SYDNEY, June 21 (Reuters) - Australia will release on
Thursday a state government report on sexual harassment in the
country's mineral-rich west after more than a year of
investigations, as the sector tries to fix a culture of sexism
Women have long complained of sexual harassment in "fly in,
fly out" (FIFO) mining camps.
Major miners including BHP Group, Rio Tinto
and Fortescue have made submissions to the
which is expected to recommend steps to address the issue.
WHAT ARE MINING 'FIFO' CAMPS?
Western Australia state is home to the bulk of Australia's
iron ore mines, which account for about half of the world's iron
ore and is a main source of the country's economic growth.
Mine workers often live in Australian cities, and fly in and
out of remote mine sites. They typically live at isolated FIFO
camps for a fortnight at a time in West Australia's mining belt.
Women make up roughly one in five FIFO workers. Critics say
the camps have become hubs for alcohol-fuelled behaviour that
has created a toxic culture for women and accuse miners of
turning a blind eye despite complaints by female employees.
WHAT'S THE INQUIRY ABOUT?
A five-member state parliamentary committee, called the
Community Development and Justice Standing Committee, conducted
the inquiry which is expected to zero in on complaints of sexual
harassment at FIFO sites, and investigate how it was handled by
miners. The committee will look at:
-- if there is a clear understanding of the prevalence,
nature, outcomes and reporting of sexual harassment in FIFO
-- if existing workplace characteristics and practices like
cultures, rosters, drug and alcohol policies and recruitment
practices adequately protect against sexual harassment;
-- if current legislation, regulations, policies and
practices are adequate for FIFO workplaces in Western Australia;
-- what actions are being taken by industry and government
to improve the situation.
WHAT PROMPTED THE INQUIRY?
An Australian Human Rights Commission inquiry into sexual
harassment in 2020 found that 74% of women in the mining
industry had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the
past five years, partly due to the high gender imbalance in the
The sector's workforce of 150,000 is predominantly -
five-sixths - male, a gender mix that's little improved since
its beginnings over a century ago.
Matters came to a head last year as several women reported a
culture of bullying and abuse in mining, as well as other
Australian workplaces. The revelations sparked public outrage,
leading to what has been called Australia's #MeToo moment.
The outrage also played out in the political sphere as
female voters blamed former Prime Minister Scott Morrison for
inaction on issues like gender pay gap and violence against
women. Morrison was voted out in May.
WHAT HAS THE INDUSTRY DONE SO FAR?
In submissions to the inquiry last year, top miners
acknowledged that sexual harassment is rife at mining camps in
Western Australia, with firms across the industry reporting
multiple complaints. BHP, which said it fired 48 staff since
2019, is aiming for 40% female representation across its
operations by the end of the 2025 fiscal year.
Rival Rio Tinto published a report in February after
conducting an independent review of its own culture, which
detailed an environment of bullying, harassment and racism. The
review found that nearly 30% of women had experienced sexual
harassment at work, with 21 women reporting actual or attempted
rape or sexual assault. Rio pledged to adopt all 26
recommendations on improving its workplace culture.
A top mining industry body, the Minerals Council of
Australia (MCA), also set out a code for its members to
eliminate sexual harassment.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Amran Abocar and Lisa