What’s Been Happening in Australia in relation to Harassment, Bullying and Discrimination from 23 December 2019 to 29 December 2019

New Whistleblower Policies to be Implemented January 1, 2020
ASIC has issued a reminder to the public and large proprietary companies, including retailers, that only several days remain until the deadline for new compliancy requirements under whistleblower legislation comes into effect.

Under the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Act 2019, an amendment of the Corporations Act 2001, certain companies must have whistleblower policies in place and made available to employees and officers by January 1, 2020. Penalties will be applied by ASIC if the deadline is missed.

Guidance on drafting the policies was provided in a downloadable guide by ASIC. Companies policies must cover how the entity will protect whistleblowers and investigate concerns raised, and might be used by the courts in deciding claims of compensation.

The corporate regulator has founded the Office of the Whistleblower along with improving its internal processes for handling whistleblowers and dealing with their reports.

Discriminatory Attitudes Rife For People Living With Intellectual Disability
New research findings conducted by disability service provider Endeavour Foundation on attitudes to people with intellectual impairment in Australia has confirmed that a high rate of discriminatory thoughts still occurs in everyday situations and worsens as the level of disability increases.

A survey of more than 1000 Australians was conducted, with the following findings:
– 10% of people surveyed admit to feeling uncomfortable when seated next to a person with a mild intellectual impairment on public transport, while 23.5% felt uncomfortable when the person has a severe disability.
– 15% of people admitted they would feel uncomfortable having a severely intellectually disabled neighbour
– Nearly 20% of people said they would feel uncomfortable sitting next to a table with a severely intellectually impaired person at a restaurant
“That’s a discriminatory attitude and we need to change that,” Endeavour Foundation CEO Andrew Donne said. “We all have a role to play in tearing down barriers to social inclusion for people with intellectual disability — it starts with our own personal attitude.”

‘Bullying Culture’ Blamed as Volunteer Firefighter Numbers Drop Across Australia
Concerns have been raised about the sustainability and capability of Australia’s volunteer firefighters to cope with prolonged bushfire seasons following a significant decline in membership numbers over the past decade.

More than 5000 volunteers have left Victoria’s Country Fire Authority over the last eight years, NSW’s Rural Fire Service is down more than 3000 volunteers in four years, and Western Australia’s service is down by nearly 15 per cent in volunteers over the 10-year average.

The presidents of the Victoria and NSW volunteer firefighting associations have said bullying, discrimination and an inability to recruit and retain young firefighters led to the falls in membership in their states.

President of NSW’s Volunteer Firefighters Association Mick Holton said “We’ve had a lot of bullying and harassment claims, as highlighted in a recent upper house inquiry … and it’s influenced people leaving, absolutely.”

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria chief executive Adam Barnett said “How [volunteers] have been treated over the last few years goes to the heart of the question of why anyone would volunteer … people are fed up,” he said.
The CFA chief executive Steve Warrington however rejected Mr. Barnett’s comments, maintaining that decline in rural population, ageing volunteers, operational changes and local volunteer dissatisfaction were key factors in the membership decline.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission last year investigated allegations of systemic bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination at the CFA. In 2017, the RFS was subject to a NSW parliamentary inquiry into similar claims.