Justin Stevens apologises to ABC staff after report finds workplace racism

The ABC news director, Justin Stevens, has apologised to staff after a “disturbing” report found some Indigenous and culturally diverse staff have experienced racism at the national broadcaster.

“These things should never happen,” Stevens said in an email to all news staff on Thursday.

“The ABC will not allow or tolerate any racism in the workplace. Ever. Our newsrooms, teams and workplace must be respectful, inclusive and welcoming at all times of all employees. No one should ever feel that they don’t belong at the ABC because of their cultural background.”

While Stevens did not single out a particular incident or person he said common issues included a lack of support, an inadequate complaints systems and online and social media abuse.

“To anyone in News who has ever experienced any racism or bigotry in our workplace, current and former news employees, as director, news I would like to express my sorrow for that and make a heartfelt apology. I am sorry.”

The report was written by a group of ABC staff on the diversity committee, including digital forensics reporter, Kevin Nguyen, disability affairs reporter, Nas Campanella, and digital editor, Christina Zhou, and was based on interviews with 20 직원.

“The most disturbing aspect of the advisory group’s work was hearing accounts from employees from an Indigenous or culturally diverse background reporting experiences of racism and cultural insensitivity while working in our division,” Stevens said.

“Some feel they’re not welcomed into or embraced by the workplace and other team members as they ought to be. Some feel their voices are not heard in team discussions as they ought to be.

The chief executive officer of Media Diversity Australia, Mariam Veiszadeh, said no organisation was immune to issues of racism and bigotry and she praised Stevens for his “powerful acknowledgment” of the issue.

“We recognise that the ABC has made a commitment to addressing the identified issues of racism and bigotry head on and we look forward to partnering with the ABC along this journey,” Veiszadeh said.

“As outlined in the memo to ABC staff, when diversity, equity and inclusion is done well and comprehensively, it is not a box ticking exercise, instead it creates psychologically safe working environments where all employees can thrive and this results in a whole host of benefits including more innovation, better staff retention, and essentially a better bottom line.”

Stevens said the ABC had increased the number of Indigenous and diverse content-makers in recent years but acknowledged there was still work to be done, “particularly in relation to the diversity of news executives”.

When former news director Gaven Morris resigned there was a push to replace him with a more diverse candidate.

“Diversity in our storytelling has improved,” Stevens said.

“Our newsrooms are increasingly diverse and employees say they feel more empowered to raise issues with their editors and more confident they will be supported.

Stevens acknowledged the work of the executive in charge of diversity, Gavin Fang, who was also in the running to replace Morris.

Stevens said remedies included ensuring all employees are “properly heard when pitching stories”, giving new employees more support and training managers on correct complaints handling.

“Every one of our colleagues who is Indigenous, from a diverse background or is a person with disability is here because they deserve to be, based on their talent, and because they have earned that place through hard work,” Stevens said. “ABC News does not employ people as a box ticking exercise.”

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