Today, the findings and recommendations were published from an independent review on the prevention of sexual misconduct in our sector. Commissioned by ACFID – Australia’s peak-body for aid and development NGOs – the review was to evaluate its members’ practice and response to sexual misconduct and was conducted by the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM). The report is available here.
CARE Australia willingly participated in the review and, as a member of ACFID’s Board, I was privileged to sit on the Review Reference Group for this vital piece of work. I believe that ensuring greater accountability across the sector can only create greater trust in what we do.
CARE Australia fully supports the recommendations of the report. Its findings underscore the importance of a culture of respect and equality as the most important element for preventing sexual misconduct of all kinds.
CARE puts gender equality at the centre of everything we do. We have powerful programmes and
advocacy campaigns to advance gender equality by supporting women to claim their rights, and engaging men and boys all over the world, including the Enhancing Women’s Voice to STOP Sexual Harassment (STOP) project in four countries across South-East Asia.
CARE recognises the particular responsibility we have to protect people we work with from sexual exploitation and abuse. Such abuse, of anyone, is totally unacceptable.
Let’s be clear – sexual harassment, wherever it occurs, and to whomever it happens, makes us all poorer. It embeds unequal power relations meaning none of us are as safe and secure as we have a right to be, impacting our collective capacity to achieve our goals for an equal world.
Along with all other agencies that strive to make the world a better place, we offer our apology to the survivors of any sexual misconduct, many of whom bravely told their stories and experiences as part of the review.
We realise that no organisation is immune from a minority of individuals who abuse their position. Therefore, we have clear policies to investigate allegations, support victims, and discipline perpetrators or refer them to relevant authorities. We will not tolerate sexual misconduct perpetrated by CARE staff.
CARE Australia undertakes many processes to prevent sexual misconduct. This includes building a culture that recognises a shared responsibility to prevent harm. Our recruitment and vetting processes are focused on preventing the employment of a proven offender, while our training ensures every staff member understands their rights and obligations and is able to contribute to a culture that prevents sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse. A focus on encouraging a culture of ‘up standing’ rather than ‘by standing’ is pivotal to our efforts to facilitate reporting, and our survivor-centric approach to responding to allegations is designed to minimise further harm while also holding offenders to account.
Internationally, CARE recognises the importance of transparency in our sector and has released our figures as a confederation for the first time. CARE Australia included data on all reports of sexual misconduct in the ‘Transparency and Accountability’ section of our 2018 Annual Report.
We believe it is critical we continue to work as a sector to hold ourselves to a higher standard when protecting our staff, and the vulnerable people we work with. As such, CARE is part of a sector-wide effort to refine vetting practices to stop offenders being re-employed, within appropriate legal bounds.
CARE is proud of the policies and reporting procedures we have put in place and will continue to look for ways to increase preventative measures and the safety of our people from all types of harm. This is not a ‘set and forget’ matter – prevention of sexual misconduct is a long-term commitment, as is building and continually strengthening a culture of respect and equality. We look to learn much from activating the recommendations in today’s report, and welcome the opportunity to work closely with our fellow ACFID members, DFAT and the ACNC to achieve real and lasting change.
For further details and the background to the report, I encourage you to read the statement from ACFID and its CEO Marc Purcell.