The following statement addresses matters raised by ABC Radio National’s program, Background Briefing, about staff wellbeing within the CSIRO astronomy and space sciences (CASS) business unit. Please attribute the comments to Executive Director of Digital, National Facilities and Collections at CSIRO, Dr Dave Williams:
“We care about our people. CSIRO is absolutely committed to having a safe workplace where people also feel a sense of pride and satisfaction about their work.
“Just as we need to address any issues of unreasonable behaviour, bullying, harassment or discrimination in our communities, we also need to do this in our workplaces.
“This week’s story raised some specific cases, so let me provide some facts.
“Around 200 people on average work in the astronomy and space science business unit. In the past 8 years we have had 16 formal allegations of inappropriate behaviour within this business unit. The cases varied in their degree of seriousness and all of the allegations were investigated. Three of the allegations were of a sexual nature, with two of these three allegations upheld. Let me be clear that just one case of unreasonable behaviour is one case too many.
“And I want to commend the people who came forward and used our process to raise issues – I recognise that it may have been very difficult for them to do so. Our processes recognise this potential difficulty and are structured to enable people to raise issues in a confidential way.
“CSIRO has a clear process to address matters regarding inappropriate staff conduct to be raised and reviewed so we can take appropriate action. For matters that may be a breach of our Code of Conduct, we employ an external, independent investigator. If a staff member has been found to have potentially broken the law, then in accordance with our procedures, it is mandatory to report the matter to the police.
“Some people have asked why we don’t make personal details from these cases public – and it’s for a very good reason.
“To make details of our individual investigations public, we could prevent people from coming forward in the future or we could lead to situations of trial by the public or media without full information or a proper process.
“One of the key findings of the independent Pearce report released in 2013 was to respect confidentiality and to inform and support those people who are making or are the subject of reports. For that reason, it’s absolutely inappropriate for me to comment on individual cases publicly.
“CSIRO has a Misconduct Procedure outlining privacy approaches and also meets its obligations set out in the Commonwealth Privacy Act when it comes to the way we provide information in referee checks.
“CASS has a very active Diversity Committee, working hard to ensure a safe and welcoming workplace for all our staff. We have implemented many recommendations from the committee over recent years, such as a code of conduct for conferences and an extension of contracts for postdoctoral researchers who take maternity leave.
“Our astronomy and space science staff also have important partnerships with more than 20 universities and play a key role supervising university students and helping them develop their careers. At the moment we have 26 PhD students at CASS. They also complete our code of conduct training and are entitled to the same safe, supportive work environment as all of our staff.
“They bring enthusiasm, expertise, new ideas and energy to our workplace and I want them and their university supervisors to know that if there’s anything we can do to provide further support, to talk to the CSIRO astronomy and space science leadership team or to me.”
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