16 May 2018

HRC report: 'Deep divide' between staff and managers

1:54 pm on 16 May 2018

Stalking and sexual assault - as well as hugging, kissing and sexually suggestive comments or taunts - are among the behaviours reported to a ministerial inquiry into the Human Rights Commission.

More than 80 of the commission's staff participated in the inquiry, which found 17 percent either witnessed or directly experienced such behaviours in the course of their work in the past five years.

The report from the investigation, triggered by allegations of sexual harassment by a senior staff member of an intern, was released yesterday.

The report also referred to dysfunctional, and at times unworkable, relationships among the four commissioners.

The review by the retired judge Coral Shaw also heard from staff who described dysfunctional, bullying and disrespectful behaviour by commissioners.

Judge Shaw found the relationship between the Chief Commissioner David Rutherford and his colleagues to be problematic since he started in 2011, although he did not accept this.

Judge Shaw also found there was a "deep divide" between some staff and their managers, and a lack of trust among staff that any complaints would be handled appropriately.

She said Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy had long held concerns about Mr Rutherford's communication style.

Mr Rutherford said the report was confronting to read, and the organisation had already made efforts to improve the workplace culture.

Justice Minister Andrew Littleordered an inquiry into the commission's procedures and culture in February.

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