If something has happened to you in a Commonwealth Parliamentary workplace that has caused you harm—whether physical or emotional—the PWSS can provide trauma-informed support and provide early intervention and resolution.
This may include instances of:
Bullying and harrassment
Bullying occurs when a person or a group of people repeatedly behave unreasonably towards you and the behaviour creates a risk to your health and safety. Bullying can include:
- aggressive and intimidating behaviour
- abusive or offensive language and comments
- belittling or humiliating comments
- practical jokes or initiation rituals
- unjustified and unreasonable criticism or complaints
- actions that deliberately isolate another person
- conduct that is continuously and pervasively insulting, undermining or derogatory.
Bullying is unlawful under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).
Harassment is unwelcome verbal or physical behaviour that intimidates, offends, belittles or humiliates a person or a group of employees because of a particular personal characteristic such as sex, age, race, gender, disability, religion or sexual orientation that is unreciprocated and often repeated but can be a single incident.
Workplace harassment can include:
- derogatory jokes
- asking intrusive questions about someone’s personal life, including their sex life
- verbal abuse and constant ridicule
- repeated threats of dismissal
- humiliating a person through gestures, sarcasm, criticism and insults
- spreading gossip or false, malicious rumours about a person, and
- sabotaging a person’s work, for example by withholding or suppling incorrect information, hiding documents or equipment, not passing on messages and seeking to get a person into trouble.
Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, unwelcome request for sexual favours, or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature towards you. Sexual harassment can include:
- unwelcome touching, hugging, cornering or kissing
- inappropriate staring or leering
- suggestive comments or jokes
- using suggestive or sexualised nicknames for co-workers
- sexually explicit pictures, images or gifts
- circulating sexually explicit material
- persistent unwanted invitations to go out on dates
- requests or pressure for sex
- intrusive questions or comments about a person’s private life or body
- unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against a person
- insults or taunts based on sex
- sexual gestures or indecent exposure
- following/stalking, watching or loitering nearby another person
- sexually explicit or indecent physical contact
- sexually explicit or indecent emails, phone calls, text messages or online interactions
- repeated or inappropriate advances online
- threatening to share intimate images or film without consent, and
- actual or attempted rape or sexual assault.
Sexual harassment is unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) and may be an offence under Australian criminal law depending on the conduct.
Discrimination, including racial discrimination
Discrimination is when a person is treated less favourably, or not given the same opportunities, as others in a similar situation, because of a particular personal characteristic such as sex, age, race, gender, disability, religion or sexual orientation.
Racial discrimination can also take the form of unfair treatment of a person because of their race, cultural or ethnic group, skin colour or the country where they were born.
Workplace discrimination can include:
- unjustified and unreasonable work requirements which have an unfair effect on a particular cultural or ethnic group
- unreasonably failing or refusing to accommodate dietary requirements, attire or routines undertaken in accordance with religious practice (such as prayer)
- refusing to hire or promote a suitably qualified person because of their age
- terminating an employee because they have or are perceived to have a disability, have had a disability in the past, or may develop a disability in the future.
Discrimination is unlawful in Australia.
Stalking or intimidation
Stalking or intimidation is a criminal offence in Australia and can include:
- following you
- making unwanted contact
- repeated phone calls or messages
- monitoring your use of the internet
- loitering or threatening you.
Assault is any act that is intended to cause you injury or harm. Assault is a criminal offence in Australia.
Sexual assault is any unwanted or forced sexual act, activity or behaviour. It can include anything sexual online or using a mobile phone. Sexual assault can include:
- touching any part of your body in a sexual way when you don’t want them to
- showing you their genitals or ‘flashing’
- watching you when you are naked or doing sexual things
- taking off a condom before or during sex without your permission
- posting sexual pictures of you on the internet when you don’t want them to
- making you watch or be in pornography (videos or photos of sex or sexual things)
- doing sexual things to you when you can’t make the kinds of choices you would normally make, including somebody coercing you. For example, when you:
- are confused about what is happening or what you are agreeing to because of alcohol or drugs
- feel pressured or manipulated
- are asleep or have passed out or are unconscious
- suffer a ‘freeze response’ and can’t move your body or talk
- are too scared to resist for fear of being harmed
- are outnumbered.
Sexual assault is a criminal offence in Australia.
Other workplace conflict that creates a WHS risk
You may experience other workplace conflict that creates a risk to work health or safety, feel free to call us to discuss. You can talk to one of our experienced case coordinators about what has happened. Our case coordinators can provide confidential support and advice on your options.
If you work or volunteer now, or did in the past, in a Commonwealth parliamentary workplace, we can provide you with free, confidential support and help you access other services that can help.
You can contact the PWSS and speak to a case coordinator. They will give you immediate support and work with you to understand your wishes going forward.
You will continue to receive support from a single case coordinator so you don’t need to retell your story multiple times.
We will treat your information confidentially and you will remain in control of any action taken. You can choose to remain anonymous when you contact us.
You can bring a support person with you to any meetings with us. This could be a friend, family member, partner, an advocate or counsellor, a union representative or legal professional.
Your case coordinator will give you support, work with you to understand your wishes and give advice on your options going forward. Your case coordinator will explain what each option means for you, including the process and possible outcomes.
You can decide what will best support you and how you want to address what you have experienced.
We can connect you with specialised counselling, depending on what you have experienced.
We can also help with managing the impacts of what has happened in your workplace, for example speaking with your manager or supporting you to have a conversation with them.
Where appropriate, we can undertake an independent workplace review of complaints about a serious incident or misconduct, or workplace conflict that amounts to a work health and safety risk, involving current and former MOPS Act employees and parliamentarians.
If you tell us about an incident that is potentially criminal, we can help you make a report to police – if you want to – and we will continue to support you through that process.
How we can help
We can support you and connect you to other support services.
You can contact a PWSS case coordinator 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Phone: 1800 PH PWSS (1800 747 977)
Text: 0487 112 755
In person: The PWSS office is located in M2.105 at Parliament House. The PWSS office is staffed from 8:30am-5pm on non-sitting days and from 8:30am-8pm on sitting days. PWSS case coordinators are available to meet with you face-to-face or virtually at a time that suits you.
Meetings can be arranged either at Parliament House or offsite.
Help from other places
There are other organisations to help you and provide you with support. We can connect you with a range of other services such as:
- Rape Crisis Lines
- Sexual Assault Counselling Australia
- Domestic Violence Impact Line
- LGBTIQ+ Violence Service
- MensLine Australia
The Australian Human Rights Commission has a list of national sexual assault support services, mental health support services, support services and information for bullying victims if you would like to contact a service directly.