What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 1 May 2023 – 7 May 2023

Survey Finds 4 out of 10 Workers Bullied in South Australian Local Government

A recent survey by the Australian Services Union (ASU) has found that almost 1 in 2 South Australian local government workers have experienced workplace bullying. According to the article, of the 385 local government workers surveyed, 45% of respondents had witnessed bullying at work. Further, 4 in 10 workers of the workers surveyed (such as librarians and social workers) had reportedly experienced bullying first-hand. According to the article, only 7.5% of respondents were satisfied with how the matters were resolved. ASU South Australia and Northern Territory branch assistant secretary Scott Cowen stated that the survey shed light on the extent of bullying within the industry, explaining that the survey was “really needed.” Secretary Abbie Spencer insisted that governments should take action, stating the survey “shows very clearly that bullying is a significant issue in local government workplaces and is part of an overall culture problem that is inevitably driving staff away.”

Sydney MP Threatens to Sue for Defamation Over Homophonic Tweet

Sydney MP, Alex Greenwich, has stated he will commence legal action against One Nation leader Mark Latham in relation to a homophobic tweet released in March of this year. Greenwich has given Latham until the 17th of May to issue a public apology in relation to the tweets. Greenwich confirmed this week on Monday that his legal team had sent a notice to Latham. However, Latham had “continued to talk about Mr Greenwich’s sexuality.” Greenwich further stated that Latham “continued to target me on my sexuality, my role in this parliament and that does a great deal of damage and harm towards me and I will as a result be proceeding with defamation.” According to the article, the NSW Police and anti-discrimination body has commenced investigations in relation to the matter. Mr Greenwich has submitted a complaint of “homosexual vilification” to the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW, as well as a complaint to the police that Mr Latham allegedly used a carriage service to menace or offend. Director of Equality Australia, Ghassan Kassisieh, stated that the comments “are blatantly homophobic and unbecoming of anyone” and should not have a place in Australian society. Further, Kassisieh called on Mr Latham to issue an apology, stating that the matter should not require legal action for “a person to do the right thing.”

Australian Human Rights Commission Concerned Ageism Persists in Workforce

The Australian Human Rights Commission released a statement this week finding that ageism is preventing potential workers from entering the workforce. Research conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian HR Institute found that 56% of HR professionals are willing to hire individuals aged 50 to 64 to “a large extent”, while 18% would be open to hiring someone from the same cohort to “a small extent” or “not at all.” The survey involved 297 HR professionals from across Australia, taking place between 21 February to 28 March 2023. According to the article, age bias remains prevalent in Australia, including views that “younger workers are less resilient and older workers are not as good with technology.” The report also found that employers view younger employees as “more creative, energetic, adaptable to change and ambitious.” Despite these findings, the report notes that there are positive signs that employers are responding to the needs of older workers, including a “record high” of workplaces offering flexible working arrangements. The head of the Discipline of Work and Organisation Studies at the University of Sydney, Professor Marian Baird, stated that while it is positive to see some changing attitudes, discrimination is still occurring.

Greens Deputy Leader Mehreen Faruqi Commences Court Action Against Pauline Hanson

Deputy Greens Leader Mehreen Faruqi has commenced legal action against One Nation’s leader Pauline Hanson in relation to an “insulting and humiliating” tweet, alleging that the statement breaches racial discrimination laws. Faruqi is alleging that the tweet breached section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, with the comment stating that Faruqi should “pack your bags and piss off back to Pakistan.” According to the article, section 18C of the Act makes it “unlawful for someone to do an act that is reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate someone because of their race or ethnicity.” Lawyers for Faruqi submitted documents to the Federal Court on Wednesday this week stating that the statement was “unlawful”, asking the Court to prevent Senator Hanson from making similar phrases such as “go back to where you came from.” Further, Faruqi’s lawyers asked the Federal Court to order that the tweet be deleted and that the Senator be ordered to make a post stating she has “committed unlawful offensive behaviour,” with the acknowledgement pinned to her account for a period of 3 months. Senator Faruqi alleged in a statement that the tweet “unleashed a frenzy of hate and abuse,” which reportedly had lasted for a few days.

Former Cricket Australia Executive Timothy Whittaker Allegedly Sexually Assaulted Victim

Former Cricket Australia Executive Timothy Whittaker is facing allegations that he sexually assaulted a man following a Cricket Australia end of season function. According to the article, it is alleged that Whittaker “masturbated him without his consent”, stating that his drink was spiked prior to the alleged incident. The Melbourne Magistrates Court was told that the victim had attended Whittaker’s Abbotsford apartment following drinks at Cricket Australia’s South Melbourne event. The victim allegedly fell asleep on the couch that night, waking in the morning to find his pants were off in Whittaker’s bed, with the accused “touching him.” A friend of the alleged victim stated he had seemed “a bit off” that morning at breakfast. Further, Cricket Australia’s former people and culture manager Raj Tapper stated that Whittaker was attempting to provide more drinks to the victim “more than any other guest” that night. Whittaker is already facing charges of a similar alleged event from 2016, where a second man stated he had been “inappropriately touched” by Whittaker in a hotel room. According to the article, the second man “maintained a professional relationship with Whittaker”, however did not attend any further social events for fear that similar incidents to the alleged would follow.

Review Finds Victorian Police Officers Use Positions to Start Sexual Relationships

A review released this week by the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (Ibac) has found that Victorian police officers are utilising their positions to commence sexual relationships with individuals they meet on duty. The review assessed 27 Victorian police investigations into alleged predatory behaviour between 2019 and 2022. According to the Deputy Commissioner for Ibac, Kylie Kilgour, predatory behaviour has continued “despite efforts undertaken by Victoria police over recent years.” Incidents described by the article include a police officer having contacted a teenager in state care with inappropriate text messages, as well as a senior officer having groomed a junior officer and later allegedly sexually assaulting her at a public bar. The senior officer did not face criminal conviction as the junior officer did not want to press charges. The Victoria police said in a statement that they were aware that the patterns of offending “continue to be underreported,” however they maintained they were “serious about changing any culture of protection among police.” The review recommended that Victoria police facilitate changes to their employee training and complaint investigation process, as well as promoting clearer guidance in relation to “intimate or personal workplace relationships.”