Sex Discrimination Commissioner Liz Broderick says she was “appalled and saddened” to learn about explicit emails that were demeaning of women and circulated by Australian Army members of varying ranks.
In a comment piece published in Fairfax papers this morning, Broderick writes that the emails are inexcusable, especially as they are alleged to have been circulated by men “trained to lead, honour and serve this country”.
Broderick has led a review into the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force in recent years, speaking to women Defence members across the country where she says she learnt of both “positive” and “distressing” experiences.
Some of those distressing experiences included stories of sexual harassment, extreme exclusion and victimisation. However, Broderick has more recently spoken out about some of the progress made for women in Defence and notes that the Chief of the Defence Force quickly accepted her recommendations following the review.
“I know that the army has, over the past 12 months, made significant efforts to make its service a more inclusive and respectful workplace. Obviously there are some men in the army that still don’t get it.”
Broderick wrote there must be men serving in defence who still don’t understand there is no place for offensive and disrespectful behaviour towards women, and that a modern military requires participation from both genders.
“They still don’t get that sexist and offensive behaviour will not be tolerated by their own senior leaders and by the broader Australian community.”
Broderick was asked to undertake the Defence review following a series of scandals involving degrading behaviour towards female members, including the experience of an air force cadet who learnt that her consensual sex with a colleague had been broadcast via Skype to other cadets. Last year, DLA Piper released a report suggesting 755 allegations of abuse over 60 years.
Broderick’s review, released last August, recommended Defence promote a culture allowing both genders to thrive, where sexual and offensive conduct has no place. She found one in four women in the force had experienced sexual harassment over the previous five years.
“The latest allegations in the army are a significant setback to reform,” she writes today.