A new report has found that LGBTI employees at Victoria Police continue to experience homophobic comments, sexual harassment, and discrimination in the workplace.

The report – Proud, visible, safe: Responding to Workplace Harm Experienced by LGBTI Employees at Victoria Police – was released on Friday by Victoria Police and the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC).

Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton commissioned the report in early 2018, as a means to focus on the impact of discrimination against LGBTI employees in the workplace, and the barriers those employees faced when reporting.

Acting Assistant Commissioner, Lisa Hardeman, said the report both highlighted Victoria Police’s commitment to building a culture of acceptance and inclusion, while also identifying opportunities to improve.

“While the report praises our efforts in recent years towards the inclusion of our LGBTI employees, including through dedicated employee networks and LGBTI awareness training, the review found that homophobia and transphobia were still tolerated in some workplaces,” she said.

“We have made great strides as an organisation but now that we cannot be satisfied until every employee can go to work as their authentic self.

“The report also recognised a number of stations which modelled safe, inclusive and respectful behaviour, including through strong leadership and displaying rainbow flags. The report identified opportunities to learn from these stations.”

Despite the report revealing that Victoria Police had taken strides to foster an inclusive and diverse workplace, it also found that homophobia and transphobia were tolerated in some Victoria Police workplaces.

The Commission reportedly heard from one gay employee who had experienced discrimination across their career with the Victoria Police. The employee alleged that he was told a senior officer “wouldn’t promote a poofter to [a commissioned officer rank]… you’re going to have to wait until he moves on before you get a job”.

The employee was also reportedly called in and told that the roster was being re-arranged because the senior officer “needed a ‘real man’ on that shift”.

In another example, a lesbian employee alleged that a senior sergeant “told me he thought it was a joke that I was being offered a secondment because I was pregnant… he proceeded to tell me that pregnant women were useless… I was then told that I would have only been selected as they ‘need a lesbian’ in the mix”.

The report also found that there were significant barriers to reporting LGBTI-related workplace harm, including low confidence and trust in formal reporting pathways and poor management responses.

Hardeman said that homophobic and transphobic language had no place in the Victoria Police.

“These comments have lasting impacts and everyone has a role to play in calling out these unacceptable behaviours,” she said.

“Victoria Police accepts all of the report’s recommendations in full, including improving reporting and workforce data, workplace harm reporting and training, messaging and displaying strong leadership.

“We will continue further expanding its LGBTI awareness and ally training, as well as encouraging senior officers of the organisation to lead by example.

“Thanks to this report, we are now in a better position to become an organisation where LGBTI employees are proud, visible and safe.”

The full report is available on both the Victoria Police and VEOHRC websites.

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