The report states
Victoria Police have been increasingly visible in their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Victorians and meeting the policing needs of Victorians with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. It is clear that Victoria Police is committed to building an organisational culture of acceptance and inclusion for its LGBTI employees. The purpose of this report is to propel the work of Victoria Police toward a workplace culture that is inclusive of LGBTI employees. This report recognises and acknowledges the current and historical experiences of LGBTI employees in Victoria Police and aims to contribute insights that can further inform the positive work Victoria Police is already undertaking in line with its LGBTI Inclusion Strategy.
In our research we heard about a range of experiences, both positive and negative. The experiences documented in this report are presented to Victoria Police to illuminate LGBTI employees’ experiences of workplace harm. These experiences shed light on why some employees are not willing or able to report workplace harm to their organisation, they identify the barriers that currently prevent them from reporting harm to managers, and they also provide insight into why bystanders do not feel motivated or empowered to stand up for their colleagues when they see harm.
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (the Commission) was told by many participants about their desire to see changes to Victoria Police’s workplace culture and the organisation’s response to workplace harm. Participants told the Commission that in coming forward with their experiences, they hoped there would be action in their organisation to make it a safer and more inclusive one where workplace harm was not tolerated.
The Commission heard that current initiatives such as workplace harm training had improved the culture in their workplaces. The Commission also heard about workplaces that were known to be inclusive of their LGBTI employees. The Commission heard that a key factor in setting this workplace culture was strong leadership. Strong leadership meant managers who were inclusive of their LGBTI colleagues, such as supporting days of LGBTI significance in their stations, who wore rainbow lanyards or had rainbow flags and stickers in their offices. They also lead by example, modelling appropriate behaviour and intervening when they observed inappropriate behaviour occurring.The Commission notes that certain aspects of the homophobia that characterised policing culture in the 1980s and 1990s is still present in some Victoria Police workplaces and that there currently remains a tolerance for homophobic and transphobic comments in some workplaces.
The Commission was told about homophobic and transphobic comments and jokes in Victoria Police workplaces. We were told that this behaviour is currently normalised in certain workplaces, where it is seen as ‘banter’ between colleagues.
There is still a culture of ‘banter’ within the police force. I am often gobsmacked when members, who know I identify as a gay man, still have no issues using phrases like ‘cocksucker’ and ‘knob jockey’ around me. (Participant)
In the last year I was part of a briefing where an Inspector made a throw away transphobic comment, and the whole room of 100 people laughed at it. (Participant)
The Commission highlights that a culture that normalises homophobic and transphobic comments can enable other forms of workplace harm.
Participants told the Commission that homophobia was sometimes expressed by other members telling them they didn’t want to work with someone who was gay.
The Commission was told about one participant’s experience of exclusion: This Acting Sergeant … began telling staff members that he doesn’t like working with fags. The target was openly gay and noticed that this supervisor was quite evasive and eventually got to the point of the supervisor ignoring him and not even acknowledging his presence. (Participant)
The Commission learned that this could also manifest in hostility toward colleagues during LGBTI days of celebration or significance. This Sergeant call the LGBTI communities ‘faggots’. On the Colour Purple Day he threw a gold coin donation into the tin and said ‘I don’t support this cause at all but I want a sausage with sauce’. (Participant)
Participants told the Commission that the ‘everyday homophobia’ was part of an entrenched culture in certain workplaces. We were told that workplaces that were more male-dominated and where leaders did not call out inappropriate behaviour or address banter directly were more likely to have this entrenched culture.
The Commission is concerned to hear that some incidents of workplace harm identified Sergeants, Senior Sergeants and Inspectors as the perpetrators. One participant told the Commission: There are many Senior Sergeants, Inspectors and Superintendents who are causing massive personal damage to people, yet nothing is done. (Participant)
The Commission heard reports of recent incidents of aggressive homophobic comments directed toward gay Victoria Police employees, such as: I would have taken you out the back and flogged you back in my day. (Participant)
One participant told the Commission about comments made in the presence of a number of employees, with no consequences for the perpetrator. The Acting Senior Sergeant made reference to tasking the van crew to attend at Flagstaff Gardens. A junior member asked ‘Why? Do you want us to go shooting possums?’ The Acting Senior Sergeant replied ‘No, I want you to go shooting homos and fags’. This was met with laughing from all present with the exception of myself. This Acting Senior Sergeant continues to be upgraded. (Participant)
Another participant told the Commission about an incident that took place when he visited another station, which occurred in the presence of others: A Leading Senior Constable (LSC) looked me up and down in the muster room ... His exact comments were: ‘In my day, we took people like you out the back of the station and beat you with a hose’. (Participant)
Another participant described comments made in a group conversation: One member made his view clear that, ‘All gays should be gassed in the chamber like the Nazis’ and another said, ‘they should be taken out the back of the station and shot in the head’. (Participant)
Participants also told the Commission about the frequency of intrusive questions about their lesbian, gay or bisexuality. Comments like ‘Who’s your boyfriend?’ or ‘Who’s your girlfriend?’ That kind of intrusive and invasive questioning and obsessing around someone’s gender identity or relationship status or if someone’s not believed to be heteronormative or that sort of intrusive questioning. (Participant)
