In a formal statement, the board of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) 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.
The independent review team at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (the VIFM) have set out emerging themes and sector-wide factors which may contribute to sexual misconduct.
The emerging themes and factors in the interim report will be tested in the Australian context as part of phase two of the independent review which will conclude with a final report in October.
Lead author of the report, the VIFM’s Dr Maaike Moller, has commented on the findings.
Commenting on the publication of the interim report, ACFID’s CEO, Marc Purcell said:
“The VIFM’s initial analysis shows there are factors that may contribute to sexual misconduct within the Australian aid sector which are similar to the international context, but there are also unique safeguarding strengths which can be built upon.
“Adopting victim/survivor-centred policies and processes; creating a strong reporting culture within organisations; and strong leadership to create that culture, are common international factors affecting the prevention of misconduct which VIFM have identified should be tested. The degree of these challenges and how they are manifested in Australia will be put under the microscope by VIFM in the next phase of the review.”
While the integrity of the system in place to prevent sexual misconduct among ACFID’s members will be tested in phase two of the review, contributors to the review identified several specific strengths compared to responses from other donors and governments.
This included ACFID’s Code of Conduct and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s child protection policy.
Marc Purcell continued:
“This independent review will enable far-reaching scrutiny of the framework ACFID’s members have in place to prevent sexual misconduct and will enable us to identify gaps and weaknesses.
“Unlike the UK, we have had a Code of Conduct for our members for over 20 years. 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. How these measures translate into practice and whether they are matched with organisational capability and culture, we think, will be the crux of this review.”
In the next phase of the independent review – to test the emerging themes and factors – VIFM will be holding face-to-face interviews, focus groups and collecting data and information through surveys from ACFID’s members and through a field trip to Fiji.
Central to VIFM’s approach to the independent review and the recommendations and roadmap which will flow from the review are the experiences of victims and survivors.
If staff within ACFID’s membership, and within members’ beneficiaries and partners, have been affected by sexual misconduct and have experiences they wish to report into the review confidentially, they can contact the review team at VIFM in office hours on 1800-00-PSEA (1800-00-7732) or contact the review team at [email protected].
A partnership with 1800RESPECT, the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence support service, has been established to provide support—including information, referrals and counselling—for anyone affected by sexual misconduct in relation to the review’s remit.
More information on the review’s work and how to contact the review team can be found on ACFID’s website.