What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 11 – 18 April 2021

Councillor, Sandy Grekas, on Gender Abuse and Harassment in Local Government

Female councillors have today spoken out about how the toxic workplace culture inside federal and NSW Parliaments is replicated at a local level and is a disincentive for women to enter local government. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, female councillors face a barrage of gendered abuse and harassment from their council colleagues, politicians and the public, including bullying, verbal abuse and intimidation. Fewer than one in three councillors in NSW are women compared to 43 percent in Victoria. Researchers found gender abuse and harassment was rife in Victorian councils, with 23 percent of women councillors “very often” experiencing negative behaviour that affected them personally, compared to 3 percent of male colleagues. Councillor Sandy Grekas reported that some male councillors spoke aggressively to and over female councillors and staff, “and there’s no way in the world they would speak that way to men.”

Worker with PTSD wins Discrimination Battle Against ACT Government

A woman bullied so severely while working for the ACT Government that she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has won her discrimination battle. A government employee in the Community Services Directorate claims she was bullied at work in 2017, resulting in a diagnosis of the disorder. In October 2018, a doctor said the woman’s symptoms included severe depression, anxiety, flashbacks to abuses, nightmares and hyper-vigilance brought on by “several years’ systematic bullying by an individual in the workplace”. In December 2019, the woman made a discrimination complaint to the ACT Human Rights Commission, arguing the management of her workers’ compensation claim by CMTEDD had delayed her entitlements and worsened her PTSD, and the case eventually came before ACAT. As a result of her case, the government has been ordered to better train staff who deal with injured workers with a mental injury as well as improve its processes for claims.

Christine Holgate says her Gender was a Factor in Being Forced out of Australia Post

Former Australia Post boss Christine Holgate has piled more pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison over his government’s treatment of women, alleging he bullied her out of a job as the first female chief of the postal service. Dressed in suffragette white, Ms Holgate tore into the Morrison government over its treatment of her and alleged her gender was “absolutely” a factor in her controversial exit from Australia Post over her decision to reward four employees with Cartier watches in 2018. She said she was left contemplating suicide as a result of the bullying and intimidation she endured over the watches saga, which she said included Mr Morrison humiliating her in the Parliament. In an interview with the ABC’s 7.30 program on Tuesday evening, Ms Holgate described Mr Morrison’s rebuke of her actions as “one of the worst acts of bullying I’ve ever witnessed” and said she’d “love an apology”. She also revealed she was contemplating legal action against Australia Post over the ongoing dispute around the finalisation of her contract.

Disgraced Lawyer Booted Over Sexual Harassment Complaint Goes on to Score VPS Job

The Australian reported that a former Allens lawyer had been asked to leave its Melbourne office due to a sexual harassment incident at a Christmas party nine years ago. According to the report, he was allowed to remain at work for an additional five weeks until a piece of litigation was finalised. The senior lawyer now works for the VPS. The new role in the Victorian Public Service (VPS) raises questions about the efficacy of a complaints-based system in the workplace. Allens was approached for comment but referred to a general statement published on their about incidents of inappropriate conduct at the firm. The statement notes that the approach to ‘stamping out’ harassment at the firm has, and will continue, to evolve.

Christine Holgate’s Wear White Campaign Delivers

The “Wear White 2 Unite” campaign has been created to defend Holgate and to stamp out workplace bullying with a nod to the suffragette movement. Precision Group chief executive Shaun Bonett told Australian Financial Review this week he is backing the campaign because “bullying is a cancer in our society” that “needs to be stamped out once and for all from all our workplaces”. Significantly, Holgate has appeared wearing a white jacket. Post office network chief executive, Angela Camp’s LPOGroup is leading the Wear White campaign.

