The global institute for women’s leadership (GIWL) at ANU has announced that former parliamentary staffer Brittany Higgins will be its first visiting fellow.
Higgins, who was at the centre of an outpouring of community support this year after she revealed that she was the victim of an alleged rape in a ministerial office of parliament when she worked as a Liberal staffer, will join the Australian node of GIWL that was originally established at Kings College London by former prime minister Julia Gillard.
“I am dedicated to driving meaningful change in parliament house, and all Australian workplaces, so that our systems work better to prevent and respond to inappropriate workplace conduct,” Higgins said.
“All women have the right to feel safe and respected at work and in society more broadly.”
.@BrittHiggins_ has been a powerful force for change in one of the most confronting and urgent issues Australia faces.
— Julia Gillard (@JuliaGillard) October 5, 2021
Gillard, who currently leads the GIWL, published a statement lauding Higgins’ success in advancing the national conversation and pushing for reform ‘in one of the most confronting and urgent issues Australia faces’.
“In Brittany, Australia has an incredible leader who is already having a profound impact,” Gillard said.
“I applaud her courage in coming forward with her experiences, and her determination to make sure other women do not ever have to go through what she has.
“Her bravery should and must lead to meaningful change, not only in our workplaces, but across all our society.”
As part of her work with the institute, Higgins plans to advance work on a proposed code of conduct to prevent and respond to abuse, harassment and sexual misconduct in parliamentary workplaces. Her recent advocacy on the issue has already led to a review by Stephanie Foster deputy secretary, governance at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and new avenues for recourse should any parliamentary staff member experience this type of mistreatment at work moving forward.
Higgins’ GIWL work will also focus on implementing the [email protected] report, which sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins recently oversaw in addition to her review into parliamentary bullying, sexual harassment and assault.
Higgins added that her goal was to serve as a conduit between government and experts in the field to ensure that parliament adopts best practice workplace models, which will lead to systemic change in Australia.
“I am committed to ensuring that we are able to harness the momentum kick-started this year to enact real change for Australian women so they can be better served by our major institutions,” Higgins said.
“The 2021 Women’s Safety Summit was a great first step to addressing these challenges. Now more than ever in the midst of growing inequality as a result of COVID-19, it’s important to ensure words are translated into action.”
Professor Michele Ryan, GIWL at ANU’s director, said voices such as Higgins’ were fundamental to driving change and that she hoped a new generation of women would be inspired by her to continue demanding respect.
“We shouldn’t have to demand it. But we are fortunate to have young leaders like Brittany while we still do,” Ryan said.
The GIWL node at ANU undertakes research, advocacy and practice to improve workplace gender equality and accelerate women’s leadership. Ryan said the group’s world-class research team was building the evidence base and finding out what worked.
“As our inaugural Visiting Fellow, Brittany Higgins will help us in our advocacy to ensure the evidence and research we produce reaches a broader audience and is able to be transformed into policy change and better workplace practice,” she said.