What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 12 June 2023 – 18 June 2023

Transgender Guidelines in High-Performance Australian Sport Released

The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) has released its inclusion of transgender and gender diverse guidelines for high performing athletes this week. The guidelines serve as a reminder for sport’s governing authorities to obey Australian law and promote a “spirit of inclusion.” According to the article, the new guidelines are aligned with the Olympic Committee’s (IOC) policies, where exemptions are examined on a case-by-case basis. Sporting bodies including World Athletics, World Swimming and World Rugby have reportedly gone against the IOC guidelines, “opting instead for a blanket ban on transgender women who experienced male puberty.” The Sex Discrimination Act makes it illegal to “discriminate, harass or victimise on the basis of sex or gender identity.” However, the Act allows for exemptions “when unfair advantage or safety risks can be objectively proven.” The article describes that if Australian decision-making sporting bodies follow the ASC guidelines, it would “put them at odds with their international federations.” However, if they follow the international federation policies, there is a possibility that they could contravene Australian law. CEO of the ASC, Kieren Perkins, stated that individuals who are undergoing gender reassignment “must be able to show that they’re going through that process” and “that it’s leading to the physiological changes that come with wanting to move to their accepted gender.”

Australian Senator David Van Resigns Following Allegations of Several Instances of Sexual Misconduct

Earlier this week, Independent senator Lidia Thorpe and former Liberal senator Amanda Stoker alleged that Liberal David Van sexually assaulted them. Both Ms Stoker and Ms Thorpe have alleged that David Van “touched them inappropriately in previous years”, a claim which Mr Van has denied. Opposition Leader Peter Dutton confirmed on Friday this week that further allegations have come to light against Senator Van. As a result, Mr Dutton has called on Mr Van to quit parliament. Mr Van stated in a resignation letter to the Victorian Liberal Party this week that he could not be a member of a party that “tramples upon the very premise on which our justice system is predicated.” Further, Mr Dan stated that “given the Liberal Party’s wholesale disregard for due process and natural justice in relation to allegations made against me, I write to resign my membership effective immediately.” The letter additionally stated that there has been a “travesty of justice” and that he denies the allegations against him. According to the article, Mr Van was “deeply distressed and hurt” and stated that he had been denied access to “procedural fairness.” Mr Van said that he would continue to fight for what he believed the values of the Liberal party were, “just not under its banner.”

Western Australian Private School Ordered to Mediate over Disability Discrimination Claim

A Perth private school has been ordered to mediate with a mother who claimed her daughter was discriminated against on multiple occasions in relation to her health issues. Ms Melita Markey lodged a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) that her daughter was discriminated against on several occasions by the school. These instances include a teacher dismissing the daughter’s diagnosed conditions as “growing pains”, forcing her to play the clarinet, excluding her from the year 6 school dance, and, making her “sit and watch others perform sport, rather than complete other schoolwork.” According to the article, Ms Markey’s daughter was being treated for joint hypermobility syndrome, a painful condition arising from the loosening of ligaments. The claim was dismissed by the EOC as it did not meet the current 12-month deadline. Lawyers for the Markey family appeared before the State Administrative Tribunal and agreed to mediation, stating that it “is what they wanted.” Lawyers for the school were “willing to sit down” with the parents, despite submitting that they “believed there was no jurisdiction.” According to the article, mediation is to take place in October of this year, with principal Judith Tudball reportedly to appear.

Victorian School Commences Independent Review into Workplace Behaviour

A Victorian school has commenced an independent review in relation to workplace behaviour after it excluded two African students due to their hairstyles. In 2022, Highview College in Maryborough reportedly excluded two students for “not tying their box-braided hair back.” The mother of the two students lodged a complaint to the Human Rights Commission, which remains ongoing. According to the article, the school has commenced an independent investigation to determine whether the school is following its workplace health and safety policies. Further, the principal of the school, Ms Melinda Scash has taken “a leave of absence” during the review process. Highview College has reportedly not responded to questions in relation to whether there is any connection between the investigation and the absence of Ms Scash, as well as the period of time the review is investigating. The current review is the second time within six years that an external investigation in relation to workplace concerns has been carried out at the school. According to the article, Worksafe “responded to a bullying complaint made by a staff member in 2017” which found that “the school did not have appropriate reporting and investigations processes in place to manage allegations of workplace bullying.” The investigation is due to be completed in three weeks’ time.

Mehreen Faruqi Experienced Insomnia, Psychological Stress After Pauline Hanson Tweet

Mehreen Faruqi has stated to the Federal Court this week that she suffered from “insomnia, psychological distress and death threats” following a tweet published by Pauline Hanson in 2022. According to the article, lawyers for Ms Faruqi stated that she was “offended, insulted, humiliated and intimidated” as a result of Ms Hanson’s tweet, where she replied to comments made by Ms Faruqi in relation to the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The tweet by Ms Faruqi stated that she “cannot mourn the leader of a racist empire built on stolen lives, land and wealth of colonised peoples.” In response, Ms Hanson stated that “your attitude appals and disgusts me. When you immigrated to Australia you took every advantage of this country. You took citizenship, bought multiple homes, and a job in a parliament. It’s clear you’re not happy, so pack your bags and piss off back to Pakistan.” Ms Faruqi is claiming that Ms Hanson contravened the Racial Discrimination Act and is seeking that Ms Hanson “make a $150,000 donation to charity.” Further, Ms Faruqi is seeking that Ms Hanson publish a new tweet stating that “she had used offensive language.” Ms Faruqi initiated legal action after the complaint she submitted to the Human Rights Commission was terminated. In a Senate censure motion, Ms Hanson refused to retract her tweet and instead stated she would “take [Faruqi] to the airport.” A case management hearing in relation to the dispute will be held on 29 June.