Sexual Misconduct Review Finds Strong Safeguards in Australian Aid Sector
9 August 2018 at 4:23 pm
An interim report into the prevention of sexual misconduct in Australia’s aid sector says Australia has a number of safeguarding strengths compared to other countries, but highlights a number of risk factors for organisations to be wary of.
The Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM) on Thursday released an interim report from its independent review, which identified emerging themes of sexual exploitation and abuse in the global aid sector.
Lead author of the report, VIFM review project manager Dr Maaike Moller, said there were some clear risk factors for sexual misconduct.
“[These] relate to frequent staff rotations, project-based work and proximity to large populations of vulnerable people in desperate situations,” Moller said.
The independent review was commissioned by the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), in wake of recent sexual misconduct revelations in the UK’s international aid sector.
The conduct of the sector came under intense scrutiny after it was revealed in February that Oxfam staff members, who were deployed in Haiti to provide aid, paid earthquake survivors for sex.
But Moller told Pro Bono News there had been no evidence so far to suggest Australia had more problems with sexual misconduct than any other country.
“Australia actually has specific strengths in relation to other countries practicing in the sector,” she said.
The report highlighted an active focus by key agencies including ACFID, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), to try and ensure Australian aid charities employed “sound safeguarding practices”.
In a formal statement, ACFID's Board has welcomed the publication of the interim report of the independent review to improve practice and response of ACFID’s members in the prevention of sexual misconduct
Read more: https://t.co/2k7Mh9wybb
— ACFID (@ACFID) August 8, 2018
ACFID CEO Marc Purcell praised Australia’s safeguarding strengths.
“Unlike the UK, we have had a code of conduct for our members for over 20 years,” Purcell said.
“Working as part of Australia’s official aid program with DFAT also requires strict accreditation for NGOs and layers of safeguarding, including mandatory reporting of children at risk.”
Despite this, Purcell told Pro Bono News there was “no room for complacency”.
“There are risk factors for any organisation working with vulnerable people, especially children, and so we hope the review will provide good ideas and suggestions of where the risks are heightened and where good practice exists,” he said.
“How can our systems be improved? That’s a bit different from some other places in the world where they seem to only now be trying to get a system up from scratch.”
During the next phase of the review, VIFM will conduct face-to-face interviews and focus groups, and also collect data through surveys from ACFID’s members and through a field trip to Fiji.
Purcell said this will test if the sector’s safeguarding measures translated into practice and whether they were matched by organisational capability and culture.
“Are these measures effective? Is the leadership and culture in the sector supporting it to be used in a way so that victims always feel comfortable and are able to use it?” he said.
“That’s something we really want to test. It’s not just having a good policy, it’s actually about leadership.”
A final report will be presented to the ACFID National Conference in October 2018.