Page 933 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 22 March 2017

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champions and diversity officers, human resource managers and sections to provide a safe and secure environment for everyday employees who have less power than the head of service to raise concerns or issues that they experience. As I said at the hearings, I wonder how many other departments assume there are no issues if they are not raised with senior management. I think this is uncommon these days.

I hope this is not a regular answer in this day and age. Does the minister or head of service want a woman to knock on his door, sit down for a nice chat and say, “Excuse me, sir. May I have access to a toilet? I feel uncomfortable changing my tampon in the bushes.” When I asked the head of service if he could guarantee that portaloos would be available in the future, he said he was not sure.

I recently learned that setting up ablutions, which is another word for “toilets”, is a part of the ACT Rural Fire Service’s standard operating procedures under a document which I have here called “Establishment of a staging area”. I assume the same standard applies to Fire & Rescue. If not, why not? It says that identifying an area separate from but close to the staging area for catering, ablutions and other welfare services is a normal part of setting up a staging area. I hope that that will be paid more attention to as we go forward.

Throughout this whole exchange, the minister sat quietly in mutual agreement. Women have to fight for every appropriate respect and proper treatment. Minister Gentleman stands up here and gets in on every International Women’s Day and white ribbon day. And good on you. But when called out on this issue that he can fix, so far we have not seen a major change. It is a pretty breathtaking example of perhaps blindness. If they knew—if these people, the minister and his head of service, understood—how this situation strips women of dignity and leaves them vulnerable in the workplace, even operating purely out of self-interest, they would want to fix it.

How does this inability to guarantee match up with the ACT government’s women in emergency services strategy. The strategy includes an action framework. Strategies include identifying potential barriers to an inclusive and diverse workforce and developing initiatives that reduce or eliminate their impact on women; increasing staff awareness in relation to gender and stereotyping; and improving conflict resolution and complaint handling processes, including promoting a system of feedback to ensure that issues can be addressed proactively. Given that they are coming to me and not the minister or the ESA head, maybe there is an issue with that strategy and how it is being rolled out. It also promotes compliance with anti-discrimination legislation and policies. I note that this includes a focus on privacy and dignity.

While the strategy and procedures document is in alignment with the women’s plan, the minister’s inaction in the area and the attitude of the head of service is not. The view that he does not need to act unless the matter is directly raised by lower level female staff directly with him is not really acceptable.

I have calculated that to buy an additional 20 portaloos would cost $16,000. The ESA budget is $258 million. Surely we can find $16,000 to buy a set of portaloos, put them in the area where all the staging area equipment is housed and have them taken out to fire grounds.

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