After only six months in federal parliament, Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe has spoken out about the sexual harassment she has experienced from two senators and two MPs.
Senator Thorpe, who was the first Indigenous woman in Victorian Parliament and first Indigenous Senator for Victoria, joined a chorus of female politicians across party lines who over the last month have exposed the toxic culture they’ve been subjected to within Canberra’s Parliament House.
In an interview shared with news.com.au, Senator Thorpe detailed the unwanted, sexualised comments and physical advances she has endured, describing the behaviour as something she would expect in a “nightclub, not in my workplace”.
“Suggestive comments, as, you know, ‘What’ve you got in your mouth, what’re you eating?’, ‘I like what you’re wearing today’, ‘I like your hair, oh you’ve got your hair up today’,” she said, adding that the perpetrators are “always at it, just always at it”.
“There’s one particular senator who waits for me to talk in front of him. If he sees me coming out of my office, he’ll wait and walk behind me. My staff have witnessed this as well, what he’s looking at.”
In two separate incidents, Senator Thorpe said she’d had “two older men put their arm around me”, once when she was walking to the chamber for Question Time, and the other occasion when a House of Representatives member “put their arm around me during an inquiry”.
“(It) made me feel really uncomfortable, and because I was in the inquiry, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what to say. I texted my staff member and said, ‘Oh my God, did he just put his hands on me?’ and my staff member just said, ‘I can’t believe what’s just happened’,” she said.
“It’s ongoing. It’s happened as late as today.”
Senator Thorpe said she’s tried to “avoid” the senator who put his arm around her when walking to Question Time, because he’s elevated to “unwanted comments” and “bad behaviour, and I don’t know what to do”.
“These people – they don’t care, they don’t care what is being said in the media. It’s not affecting how they think or affecting their behaviour,” she said.
“This particular person is also a bully, so there is a bit of a fear factor there as well. And he just couldn’t care less. Nothing is changing these behaviours, because there’s no repercussions for them – they can do whatever they like here. There’s no code of conduct here for politicians.”
In another case, Senator Thorpe said an MP, standing outside her office, looked her up and down and said he’d like to take her out to a private dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant – then called her office every second day to ask why she hadn’t responded to her invitation.
“I’ve got to work with these people, I’m a friendly person,” she said.
“And they somehow think that gives them permission to violate and sexualise me and other women in this place.”