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Mining sector sexual misconduct: Peak resource body calls three-day summit to form national taskforce – West Australian – 4 November 2021

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An unprecedented three-day national summit to tackle workplace sexual misconduct will be convened by Australia’s peak body representing resource and energy companies.

The Australian Resources and Energy Group (AREEA) has also called for a national task force to end the sector scourge, the extent of which was revealed in several exclusive reports by The West Australian.

Top resources bosses from mining, oil and gas, and allied services are expected to take part in the forum, which is slated to be held across November 8, 15 and 22.

The forum will be held behind closed doors and be invitation only.

At least 40 employers are expected to be represented in group sessions held across the three days.

Resources giants Rio Tinto, BHP, Fortescue Metals Group and Woodside are among those set to be invited.

AREEA operations director Tara Diamond said the association would call for nominations from the event to form the taskforce, which is set to comprise of 10 employer representatives.

Within hours of the announcement, the association had been flooded with interest.

Ms Diamond said the event had been planned to align with Australian Attorney-General Michaelia Cash’s two-day national forum examining the issue of workplace sexual harassment across all industries. It will be held on November 11 and 12.

Ms Diamond described workplace sexual misconduct as “abhorrent”, “inappropriate” and a “significant challenge” for the sector.

She revealed the AREEA had been prompted to host the summit following a relentless drive by member companies to stamp out the behaviour.

The taskforce will be aimed at driving accountability, new initiatives, and cultural improvement across the sector.

“There are countless proactive measures and initiatives in place amongst individual employers to stamp out workplace sexual harassment. Actions like inclusive safety audits, appropriate workplace behaviours training and ‘no tolerance’ policies for perpetrators are having a great impact,” Ms Diamond said.

“There is always room for more collaboration amongst leaders and constant exchanging of notes on their experiences and challenges.

“The industry is not resting on our laurels in dealing with this issue.”

AREEA this year introduced ‘inclusive safety audits’ to examine the actual and perceived physical and psychological safety hazards, as well as other employee training programs.

Their summit commitment comes after AREEA’s chief executive Steve Knott in August hit back at claims there had been a cover-up culture in the sector, saying national data suggested mining employees were more likely to report incidents of workplace sexual harassment than those in other industries.

Shock findings from an investigation by The West Australian led deputy Liberal leader Libby Mettam to call for a landmark parliamentary inquiry into sexual harassment in the FIFO community.

More than 70 submissions have been received by the investigating committee from mine companies, unions, industry bodies and workers.

Of those, 40 have been described as traumatic first-hand accounts of the horrors facing female fly-in fly-out workers — with official figures revealing alleged rapes at mines have more than trebled so far this year.

Ms Mettam and her committee of MPs toured remote mine sites on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday as part of their research.

Their observations are expected to be collated and contributed to their final recommendations, which will be tabled in parliament in April 2022.

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