Inquiry into sexual assaults and harassment in WA’s FIFO industry urges reporting overhaul, training

A scathing report into sexual assault and harassment within WA’s fly-in, fly-out mining industry has found women have been subjected to “an appalling range of behaviours”.

Titled ‘Enough is Enough’, the report details how sexual harassment is “generally accepted or overlooked” and describes the “failure” of miners to recognise what was happening in their workplaces.

Included in the report are stories of several women, including one who was “knocked unconscious in her donga and awoke to find her jeans and underpants around her ankles”.

Another said a man “forced his hand down her top numerous times in front of other workers, and no one did anything”.

Another shocking account details a “powerplay behaviour” described as “shovelling”, where iron ore would be dumped on the cabs of trucks driven by women if they didn’t comply with sexual requests.

“To hear the lived reality of the taunts, attacks and targeted violence, the devastation and despair the victims experienced, the threats or loss of their livelihood that resulted, was shattering and it’s completely inexcusable,” the inquiry’s chair, Libby Mettam, told parliament.

A woman speaking in headshot
Libby Mettam questioned why government bodies had not responded more effectively to issues raised in the report.  (ABC News: James Carmody)

“This represents a failure of the industry to protect its workers, and raises real questions about why government was not better across this safety issue,” she said.

Concerns raised over offender ‘blacklist’ 

The report makes 24 recommendations, including overhauling reporting and training in the sector.

A suggestion that surfaced during hearings was an industry-wide “blacklist” to prevent known offenders from being employed on other sites, as the inquiry heard was common.

But Ms Mettam said that raised issues of confidentiality and natural justice, as well as what the threshold would be for inclusion.

An earth mover shifts dirt into a truck in the Pilbara
The parliamentary inquiry report into sexual assaults and harassment at WA mine sites has been handed down.(ABC News)

“We have recommended the industry explore options, which could operate effectively and fairly to prevent habitual sexual harassment offenders continuing to be re-employed in the mining workplace,” she said.

“It is a complex policy issue but it’s too important an issue to ignore.”

Minister for Women Simone McGurk said the government would consider the recommendations, including the idea of a blacklist, to see whether it was practical.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy chief executive Rob Carruthers said the industry was already working to improve its recruitment and vetting procedures, but would consider the idea.

A man in a business suit speaks at a press conference
Rob Carruthers says the industry is working to improve its vetting procedures and would consider the ‘blacklist’ proposal. (ABC News: James Carmody)

“Any such process needs to be practical and drive better outcomes, so we’d review that in full detail,” he said.

Representing some of the state’s biggest miners, Mr Carruthers said it was a “very challenging day” for the industry.

“To those that have been impacted by sexual assault and harassment in our industry, on behalf of our industry, I apologise,” he said.

While acknowledging it would take time to digest the report, Mr Carruthers said the industry was already committed to stamping out sexual assault and harassment and would support recommendations which were practical.

The report’s recommendations include:

  • The government establish a forum to explore the scale of the issue and consider opportunities for redress
  • Mining companies ensure there are “serious repercussions, including dismissal” for anyone who seeks sexual favours 
  • The industry establishing acceptable standards for safety and security on site
  • Regulators improving guidelines and definitions across all areas of the system
  • An expert group be established within WorkSafe WA to investigate reports of sexual harassment and assault.

Report puts regulator in spotlight

The inquiry’s report also questioned why the industry regulator, the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, had only received 22 reports of sexual harassment across a seven-year period, despite police investigating 23 in just two years.

Posted , updated 

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