Australian sex discrimination commissioner calls for urgent changes in mining industry

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Australian sex discrimination commissioner calls for urgent changes in mining industry

SYDNEY Reuters - Australia's sex discrimination commissioner has called for urgent changes in the country's mining industry after a state government report found that sexual harassment and assault were rife in the sector.

The Western Australia parliamentary report on Thursday described what it said was horrifying behaviour against women in the mining industry and recommended sweeping changes including setting up a register of sexual offenders.

The report is comprehensive and confronting in highlighting the unacceptable treatment of women and, even more shockingly, the fact that this treatment has been invisible to employers in the mining industry, Australia's Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins told Reuters in a statement.

Jenkins said that the report makes strong evidence based recommendations for changes that are urgently needed in the mining industry. Concerns about a culture of sexism and bullying in the industry led to an investigation by Western Australia, home to the bulk of the country's iron ore sector.

Australia accounts for around half of the world's iron ore exports and women complain of sexual harassment in fly in mining camps or temporary accommodation set up at remote mines.

Western Australia's mining sector employs approximately 150,000 people and generated a $208 billion $143 billion in export revenue in 2020 21.

The Australian federal government said it would look at whether issues raised in the report could be tackled at a national level.

The Minister will work with the WA State Government, and the industry on measures to help end sexual harassment and assault, according to a spokeswoman for Australia's Resources Minister Madeleine King.

The investigation found that state regulators did not accurately and consistently record any data on the extent of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety DMIRS reported that it had only received 22 reports in seven years, despite the fact that the state police investigated 23 reports of sexual assaults on mine sites over the last 2 years.

The inquiry noted that it is hard to believe that the regulator would have accepted this level of reporting as reflecting the real situation on the ground.

In response to questions to DMIRS, WorkSafe Commissioner Darren Kavanagh told Reuters that he was examining the enquiry's recommendations prior to advising the government on the next course of action.