What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 14 – 20 August 2017

Catholic Church Threatens to Fire Employees Who Marry Under Same-Sex Legislation
Australia’s Catholic Church has threatened to fire employees who marry their same-sex partners in the even same-sex marriage is legalised. Senior Catholics, Archbishops Denis Hart and Timothy Costelloe, warned against the 180,000 employees nation-wide from “undermining their… values”, saying that staff must “totally” respect the Church’s teachings. The Church continues to hold exemptions to the 1984 Sex Discrimination Act, permitting it to hire employees based on their sexual orientation and marital status among other things. Their comments were particularly directed at teaching staff. However, Suzanne Greenwood, the Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Health Australia, has admitted that the outcome would be different for health services staff such as nurses, as she sees “absolutely no reason why that would change”. Although not expressly agreeing with its Catholic counterpart, the Anglican Church has reiterated the importance of religious freedom. Anglican Bishop Stead commented that, “the fact that promised safeguards for freedom of religion have quickly unravelled overseas should serve as a warning to Australians”.

Emergency Doctors Are Facing Bullying and Harassment at Work
A new survey has found that more than one third of emergency doctors are confronted with workplace bullying and harassment. The Australian College for Emergency Medicine surveyed more than 2100 physicians regarding their experiences. The results indicated numerous examples of humiliation, verbal abuse, personal attacks and instances of sexual harassment. There was a higher occurrence of bullying and harassment among trainee doctors, especially from non-English speaking backgrounds. One emergency doctor noted, “I was yelled at in front of patients and colleagues and then taken to an empty corridor and yelled at some more”. Professor Tony Lawler, the College President, claimed to be “sickened” at the results. He said that the College was “campaigning on a platform of zero violence in emergency departments”. An action plan developed through member consultation is to be published in November of 2017.

Start-Up Fund Withdraws Over Harassment Claims
A considerable Victorian government fund for start-up companies has withdrawn its partnership from 500 Startups over allegations of harassment. LaunchVic, a $60 million fund, had spent months establishing ties with the global accelerator when claims of sexual harassment were made against its Silicon Valley CEO, Dave McLure. This comes in the wake of several prominent cases of sexual harassment in the technology industry. Chief among these was the resignation of Uber co-founder, Travis Kalanick. In the Australia’s Digital Pulse 2017 report, it was found that women comprise only 28% of ICT workers, lagging behind the 41% of professional and scientific jobs.