Brittany Higgins: Culture of silence enabled harassment

The PM vowed to make workplaces safe and productive

Brittany Higgins: Culture of silence enabled harassment

A “culture of silence” in government was what enabled bullying, harassment and other questionable behaviour to go unchecked in Parliament House, Brittany Higgins said in a statement following her meeting with Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The former political staffer is on a mission to reform the allegedly toxic work culture in Parliament.

On Twitter earlier this week, Higgins challenged the government to end the climate of harassment in the workplace. “The onus is now on the [government] to show leadership and act,” said Higgins, who came forward in February alleging she had been sexually assaulted by a male staffer.

Read more: Parliament rape allegation wake up call for all employers

“For too long the culture of silence has allowed workplace bullying, harassment and other inappropriate conduct to go unchecked,” Higgins said. “Cultural change is only achieved when we stand up and say ‘enough is enough.’”

 

Read more: Workplace harassment law set for overhaul

The meeting with the prime minister became an avenue for Higgins to relate what had happened to her in March 2019, when the incident allegedly took place. She said the conversation with Morrison was difficult, albeit “honest and frank”. 

“He fundamentally seemed to understand what had happened to me,” she said. “That was encouraging.” Higgins is pushing for an independent process that would safeguard political staffers from harassment. She also called on the government to update the Members of Parliament (Staff) or MoPS Act.

Morrison, for his part, vowed to make parliament offices “safe and more respectful”. Last month, the Federal Government said it would enhance legislation concerning workplace sexual harassment after a series of rape scandals emerged from Parliament House.

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