The mining regions of Western Australia are typically located in the outback, far removed from human settlements.

Many of the employees therefore do not live on site, but are often flown in and out for several weeks at a time.

This practice is called “fly-in-fly-out” (FIFO).

The work assignments are characterized by long working days, boredom and often alcohol consumption.

Now a government report has shed light on how women face sexual harassment, humiliation and even abuse in these working conditions.

"It is totally inexcusable and just shocking that this is happening in one of the most lucrative industries in the state in the 21st century," MP Libby Mettam said at the presentation of the report to the Perth regional parliament.

Till Fähnders

Political correspondent for Southeast Asia.

  • Follow I follow

The problem is much bigger and more serious than she had expected, writes the MP, who leads an investigative committee on the subject, in her foreword to the report.

The problem is "usually accepted or overlooked".

In the research report, women share their "horror stories," including men knocking on their doors at night and entering without permission, rummaging through their underwear drawers, and filming them showering.

“I've worked at about half a dozen locations.

I can honestly say that I was sexually harassed on every single one,” said one respondent.

“A man repeatedly put his hand under my shirt in front of other workers.

Nobody did anything,” reported another.

In one particularly serious case, a woman was beaten unconscious in her accommodation.

When she woke up, her jeans and underwear were pulled down to her ankles.

A failure of industry and government

According to a 2020 report by Australia's Human Rights Commission, 74 per cent of women in the industry said they had been victims of harassment.

In many cases, it is the hierarchical power structures that prevent cases of sexual harassment from being reported and investigated, according to the parliamentary investigation report.

One woman reported that a manager offered her promotions and other benefits in exchange for sexual favors.

Female miners who refuse to accept the advances are punished by "shoveling," in which iron ore is shoveled onto the driver's seat of their truck.

"This represents the industry's failure to protect its workers and raises the question of

The report then lists other violations, such as the placement of sex dolls and sex toys on the doors and entrances of women's shelters, the delivery of text messages and materials containing sexual content, as well as stalking and unwanted touching.

The report urges companies to do more to keep women safe in the workplace.

BHP, Rio Tinto and the Australian Fortescue group open pit iron ore in the vast Pilbara region.

The report makes some recommendations on how to better tackle sexual harassment.

These include measures such as better housing, installing surveillance cameras and additional lighting, and regulating alcohol consumption.

In addition, the legal situation must be improved and an expert group set up to investigate cases of sexual harassment.

Keywords: