Australian Federal Police AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw.
Australian Federal Police AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw.

Bullying, harassment still rife in AFP

EXCLUSIVE

Nepotism and cronyism have been called out by Australian Federal Police officers as one of the big issues still plaguing the work force, a shocking staff survey has revealed.

Bullying and harassment are also on the rise according to AFP members, despite cultural reform changes pushed through after a damning report on the agency's culture by former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick.

The survey obtained under Freedom of Information by News Corp shows the morale of the organisation has dropped, as has "trust" in the AFP executive team.

 

 

Malicious spreading of rumours and gossip, trumped up complaints using inappropriate and unfair application of work policies and rules, and social exclusion were found to be the most prevalent type of bullying and harassment.

 

AFP members also said they experienced forms of unfair performance management practices, personal and physical abuse, initiations and pranks, and covert undermining of their professionalism.

The AFP leadership team also came under attack with members suggesting they should take lessons from Google, the Australian Defence Force or any other state police force on how to run the organisation.

 

Former AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin said staff had sent a clear message that they want to see greater levels of accountability. Picture Gary Ramage
Former AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin said staff had sent a clear message that they want to see greater levels of accountability. Picture Gary Ramage

Importantly, fewer members felt current supervisors acted in accordance with AFP core values and confidence in senior leaders acting in accordance with core AFP values also dropped. Thirteen per cent of members who answered questions about corruption said they have "observed corruption or misconduct" in the AFP.

The staff survey which is conducted every three years, has been kept under wraps since the results became known last year. It had a response rate of 62 per cent of staff - five per cent more than the previous survey in 2015.

In a letter to staff acknowledging the poor results, former Commissioner Andrew Colvin admitted "there is a very clear message that staff want to see greater levels of accountability and equitable treatment across the board".

A year before the survey, Mr Colvin admitted the AFP allowed "bad behaviour to be normalised and not questioned ".

 

Australian Federal Police Association President Angela Smith said it will be hard work rebuilding the psyche of the AFP. Picture: Supplied.
Australian Federal Police Association President Angela Smith said it will be hard work rebuilding the psyche of the AFP. Picture: Supplied.

 

 

The President of the AFP Association, Angela Smith, said she is aware of the survey and isn't surprised by the results.

"In the past six months, the AFPA has conducted its own research and focus groups with the membership. These surveys have returned similar sentiments about the AFP," said Ms Smith.

"These issues have manifested and grown over many years and as a result, we today see a workforce low on morale, questioning their worth and career and struggling for resources and funding."

Ms Smith said on positive note, the AFP has commenced a number of reviews of the promotion process, and a review of the mental health environment, "that will hopefully address concerns members have raised via the staff survey."

 

 

New AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw has his work cut out for him, according to the AFP Union. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
New AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw has his work cut out for him, according to the AFP Union. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

 

Commissioner Kershaw has initiated a review of the organisation by former Commissioner John Lawler.

Mr Kershaw conceded the survey highlighted were still significant issues to address.

"The health and wellbeing of my workforce is a top priority," he said.

"I intend to look closely at the AFP structure, industrial relations framework and recruitment processes to ensure we address the issues raised in the survey."

Ms Smith said it will be a lot of hard work rebuilding the "psyche" of the AFP but backed Mr Kershaw as the right person for the job.

The survey showed a significant increase in negative perceptions about performance management, application of merit and confidence in resolving employee grievances.

The overall attitude to working in the AFP dropped from a positive rating of 7.3 per cent in 2015 to 6.8 per cent in 2018 and the number of staff identifying as being harassed or bullied in the workplace rose from 19 to 21 per cent.

The results revealed only half of the officers who experienced harassment or bullying reported it.

The survey carried out by Woolcott Research and Engagement company pointed out the fall in morale may be impacted by the enterprise agreement process held just before the survey.

The survey summary said positive increases in education and training de and the "clarity of workplace role" was the only area classified as an "outright strength".