Former Greens MP Lidia Thorpe has said she felt belittled when a Greens senator patted her on the head in the Senate, motivating her to quit the party.
The Indigenous senator revealed on Friday she left the Greens last month because she claims she was bullied by two Greens MPs, whom she says have continued to treat her badly since she left the party. She has not provided the names of the MPs.
In an ABC television interview on Friday afternoon, Thorpe outlined one incident that spurred her decision to quit the minor party, which is now dealing with three separate cases of alleged inappropriate behaviour or bullying.
“I was patted on the head in the chamber by a Greens senator. I was completely demoralised and even thinking about that still, you know, hurts me,” she said. “I’ve never been patted on the head by anybody and I’m nobody’s little black girl.”
“I held on to that and hoped that things would get better and they got worse.
“I kind of just took it on the chin and thought, you know, don’t make too much of a noise here and just go with the flow.”
Thorpe, who left the Greens to lead an Indigenous sovereignty movement, said she detailed the allegations to Greens leader Adam Bandt and the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service.
A spokesperson for Bandt said the leader’s office “was made aware of the accusation and acted on it”.
“After a meeting between the parties it was understood the issue was resolved,” the spokesperson said in a written statement.
Thorpe claimed in the television interview she had also made complaints to the parliament’s support service about four separate incidents involving either Labor or Liberal MPs, whom she also did not name.
“I was sexually assaulted four times in my first six months. People wonder why I get a little bit frustrated, but I’ve had to endure so much in my time in this place and that’s why I say it is a toxic workplace,” she said.
It is not clear if Thorpe was referring to allegations of harassment she made in 2021. At that time, she said male senators “sexualised” her by following her, putting their arms around her, making comments about her clothes and persistently hassling her to go out for dinner.
Thorpe’s office did not respond to a question about whether her remarks on Friday referred to the 2021 claims.
The senator said in her television interview that she informed the parliamentary support service about the assaults, but said: “I didn’t want any action taken.”
Bandt said at the time of Thorpe’s departure, which robbed the Greens of a Senate spot, that neither he nor Thorpe would be speaking about her time in the Greens. Bandt’s public statements since the split have mostly been limited to saying he was “sad” about her leaving.
The Greens website continues to host a page about Thorpe. “In 2023, after a phenomenal contribution to the Greens, Lidia left the party to advance the Blak sovereignty movement,” it says.
Thorpe and Bandt have both repeatedly stressed their positive relationship. The Indigenous activist’s gripes appear to be with another group of Greens MPs that she believes acted in a hostile way towards her.
Thorpe’s allegations represent the third report of bullying or inappropriate behaviour by Greens MPs since 2021. It was alleged that six employees had left the office of senator Dorinda Cox in a single year as a result of her “disturbing behaviour”.
Cox said she had met with the parliament’s workplace support service, was committed to working with it on staff wellbeing and office culture, and that the matter had been resolved.
Thorpe was herself accused of verbally abusing an Indigenous elder in a private 2021 meeting. A former Thorpe staffer described the tirade as the most unprofessional episode he had witnessed, leaving him scared.
Thorpe disputes this version of events, saying robust conversations were a feature of politics.
Labor and the Coalition were contacted for comment about Thorpe’s claims because she alleges mistreatment by unnamed MPs from all parties.
A government spokeswoman said the parliament support service was set up to deal with serious incidents and could help Thorpe if she required support.
“Assault or harassment in any workplace is unacceptable and where allegations are made, they should be taken seriously,” the spokeswoman said.
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