Fly-in, fly-out workers may soon have to legally declare they are not sex predators to work in the mining industry as the sector battles a culture of rampant sexual abuse.
The move has the backing of mining industry groups desperate to clean up the embattled sector’s reputation, which has been rocked by sordid tales of sexual harassment, intimidation and assault.
In June a Western Australian parliamentary report on rife sexual malpractice in the mining industry ‘Enough is Enough’ was tabled was tabled with 24 recommendations including the introduction of a sex offender’s register for mine workers.
Although the state government rejected the notion of a register for sex predators, mining groups believe making prospective employees sign a statuary declaration is the next best thing.
Fly-in, fly-out workers may soon have to sign legal documents saying they are not a sex predator to get a job in the mining industry
What is a statutory declaration?
A statutory declaration is a legal document that makes a written statement that the person signing says is true.
The signing of a statutory declaration must be witnessed by an approved observer such as a Justice of the Peace.
A statutory declaration can be used as evidence in court.
If you make a false statement on purpose, you can be charged with an offence.
The aim would be weed out sex predators who jump from job to job when discovered.
Association of Mining and Exploration Companies chief executive Warren Pearce said making employees sign such a legal declaration was a step in the right direction.
‘We can’t have a situation where someone who has been a sexual harasser or has committed a sexual assault is able to simply leave one company and pick up a job at the next one,’ he said.
‘This has matter is by no means an end. Much like physical safety, psychosocial safety and sexual harassment and improving our culture is a never-ending effort.’
Although background checks should pick up convicted sex offenders, sometimes investigations are incomplete or ongoing.
The statutory declarations would likely ask a prospective employee if they had been investigated for sexual harassment.
However, industry groups would need to work together to create a standardised form to avoid loopholes and legal challenges.
Despite the government rejecting the register, it will implement other recommendations such as 24/7 phone helpline for victims, a dedicated legal service and new mine accommodation rules.
A report into sexual malpractice in the mining industry heard horror stories from over 200 women
In March a former stripper lifted the lid on the sexual harassment she had experienced during six years working in the West Australian mine industry.
Sasha Chambers became a multi-equipment operator following a career in adult entertainment.
She said the objectification she suffered while working onsite was far worse than anything she had experienced in her previous role.
‘I’ve had penises exposed to me for crying out loud,’ she told 60 Minutes.
‘I’ve never had a penis exposure as an adult entertainment industry worker let alone in any other industry, why is mining any different?’
Ms Chambers explained that when she worked in adult entertainment she had the power to protect herself from unwanted advances.
‘We don’t have that power here. We don’t have power in the mining sector,’ she said.
Her story was one of hundreds reported to the parliamentary inquiry.
Sasha Chambers (pictured) alleged men had exposed their genitals to her while at work on Australia’s mines and admitted she felt as if she had no power in the industry
Confidential admissions were heard from more than 200 women.
Mother-of-two Astacia Stevens told 60 Minutes that if women wanted to progress and be promoted within the industry they were expected to ‘get on their knees’.
Ms Stevens who worked at remote mine sites in Western Australia’s Pilbara region 12 years ago and said female FIFO workers had two options.
‘You either say yes or you say no. If you say no, you end up like me, you’re a troublemaker, you’re a pain in the a***, you just don’t get anywhere,’ she said.
‘And if you say yes, you get the rewards.’
Ms Stevens alleged some of her superiors had exposed their genitals to her and then allegedly encouraged her to engage in a sex act with them.
In one such instance, her boss allegedly told her if she wanted to get ‘her shirt’ – a full-time job on the mines – she would have to ‘get on her knees’.
When she rejected his advances she said he made her life a ‘living hell’ by allegedly stalking her, embarrassing her at staff meetings, and harassing her.
Ms Stevens said her complaints weren’t taken seriously and that she was eventually fired by that particular boss, and then blacklisted from other sites.
Astacia Stevens (pictured) claimed that if women wanted to progress and be promoted in the mining industry they were expected to ‘get on their knees’
She said women in the industry felt powerless and in danger of being raped or sexually assaulted, a reality sadly experienced by ex-FIFO worker Bronte Glass.
Ms Glass told 60 Minutes she was forced to take five pills of the strong sedative diazepam under ‘doctors orders’ after she suffered an allergic reaction.
Despite her protestations, she was given multiple doses throughout the day before two men allegedly came into her room and sexually assaulted her.
‘I could not move. I was catatonic,’ she recalled, adding she remembers seeing flashes going off as if someone was taking photos during the alleged assault.
The next morning, still groggy from the medication, Ms Glass was put in the back of a car and driven six hours from the site where she boarded a flight to Perth.
She still has no idea why she was removed from the site.
She later reported her alleged assault to government body in charge of investing complaints but in November she was told by the WA mines inspector that they had closed her case as there had been no breach.
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse call 1800 Respect (1800 737 732).