Parliament.

Australians have observed sexist comments, name-calling, shouting and disrespect during Question Time and in other parliamentary forums which would not be acceptable in any other workplace. On average, one in five Australian women experience harassment within the workplace [1]. Opposing views and strong debate are an integral part of our democracy and forthright  views are expected. However, too often the discourse crosses the line to disrespect and abuse. The antics in Canberra this week are a prime example of workplace disrespect.

“We look to our national leaders to set the standard for workplace behaviour. The majority of Australia’s workforce (94 per cent) agrees that employers should take a lead role in educating
employees about respectful relationships between men and women [2].

“It is clear that this week’s events, either singularly or as a grouping, has showcased disrespect for women and for fellow colleagues in the workplace. It has sent a clear message to the Australian community that this is the standard too many in our parliament are prepared to walk past,” said Acting CEO, Delia Donovan.

It is this sort of behaviour that the White Ribbon Workplace Accreditation Program aims to stamp out.

More than 170 workplaces and 600,000 employees across the country have made an active and conscious decision to lead by example in their workplace. They have committed to driving social change, to strengthen gender equality and stop violence against women. They have committed to improving workplace culture and morale, increase knowledge and skills of staff to address disrespect, abuse and violence against women and improve retention rates and ensure lower staff turnover.

White Ribbon urges all parliamentarians to remember that while they should engage in robust debate they should also, at the same time, be mindful that their workplace is very much in the public eye. Australians look at, and up to, the behaviours and attitudes of our political leaders who represent them and they are expected to set a positive example with their words and actions.

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2017). Personal Safety Survey 2016. ABS cat. no. 4906.0. Canberra: ABS.
[2] Pennay, D. & Powell, A. (2012). The role of bystander knowledge, attitudes & behaviours in preventing violence against women.
Melbourne: The Social Research Centre.

This policy statement represents the organisational position of White Ribbon Australia. It does not represent the individual opinions and views of our stakeholders, including, but not limited to, our Ambassadors, Advocates, Partners and staff members.

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