The review was announced after an extraordinary three weeks in which former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins came with shocking allegations that she had been raped by a colleague in the office of then-Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds in March 2019.
Following that, Attorney-General Christian Porter last week denied historical rape allegations and rejected calls to stand aside from his cabinet post.
Reflecting on the events of the last three weeks, Ms Jenkins said they had “caused trauma, actually, to our whole community”.
“For many people this might be a turning point for the issue of violence against women and a true recognition and understanding of what the problem is … even though this is hard,” she said.
Kate Johnson – a Liberal staffer with two decades of experience who blew the whistle in December 2019 on what she described as a “culture of bullying” in the office of Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt – said it should have not taken a tragedy in Parliament House “for the government to act on allegations of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault”.
“I have no doubt that the review will hear many disturbing, distressing, alarming stories of serious bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault that have been swept under the carpet with lives and careers ruined,” she said. “I look forward to providing evidence or testimony to the review and hope that my experience is never ever repeated.”
Labor’s finance spokeswoman Katy Gallagher said it was vital parliamentarians’ staff were provided with a safe workplace.
“As it will involve former staff as well as current staff, I would expect, and in a sense I would hope, that we do see more complaints or allegations or concerns or experiences of bullying or sexual harassment that have come forward through this process,” Senator Gallagher said. “I think it would be a lost opportunity if they don’t.”