Brittany Higgins Announces Memoir, Plans To Tell Story “In Her Own Words”

On April 13, Brittany Higgins announced plans to publish a memoir to share her experiences working inside the “halls of power”, with half of the profits going to a rape crisis centre in Canberra. “I’m proud to commit half of the royalties for each book sold to the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre who were a lifeline for me in the wake of my experience”, she says. “I feel privileged to be afforded the opportunity to share the story of my time inside Parliament House to readers.” Higgins states that the book will “shine a light on the toxic workplace culture inside the corridors of power and provide a firsthand account of what it was like surviving a media storm that turned into a movement.”

Ex-star Sharon Johal Adds to Neighbours Racism Claims

Former Neighbours star Sharon Johal has become the third cast member to allege racism on set, calling for a systemic overhaul of the show. It follows accusations over the last week from former cast members Shareena Clanton and Meyne Wyatt. Johal said she was “devastated” to learn of their comments and said her time at the show was also “painful and problematic”. “I too have experienced direct, indirect and casual racism in this workplace,” she said. Johal added that more than once, an unnamed cast member referred to her as “you people” when speaking in derogatory terms about an Indian person and referred to her as “the black one” and “blackie” behind her back. When her complaints were taken to management, no action was taken.

Hanson Lashes PM’s ‘Empathy Training’ After Holgate Apology Refusal

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has savaged the Prime Minister for refusing to apologise to ousted Australia Post boss Christine Holgate. “It looks like the taxpayer-funded empathy training he’s been paying for was a complete waste of time,” Senator Hanson said on Wednesday. The One Nation leader is a staunch supporter of Ms Holgate. She was a key driver of the Senate inquiry into the Cartier watches scandal that cost the former Australia Post chief executive her job. Senator Hanson told Sydney radio she would keep pushing for an apology for Ms Holgate, but won’t “hold my breath”. Her blast came after Scott Morrison said he regretted the hurt caused to Ms Holgate by his parliamentary outburst, but refused to actually say sorry.

Morrison Cabinet to ‘Nail Down’ Sexual Harassment Definition

The process of implementing the recommendations made by the Respect@Work report will involve “nailing down” a consistent definition of sexual harassment according to Assistant Minister for Women Amanda Stoker. “The most commonly used definition at the moment says that ordinarily it is a pattern of behaviour involving more than one incident, but one serious incident can be sufficient,” she told Sky News. Ms Stoker noted that every situation “turns on its facts” in addition to the dynamics at play in the workplace and the individuals involved. She said the Federal government were working towards providing a single point of contact where employees and employers could find clear and consistent guidance. “That’s been something that’s been missing from the landscape at present when an employer at the moment tries to do the right thing and they usually get an unhelpful answer like you need to go and get your own legal advice.”

Former Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate Reveals Cartoon Left her ‘Extremely Distressed’

Scott Morrison has slammed former Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate’s claim “gender” was an issue in her departure, as the newspaper that published a cartoon she says depicted her as “a prostitute” dismissed suggestions it implied she was a sex worker. In his first public comments over the furore, the Prime Minister has stopped short of apologising to her but conceded his language was “strong”. Meanwhile, the Australian Financial Review has hit back at claims a cartoon featuring Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate implied she was a sex worker turning tricks for Mr Morrison. The former CEO says she was left “suicidal” by the media firestorm. It depicts Ms Holgate leaving a room wearing a short dress and an Australia Post bangle with smeared red lipstick.

The Future (of Investment) is Female

A crucial investment focus is needed on employment and relevant skills-matching, domestic violence services, accessible mental health care, and homelessness support, says a new report commissioned by Australians Investing In Women. The report, which was written in collaboration with Equity Economics, goes on to provide a blueprint for impact investors and philanthropists committed to gender-wise investing. In recent years, Australia’s progress on gender equity has slipped, with The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index now ranking the nation 50th, behind countries including New Zealand, Rwanda, Nicaragua and the Philippines. By commissioning the report, AIIW is urging the Australian government, corporate leaders, impact investors and philanthropists to recognise that investment in women’s economic independence is essential for the country’s prosperity.