A federal Labor government would commit $24 million to fund Working Women’s Centres across the country, and will work with relevant stakeholders and the states and territories to establish new centres where there are none.
Currently, Working Women’s Centres, which are designed to help women navigate workplace and industrial relations issues including sexual harassment, only operate in South Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland, and have not received adequate funding to operate at their full potential.
On Tuesday, opposition leader Anthony Albanese also announced a Labor government would invest $1.27 million to establish a “one-stop shop” to assist victims of workplace sexual harassment. This “one-stop shop” would be within the Australian Human Rights Commission, providing information about a victim’s rights, options for making a complaint and referrals to services. It would also be accessible to employers, to help them understand their responsibilities.
Another $1.5 million in funding would also be provided to the Australian Human Rights Commission to help it hear and document the experiences of victims of historical workplace sexual harassment.
These announcements come as part of commitment from Labor to fully implement all 55 recommendations of Kate Jenkins’ Respect@Work report, aimed at addressing sexual harassment in workplaces across the country.
Last week, Women’s Agenda reported the Northern Territory Working Women’s Centre is just weeks away from closing. Under the Morrison government, Working Women’s Centres have not received any certainty they will receive the funding recommended by Kate Jenkins.
One of the recommendations in the Respect@Work report called on the government to sufficiently fund the centres to ensure they can provide the services needed to help women understand and act on their workplace rights.
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Last week, Kristine Ziwica wrote that the closure of Northern Territory Working Women’s Centre “would be a devastating blow for the women in that part of the country who rely on the service — and it will be a devastating blow for the women of Australia if the few remaining working women’s centres in South Australia and Queensland if they are forced to follow suit”.
In early April 2021, more than a year after Kate Jenkins handed down her report, Scott Morrison failed to accept several of its key recommendations, including the recommendation to amend the sex discrimination act to include a “positive duty” on employers to take measures to prevent and eliminate sexual harassment.
“Back in April, Scott Morrison promised he would adopt every recommendation in the Respect@Work Report. Sadly, he’s not,” Albanese said on Tuesday.
“After commissioning the work in 2018, the Morrison Government ignored the final Respect@Work for over a year, leaving it to gather dust on the desk of former Attorney General, Christian Porter. It should not have taken this long.”
Over the past five years, one in three people in Australia have experienced sexual harassment at work, including two in five women.
This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.