In the Secretary’s statement below, reference is made to Ms Russell’s report being delivered to the Secretary by 12 December 2022.
Given the scope and complexity of Ms Russell’s review, the department has agreed to a request to extend Ms Russell’s appointment to early 2023. This will allow for additional engagement with key stakeholders and further work to understand how we can make the AAD a safer and more inclusive workplace.
Ms Russell is now expected to provide the Secretary with a report by late February 2023.
I and the executive of the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) have a responsibility to ensure that DCCEEW is the best possible workplace – a place that is safe, inclusive, without judgement, and where people feel comfortable to be their best self.
The Director and executive of the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) also place a very high priority on ensuring a safe and inclusive culture. Consistent with this, and recognising that there were problems with its workplace culture and behaviours, in 2020 the AAD executive initiated a social science review into diversity, equity and inclusion in the Australian Antarctic Program.
The study, by Professor Meredith Nash, involved past and present expeditioners and head office staff. Today I am releasing a summary authored by Professor Nash of her study.
Summary of Nash review of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Australian Antarctic program (PDF 107 KB)
Summary of Nash review of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Australian Antarctic program (DOCX 35 KB)
The study by Professor Nash found that women reported experiencing sexual harassment and feeling excluded and diminished while undertaking work in the Australian Antarctic Program, particularly while stationed in the Antarctic. The report also finds that gender inequality and a broader lack of diversity in AAD are contributing factors. This is disappointing and unacceptable, and I believe requires further action.
Professor Nash made several recommendations.
Significant progress has already been made to implement Professor Nash’s recommendations. Specialists in organisational culture are now working with AAD to develop an action plan of training, policy and behaviour that will help us build a culture where everyone is respected and included.
In the last 12 months, the AAD has gone from a senior executive cohort that was 100 percent male, to 50 percent of the station leaders being women. There have been revisions in the recruitment of expeditioners to include assessments of behavioural patterns, updates to manuals and the Expeditioner Handbook, leadership training, and bystander training with more than 200 people having completed this training so far.
However, given the substance of the report, it is important that we take stock and make sure we are doing all that we can to ensure staff feel safe at work, they are able to be themselves at work, and that we have the right systems, processes and protocols in place to support staff who may experience bullying or harassment.
The fact that some women did not trust HR systems to make formal complaints about inappropriate behaviour, given the fear of losing their positions or being stigmatised, means we must ensure the department has a best practice response to staff of AAD who rightly make complaints about such behaviours, particularly those that involve sexual harassment. This includes ensuring staff have avenues to make confidential complaints and know that they will be dealt with and taken seriously.
To this end, I have appointed Leigh Russell, to undertake an independent review of actions and progress to date, to provide an assessment of the culture of AAD today, and to provide advice on best practice systems and policies for staff who may experience inappropriate behaviour and who wish to rightly make complaints about that. The draft Terms of Reference of the review are:
These will be finalised in consultation with Ms Russell.
Leigh Russell is an accomplished leader with a reputation built on excellence and diversity – as a CEO, board director, consultant, author, leadership & culture lecturer, and coach.
Ms Russell will provide a report to me by 12 December.
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