Australian Aid Review Uncovers Abuse in Sector
22 November 2018 at 8:42 am
An independent review into sexual misconduct in the Australian aid sector has found 76 alleged incidents of sexual misconduct by aid workers over a three year period, with children found to be among the victims.
The peak body for Australian aid organisations –The Australian Council For International Development (ACFID) – commissioned the review following revelations Oxfam UK senior staff hired sex workers during the Haiti earthquake effort.
The 213 page report, released on Wednesday, surveyed close to 120 organisations and found out of the 76 incidents reported by organisations, there were 31 substantiated cases involving aid workers from 20 organisations.
A total of 66 organisations reported no sexual misconduct, and 33 did not respond. The report said it was not possible to determine why organisations didn’t report any incidents, but believed it may have been because of underreporting, not because there was not sexual misconduct within organisations.
“It’s possible, but very unlikely, based on known community prevalence of sexual misconduct, that no sexual misconduct occurred affecting people involved with those organisations,” the report said.
The report said most incidents were carried out by head office staff members, and most incidents perpetrated by aid workers against people from affected populations involved national employees of partner organisations.
It was also uncovered that most of the victims of misconduct from affected populations were children, and while the report said this could mean a reporting bias because of strong child protection reporting mechanisms, it demonstrated children were at risk.
“It does indicate that children are at risk in environments where ACFID members operate,” the report said.
The ACFID board apologised for the findings following the release of the report, and said they had accepted all 31 recommendations from the report.
“We would like to acknowledge and apologise to the victim/survivors of sexual misconduct who have been harmed – both those we work alongside and those we exist to protect and support,” the board said in a statement.
“We are not able to undo that harm, but as leaders we can act in unity to listen and prevent harm in the future.”
One of the key recommendations included the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) setting up a mandatory sexual misconduct reporting scheme, which ACFID CEO Mark Purcell said would help them work toward a solution.
“Creating a statutory scheme so charities working internationally can report incidences of sexual misconduct to the ACNC will drive prevention and provide a check on whether the new measures we put in place are working,” Purcell said.
He said he was pleased the charity watchdog had already indicated it was willing and able to administer the scheme.
Australian Volunteers International also said it accepted all recommendations, especially the reporting scheme.
“Not only would a system such as this ensure victims/survivors can report without fear and receive critical support, it would also ensure alleged perpetrators are properly investigated and where substantiated, brought to justice,” a spokesperson said.
An ACNC spokesperson told Pro Bono News they welcomed the recommendation, but as it involved legislative change and additional resourcing, it was a matter for government consideration.
The spokesperson added that from 1 July 2019, charities operating overseas would be subject to external conducts standards.
“This will further strengthen their governance and accountability,” the spokesperson said.