A statement from the ACT Greens Co-Convenors
The ACT Greens are committed to eradicating sexual harassment, violence and assault in our organisation, in our workplaces, on our streets, and in our homes.
In Australia today, one in five women will reportedly experience sexual harassment in the workplace in their lifetime. Political parties, volunteer groups, and community organisations are not immune. We can no longer assume that our shared values will protect us from the kind of devastating violence that we stand against. We have learned that without the right policies and procedures in place, we will not be able to offer support to those affected in a way that supports these values.
We did not have the right policies and procedures in place to adequately deal with allegations relating to harassment or assault in 2016. The legal process relating to the 2016 assault complaint has now ended, and the ACT Greens statement on that matter is available online.
Since the end of 2016, the ACT Greens have undertaken significant changes to our structure, policies, and procedures to make our organisation as safe as possible for members, staff, and volunteers, and improve responses if an incident impacting safety were to occur.
It has been a fraught and painful process for everyone involved, and has presented unique challenges to a party that is committed to equality and justice.
For ACT Greens, “workplace” includes anywhere our volunteers or staff are carrying out their work for the party. That doesn’t just mean within an office environment. During an election campaign, when everyone is working hard to achieve our goals, it is important that we continue to look out for each other’s health and safety in our workplaces.
How have our processes changed in managing safety in our workplace?
Code of Conduct: All volunteers are now required to sign the ACT Greens’ Volunteers Code of Conduct before commencing volunteer work with the party. The Code of Conduct provides a basis for disciplinary action for those who fail to meet their obligations.
Consent training: We are implementing consent training workshops at our core volunteer training events. An online training program, Consent Matters, is also available to all volunteers, members, and staff. This program is also used by Australian universities to help improve understanding of consent in sexual situations. While we cannot expect an online training course within our small organisation to change wider social culture overnight, it is a helpful education tool that can be accessed from home, at a time that suits participants, and has already been taken up by many people who are likely to be regular volunteers in our next campaign.
Wellbeing Officers: Wellbeing Officers will provide a first point of contact for volunteers who need support or advice. Wellbeing Officers form part of the Support and Mediation Group, but with a more proactive role in looking out for volunteers and staff during campaigns. Training for Wellbeing Officers have begun, in preparation for the next election campaign.
Training material for volunteers: Work is underway to prepare training materials for all volunteers being inducted into our workplaces during the next campaign. This includes understanding how they can support workplace health and safety, policies and procedures, how to report an incident, and relevant contacts.
Management training: Training in how to eliminate bullying, harassment, and violence in our workplaces commenced in February 2018, strengthening our capacity to deter and prevent clearly defined inappropriate behaviours. Staff and volunteers who have responsibility for supervising or coordinating other staff and volunteers are required to undertake this training ahead of the next election campaign.
Support and Mediation Group (SMG): Tasked with hearing and attempting to resolve complaints and grievances in the first instance, the SMG replaces the previous Grievance Resolution Group. Members of the group use their professional skills in facilitation and mediation to restore, foster, and maintain understanding, harmony, and good working relationships.
Arbitration and Conciliation Committee (ACC): Operating at arm's length from the party’s Management Committee, the ACC can hear and investigate grievances and complaints, and make a recommendation for action by the party in response. This may include recommending that Management Committee censure, suspend, or expel a member. The ACC is authorised to engage an independent, external professional to investigate matters as needed. For a serious matter involving a possible criminal offence, the ACC has procedures in place to advise the complainant to seek legal advice or take the matter to the police, and provide appropriate counselling or support to the complainant.
Revised party Constitution: Following extensive consultation, ACT Greens members voted overwhelmingly in support of a revised Constitution in 2017. This includes the establishment of the ACC, and the ability for Management Committee to implement discipline recommendations without risking the privacy of someone who has experienced harassment, bullying, or violence.
What do I do if I wish to raise any concerns in relation to allegations of workplace harassment with the ACT Greens?
Our revised Constitution, policies, and procedures are available online. More information about the Support and Mediation Group, and Arbitration and Conciliation Committee, including contact details, is also available online.
Wellbeing Officers will soon provide a first point of contact for volunteers who need support or advice. Contact details for Wellbeing Officers will be provided in training material given to volunteers and staff before they commence an activity.
We have an online form to make it easy for a volunteer or staff member to report an incident affecting health and safety. Links to the form are provided in training material given to volunteers and staff before they commence an activity.
Our public statement in response to the 2016 assault complaint is available online.
For general concerns or questions about party administration and processes, please contact the ACT Greens Co-Convenors.