Australian Police condemned for toxic culture

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An independent review into the Australian Federal Police has found the force nurturing a toxic workplace culture with many workers feeling bullied and abused.

The six-month investigation into diversity and inclusion found that instances of sexual harassment within the workplace were almost double the national average with 46 per cent of women and 20 per cent men reporting to have been victimised within the past five years.

The report also found that an alarming 66 per cent of women and 62 per cent of men had experienced bullying within the same five-year time period.

Carried out by former sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, a total of 24 recommendations were made as a result of the report.

AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin said he was shocked by the revelation and unreservedly apologised to anyone who may have been subjected to bullying or harassment within the workplace.

"I think what we're seeing is that in organisations like the Australian Federal Police, organisations that are particularly male-dominated, organisations that also have command and control as a principal part of the way they operate, these behaviours can sometimes be masked," he said.

"They can be hidden, and it is time that we expose them and that's what we're doing,” he added.

Among the recommendations is the establishment of a gender-balanced Cultural Reform Board and an annual focus on recruitment pathways to operational roles for women.

Broderick also suggested the force address leadership issues and improve flexible career options.

The report and its subsequent recommendations are eerily similar to the 2007 Commission of Inquiry which saw New Zealand’s police force shamed for its similarly unacceptable culture.

New Zealand Police has since doubled down its diversity efforts, implementing a number of programs including a nationwide Women’s Advisory Network which supports women into leadership roles and gives female employees visible representation.

“If I’m really honest, a lot of it stemmed from the Commission of Inquiry in 2007 where it was identified that we hadn’t built a culture in our organization that supported women’s advancement,” admitted Alexandra Renton-Green, principal advisor of organisational and employee development at New Zealand Police.

“It was really important to us to take action on those findings and change the experience for women in the organization,” she continued. “We want women right across our organisation at all levels and to do that we need to make sure we’re facilitating their ability to be in those roles.”

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