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Miners pledge to eliminate sex harassment

Australia’s mining industry has pledged to wipe out sexual harassment.

The Minerals Council of Australia has committed to putting a stop to the practice in a statement endorsed by its board of directors and supported by all member companies.

The move is a response to a landmark Australian Human Rights Commission report published last year.

The council, in its statement, promises to create an industry culture “that respects all people, eliminates sexual harassment and stands up, supports and cares for all those affected by unacceptable behaviour”.

“Through committed leadership, we will develop an industry response that recognises and prevents sexual harassment and empowers people to speak up and take action where behaviours do not meet expected standards,” it reads.

The document acknowledges sexual harassment causes “profound physical, emotional and psychological harm”.

Mining is one of the worst industries for the sexual harassment of women in the country.

A whopping 74 per cent of female mine workers had experienced it in the previous five years, a human rights commission survey found in 2018.

That was second only to the information, media and telecommunications industry.

In total, 40 per cent of mining workers reported being subjected to harassment in the previous half decade.

The council’s statement describes this conduct as “unacceptable and illegal”.

The group plans to develop an industry code and toolkit to establish clear expectations and protocols on preventing and responding to workplace sexual harassment.

It has also expanded its safety policy, introducing a focus on respectful workplaces and adding language around health and psychological wellbeing.

The policy says workplace harassment and disrespectful behaviours are preventable.

Minerals Council of Australia CEO Tania Constable said in a statement safety was the minerals industry’s “core value”.

“Sending a clear message across the industry and the community that sexual harassment is unacceptable and will not be tolerated will put the sector on the right path for change,” she said.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins welcomed the “proactive initiative” to bring members together and build on the work in the report.

Ms Jenkins was responsible for the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report, which was released in March 2020.

Prompted by the global MeToo movement, the report included a raft of recommendations.

One was that industry and professional groups collaborate to create industry and profession-wide initiatives to address sexual harassment.

“As Australia works towards our economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that all industries are safe and respectful, to ensure men and women can access work opportunities equally. We know this will lead to more productive and profitable industries which will assist a stronger economic recovery,” Ms Jenkins told AAP in a statement.

She said she was “greatly encouraged” by the report’s impact, which prompted substantial action from organisations including the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Male Champions of Change, universities and the legal profession.

October’s federal budget included funding for the establishment of a national workplace sexual harassment council and other initiatives recommended by the Respect@Work report.

Ms Jenkins presented to the Minerals Council’s board on her approach last year.

It established a Respect@Work Taskforce in response to the report, to broaden its safety and health policy and develop a commitment to eliminating sexual harassment.

Minerals Council members include BHP, Glencore Australia Holdings, Rio Tinto and Whitehaven Coal.

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