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June 19, 2019
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Women in Uniform Face “Alarming” Levels of Sexual Harassment, Bullying: Report

CANBERRA: Australian Border Force (ABF) staff are regularly subjected to harassment and bullying at work, an internal review has found.

The 2017 review of ABF culture, published by the Guardian Australia on Friday, uncovered “alarming levels of sexual harassment and bullying” within the organization.

It revealed that the ABF was fostering a culture of nepotism and favouritism since it was established as an amalgamation of customs and immigration in 2015.

Roman Quaedvlieg, who was Australia’s highest-paid public servant, was dismissed as commissioner of the ABF in March 2018 after a nine-month investigation found that he abused his power to obtain employment for a person he was in a relationship with.

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The sacked commissioner of the ABF who commissioned the review said that he acted after hearing disturbing reports of female staff being subjected to sexual harassment from their male peers.

“The very fact that a senior male officer can talk to junior female officers in that manner tells you there’s a cultural problem,” Quaedvlieg told the Guardian Australia on Friday.

The final report, known as the May report, concluded that women, older employees, people with disabilities and ethnically diverse people were being unconsciously discriminated against at the ABF.

“Bias is perpetuated through stereotyping, allocation of work and development opportunities to people who “fit” and, or are known to supervisors,” the report said.

It is compounded by a lack of transparency, structural rigidity, an increasing military-like focus that informs decisions about “suitability” sexual harassment and bullying, according to the report.

A separate report published by Fairfax Media earlier in December revealed that 22 per cent of ABF staff said they had experienced bullying or harassment at work in a 12-month period.