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'One in three' Australian parliament employees sexually harassed: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A file photo taken on March 15, 2021 shows former government staffer Brittany Higgins, who alleged publicly that she had been raped by a colleague in a minister's office in 2019, speaking before protesters during a rally against sexual violence and gender inequality in front of Parliament House in Australia's capital city Canberra. (Photo by AFP)

Sexual harassment and bullying are widespread in Australia's parliament, affecting both lawmakers and staff, a high-profile inquiry into the institution's "sexist culture" has found.

After a seven-month investigation, a government-backed report on Tuesday said one in three people currently working at parliament "have experienced some form of sexual harassment while working there".

That included 63 percent of the country's female parliamentarians.

The report made 28 recommendations, including a formal statement of acknowledgement by political leaders, targets to increase gender diversity and "a proactive focus on safety and wellbeing".

It was launched amid widespread outrage at the alleged rape of parliamentary staffer Brittany Higgins inside a minister's office, after a night out with conservative Liberal Party colleagues.

Her allegations -- which are still before the court -- fuelled nationwide demonstrations and demands for reform.

Higgins on Tuesday welcomed the report and thanked "the many brave people who shared their stories which contributed to this review".

"I hope all sides of politics not only commit to but implement these recommendations in full," she said in a statement sent via the Australian National University, where she is now a visiting fellow.

Greens' Senator Sarah Hanson-Young described the report as a "damning expose of the sexist culture and harassment in politics".

"The statistics and comments are shocking, but for many women here they are not surprising and ring true to our own experiences," she said.

(Source: AFP)

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