Such questioning highlights how a heteronormative culture enables or emboldens inappropriate questions by colleagues if a person is perceived to be ‘other’ than heterosexual. As a GLLO I have had my sexuality publicly questioned by a Sergeant in front of other colleagues, asked if my partner was also bisexual in order to love me. (Participant)
The Commission learned that getting to know your colleagues is a central part of building trust in an operational environment. However, it is clear that for some gay and lesbian employees, questioning about their sexual or private lives is experienced in a different way to their straight colleagues and is intrusive and inappropriate.The Commission's findings are summarised as
• Victoria Police has made significant steps in recent years toward inclusion of LGBTI employees, for example through the Chief Commissioner’s public support of marriage equality in 2017, the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers (GLLO) Program and the celebration of LGBTI days of significance See 2.2.2 Toward inclusion in the workplace
• The current data collection methods of the organisation do not enable a robust understanding of the number of LGBTI employees See 2.1 LGBTI workforce
• Homophobia and transphobia are tolerated in some Victoria Police workplaces. This enables workplace harm to occur. See 3.1.3 Homophobic and transphobic comments
• LGBTI employees have, and continue to experience workplace harm including homophobic and transphobic comments, aggressive language, sexual harassment and discrimination. See Chapter 3 Experiences of discrimination and sexual harassment
• The drivers of these behaviours are homophobia, transphobia, a hypermasculine and heteronormative culture and a tolerance or acceptance of this culture in certain workplaces See 3.3 Drivers
• There are barriers to reporting LGBTI-related workplace harm, including: a lack of trust and confidence in internal reporting systems; a culture of not reporting workplace harm; fear of victimisation and reprisal; poor management responses to complaints from LGBTI employees; fear of being ‘outed’ and concern existing reporting pathways exclude LGBTI employees. See 4.2 Barriers to reporting
• Formal complaints of LGBTI-related workplace harm are low. In the previous 18 months, one complaint of LGBTI-related harm was reported to the centralised triage and case-management system OneLink, and six matters were made to Taskforce Salus, a unit within Victoria Police set up to investigate incidents of sexual harassment and sex discrimination. Professional Standards Command (PSC) did not receive any LGBTI-related complaints. See 4.1 Low rates of reporting
The report provides guidance, responding to the Commission'sresearch findings by making recommendations in areas where Victoria Police can improve and strengthen its response to workplace harm experienced by LGBTI employees.• Bystanders are generally unwilling to call out behaviours when they see them occurring, because they fear the repercussions for doing so, and there are challenges in calling out the behaviour of more senior employees. See 4.2.2 A culture of not reporting harm
Taking action in these areas will help Victoria Police comply with its positive obligations under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 and to meet its strategic vision for a more capable police organisation. The impacts of LGBTI-related workplace harm don’t just affect Victoria Police employees. They also have implications for policing, including the ability of Victoria Police to respond to and prevent prejudice motivated crimes within the community. Creating a safer and more inclusive organisation for LGBTI employees in Victoria Police will make the workplace a fairer and safer place for all Victoria Police employees and strengthen the organisation’s capability to better serve and protect all Victorians.The guidance is summarised as
1. Workforce data • Enable employees to voluntarily record their sexual orientation or gender identity, which will enable Victoria Police to understand its employee demographics for the purpose of better protecting and promoting the inclusion of LGBTI employees. See 2.1 LGBTI workforce.
2. Policies • Review workplace harm policies (including policies on sexual harassment; bullying, discrimination and harassment; complaints and discipline; and complaint management and investigation). Policies should use inclusive language; include current definitions of discrimination; and provide clear guidance to employees, managers and supervisors on the complaints process, confidentiality, protections from victimisation, responsibilities to take complaints seriously, available supports and bystander action. See 5.1.2. How to improve workplace harm policies.
3. Workplace harm complaint processes • Ensure there are clear and consistent complaints pathways to workplace harm units and non-action reporting options. • Ensure workplace harm unit staff are trained to respond to sexual harassment and discrimination, including discrimination against LGBTI employees See 5.2.2 How to improve complaints handling.
4. Training Workplace harm training • Ensure employees in workplace harm units have LGBTI subject matter expertise. • Provide training on LGBTI-related workplace harm and bystander action for managers and supervisors informed by LGBTI subject experts. See 5.2.2 How to improve complaints handling and 5.4.2 How to improve bystander action. LGBTI awareness training • Review curriculum materials for police and PSO recruits to address outdated content, inaccurate language and remove potentially prejudicial and harmful stereotypes • Provide LGBTI awareness and inclusion training for instructors • Expand the LGBTI Community Encounters session See 5.5.2 How to improve LGBTI awareness training.
5. Messaging • Promote awareness of workplace harm policies, including the processes for reporting or making a complaint • Ensure organisation-wide messaging on workplace harm is clearly inclusive of LGBTI-related harm and that workplace harm reporting and complaint pathways are available for LGBTI-related workplace harm. • Promote organisation-wide messaging that Victoria Police will not tolerate homophobia, biphobia and transphobia and will not tolerate LGBTI-related harm, such as discrimination and sexual harassment See 5.3.2 How to improve workplace harm messaging. See also 5.1.2 How to improve policies and 5.2.2 How to improve complaints handling.
6. Leadership • Leadership promote that Victoria Police will not tolerate homophobia, biphobia and transphobia and will not tolerate LGBTI-related harm, such as discrimination and sexual harassment • Improve LGBTI visibility by expanding the number of senior leaders who are Pride Champions, including allies. • Leadership promote LGBTI visibility by permitting employees to wear rainbow lanyards and badges • Regularly share best practice examples of inclusivity and safe workplaces. See 5.6.2 How to improve visibility and 5.7.2 How to improve sharing what works.