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Harassment, bullying rife in AFP: review

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Harassment and bullying is widespread within the Australian Federal Police, with nearly 50 per cent of women reporting sexual harassment in the past five years, an investigation has found.

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Off the back of her work with the defence force, former sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick has now completed a review of the AFP.

Following six months of work and more than 1000 interviews, she concludes the extent of sexual harassment and bullying warrants an urgent need for action.

She found:

Broderick recommends a specialised and independent office should be set up and headed by an assistant commissioner, reporting directly to the AFP commissioner, to investigate claims and support victims.

Many women indicated they had rewarding and worthwhile careers in the AFP, but for a large proportion their experiences were tainted by a range of challenges, including:

Others spoke of the struggle to choose between a career and family and a stigma attached to maternity leave.

But Broderick commended the AFP for trying to create a more flexible workplace, through trials of split shifts and other rostering initiatives.

She proposed a “flex by default” policy, which would see refusal for flexible hours reviewed by senior leaders.

Her review also found women were under-represented across the AFP.

As of April 2016, women made up 35 per cent of all personnel – including 22 per cent of police.

Despite the findings, Broderick said there was no reason for reduced community confidence.

“Quite the contrary,” she said.

“In all my interactions with the AFP leadership team I have observed a strong desire to step forward in a transformative manner, not just tinkering around the edges.”

Commissioner Andrew Colvin admitted to being disturbed by the level of bullying and sexual harassment within the organisation.

“These practices will not be tolerated and I am putting in place actions which will respond positively to all 24 recommendations in this report,” he said.

Assistant commissioner Ray Johnson will head up a new division to lead the reform process.

-AAP

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