What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 10 October – 16 October 2022

Going Green for Mental Health

On 14 October, staff at the WA Equal Opportunity Commission wore green for mental health awareness. The Commissioner, Dr John Byrne, issued a statement, saying that mental health makes up around 30% of impairment complaints at the Commission. He said that raising awareness on mental health and psychosocial disabilities is an important step for building understanding and eliminating discrimination, especially in the workplace.

Code Of Conduct For Aged Care – What It Means For Consumers

A Code of Conduct for Aged Care will be introduced by the Federal Government on 1 December 2022. The Code will apply to aged care work both at residential facilities and those receiving care support from home. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety recommended that a national code of conduct be implemented to outline expected behaviours of aged care providers, workers and governing persons. The draft code specifically mentions that a person or organisation that provides aged care services must provide care and services free from violence, discrimination, exploitation, neglect, abuse and sexual misconduct. Further, reasonable steps will have to be taken to prevent such behaviour.

‘Nothing Is Fine After What You Did to Me’: Brittany Higgins Addresses Accused Rapist

On 14 October, Brittany Higgins appeared at court, addressing her accused rapist, Bruce Lehrmann. She returned to the witness stand at the ACT Supreme Court and directly said to the accused that “nothing was fine after what you did to me”. Bruce Lehrmann has pleaded not guilty to the charge of sexual intercourse without consent. The defence asked Ms Higgins, during cross-examination, whether she disclosed the alleged rape because she believed she was about to be fired. Ms Higgins denies any inference that she made up the allegations out of fear that she could be fired from Senator Linda Reynolds’ office. She stated, “I am not a monster… you are putting this to me that I completely fabricated this to keep my job, but I would never do that”.

Patients Claim ‘Racial Discrimination’ After Clinic Refuses To Treat Them For Not Wearing Masks

In November 2021, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) heard a case where two claimants said they were racially discriminated against at a medical practice. Ms Boles and Mr Walsh were told to wait outside due to their refusal to wear a mask. The claimants said they had medical exemptions from wearing masks but were displaying flu like symptoms. One of the reception staff allegedly said that she did not want “your kind in here”. The claim was ultimately rejected on the basis of “weak” evidence. Instead, QCAT determined that the staff at the clinic were made to feel intimidated and uncomfortable, fearing for their “personal safety”.

When Discrimination in Employment Is Lawful

On 12 October, the WA Equal Opportunity Commissioner, Dr John Byrne, released a statement explaining the concept of positive discrimination. He stated that the Act recognises that certain groups of people miss out on opportunities because of their sex, race, impairment or age. Often the missed opportunity is employment related. Therefore, the Act includes provisions to address lack of representation, such as section 31 that allows employers to select only female employees for certain roles. Similarly, section 51 allows employers to lawfully discriminate on the basis of race if certain roles are best suited for people from a certain racial background. In such circumstances, the employer needs to demonstrate a genuine need to apply the exceptions. Relying on stereotypes is impermissible. The reason is usually to address lack of representation in the workplace.

Persistent Bullying ‘Not Sustainable’ For Profession

The online Business of Wellbeing Summit 2022 was held on 11 October. Multiple speakers addressed the high levels of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment in the legal profession and underreporting. Speakers included the Law Society President and lawyers from the International Bar Association. Multiple reports and surveys were cited, notably the Dignity Matters report and IBA surveys that showed these behaviours were “rife” in legal workplaces. Speakers noted that these issues are driving people out of the profession, costing businesses and that we need to do better to encourage people to speak up.

Criticism of Fran Kelly’s New Gig Frankly Drips with Ageism – A Stubborn Form Of Discrimination We Need To Call Out

Fran Kelly was recently announced as the newest host of ABC’s talk show, Frankly. The news was met with comments that older people should not be getting new employment opportunities, perpetuating the idea that people over a certain age are “past their use-by-date”. Fran Kelly was referred to as a “boomer” and suggested that she would not reach a younger audience. However, the ABC article notes that this discussion is forgetting that Fran Kelly has more than 20 years of experience as one of Australia’s leading interviewers. The article questions whether this commentary is a legitimate criticism of ABC’s employment decisions or an example of age discrimination.