Australia’s Antarctic bases rife with sexual harassment, porn use and homophobia, review claims

Women working on Australia’s Antarctic bases are being propositioned for sex, subjected to sexist jokes and pornography, and feel compelled to hide their periods to fit into a ‘blokey’ culture.

Expeditionary women described predatory and objectifying behavior at Antarctic research stations and widespread sexual harassment in a damning critique that drew an angry response from the Australian government.

The report, commissioned by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) to station culture, heard from women who said they had to ‘virtually hide’ periods and improvise menstrual products when none were available.

Women described changing menstrual products without privacy or proper sanitation, having to carry blood products in the field, and altering their hormonal balance with medication to make menstruation less inconvenient.

Women working on Australia's Antarctic bases are being propositioned for sex, subjected to sexist jokes and pornography, and feel compelled to hide their periods to fit into a 'dumb' culture.

Women working on Australia’s Antarctic bases are being propositioned for sex, subjected to sexist jokes and pornography, and feel compelled to hide their periods to fit into a ‘dumb’ culture.

Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said she was surprised and disappointed when she read people's experiences and promised a review of the culture.

Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said she was surprised and disappointed when she read people's experiences and promised a review of the culture.

Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said she was surprised and disappointed when she read people’s experiences and promised a review of the culture.

The study, conducted by University of Tasmania professor Meredith Nash, conducted in-depth interviews with 22 AAD employees and had informal conversations with dozens more.

“Although the women in this study found a variety of ways to cope individually, the most troubling issue is that menstruating people feel compelled to maintain a male-dominated country culture in which menstruation is hidden and controlled to prevent menstruation.” comply with masculine cultural norms,” ​​summarizes the summary. report reads.

“I think on some level it’s unethical for us to keep trying to encourage women to enter a male-dominated field if we don’t trust that organizations can keep them safe,” Professor Nash told The Associated Press. ABC.

AAD director Kim Ellis said he was deeply concerned about the findings, saying “significant progress” had already been made in implementing more than 40 recommendations.

Antarctic research stations were overwhelmingly described by women as 'blokey', with a pervasive culture of widespread, low-level sexual harassment (Casey Station housing shown at night)

Antarctic research stations were overwhelmingly described by women as 'blokey', with a pervasive culture of widespread, low-level sexual harassment (Casey Station housing shown at night)

Antarctic research stations were overwhelmingly described by women as ‘blokey’, with a pervasive culture of widespread, low-level sexual harassment (Casey Station housing shown at night)

The study, conducted by University of Tasmania professor Meredith Nash, conducted in-depth interviews with 22 AAD employees and had informal conversations with dozens more.

The study, conducted by University of Tasmania professor Meredith Nash, conducted in-depth interviews with 22 AAD employees and had informal conversations with dozens more.

The study, conducted by University of Tasmania professor Meredith Nash, conducted in-depth interviews with 22 AAD employees and had informal conversations with dozens more.

“No matter how many people have experienced this behavior, we know that under-reporting is almost certainly a factor, for someone to experience this treatment is not okay,” he said in a statement.

Antarctic research stations were overwhelmingly described by women as ‘dumb’, with a pervasive culture of widespread, low-level sexual harassment.

“Given the underrepresentation of women… (especially during the winter), some women also described the culture as ‘predatory’ and ‘objectifying,'” the study reads.

Participants noted that women experienced a variety of harassment, including unwanted physical contact or gestures, unwanted requests for sex, sexual comments, jokes or innuendos, intrusive questions, display of offensive or pornographic material, insults or teasing based on sex and unwanted invitations.

Participants also described a homophobic culture at research stations.

Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said she was surprised and disappointed when she read people’s experiences, promising a review of the culture.

“As a minister, I take a zero-tolerance response to sexual harassment in any workplace for which I am responsible,” she told ABC.

“I was actually flabbergasted reading some of the reports here talking about pornographic material on the walls (because) I really thought we had eradicated this (type of) thing…decades ago.”

All recommendations have been accepted by the AAD, which maintains three permanently staffed stations on the frozen continent.

The AAD regularly advertises Australians heading south to work at research stations where most have to live in freezing conditions for six to 12 months.

The AAD regularly advertises Australians heading south to work at research stations where most have to live in freezing conditions for six to 12 months.

The AAD regularly advertises Australians heading south to work at research stations where most have to live in freezing conditions for six to 12 months.

Participants in the review process also described a homophobic culture at AAD research stations.

Participants in the review process also described a homophobic culture at AAD research stations.

Participants in the review process also described a homophobic culture at AAD research stations.

They include creating an equity and inclusion task force and setting goals to increase diversity among expeditioners.

Employees typically spend six to 12 months on the bases under their contracts, unless they are sent home or emergencies require them to leave.

When accepting jobs at AAD, employees agree not to engage in sexual harassment or forms of “extreme behavior” outlined in a personal code of conduct.

Examples given on the AAD recruitment page include: ‘Disorderly behavior, including being violent, threatening, insulting or abusive’ and ‘indecent exposure and other rude, obscene or offensive acts’.

“Sexual harassment is any unwanted, unsolicited, and unrequited behavior of a sexual nature that is objectionable to another person,” says the AAD recruiting page.

Violations of the code may result in counselling, reprimands, early return to Australia and referral to the authorities of any matter with legal repercussions.

.