There’s no doubt when most of us woke up on January 1 2021, we were cautiously optimistic that COVID and lockdowns would be a thing of the past. But that, as we now know, was not to be. Instead 2021 will go down in history as a year marked by debate around COVID lockdowns, border restrictions, vaccines and mandates.
Timeline: 2021 WOB's Year in Review
For Boards and organisations this meant more remote working, a continuation of hybrid or virtual AGMs and meetings and debate around mandatory vaccinations for employees. Plus the introduction of Director Identity Numbers.
“COVID came with positives and negatives,” says Ruth Medd. “Non-city members had the chance to meet other members online, which they appreciated. But speaking to other directors and chairs it became apparent that Zoom fatigue had set in, and the novelty from 2020 had worn off. To that extent I will happily attend board meetings face to face wherever possible in 2022.” This was supported by our lockdown survey results.
The past 12 months have seen Australian women seeking change, which started with Grace Tame being named Australian of the Year in January. Grace was cited by former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins as her inspiration for speaking up about sexual assault. Brittany’s allegations sparked calls for an investigation into sexual misconduct in Australia’s political culture and also prompted other women to come forwards, including former Liberal MP-turned-Independent Julia Banks.
2021 has been a year when Parliament’s treatment of women has been held to account and found sorely wanting, wrote WOB’s Claire Braund.
Add to this the saga of former Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate, who told a parliamentary inquiry into her departure in April that she felt humiliated after being pushed and “bullied” out of her job. And in October, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian abruptly resigned as NSW Premier after the Independent Commission Against Corruption announced she was the subject of an investigation.
In a post on Facebook, Claire paid tribute: Gladys was only the second female premier in the State’s history, who stepped into a role almost exclusively occupied by men and led with calmness and compassion throughout drought, fire, flood and global pandemic.”
So it is timely that this year has been capped off by publication of the Jenkins Report - sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins’ blueprint for cleaning up parliamentary workplaces.
Let’s hope that the pandemic eases and we can all gradually return to the new, post-COVID normal.