What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 14 – 20 February 2022

Dyson Heydon Victims Secure Settlement

Three women who were sexually harassed by former High Court judge, Dyson Heydon, have secured a historic settlement payment. The compensation payouts were awarded in secret to the victims, Rachel Patterson Collins, Chelsea Tabart and Alex Eggerking. The payment packages are reported to have exceeded more than a million dollars. Dyson Heydon was alleged to have sexually harassed an additional three women who are unnamed. Five of the six women worked for Heydon as associates. The terms of the settlement agreements still remain confidential. The government has apologised to the three women who received compensation. The Attorney-General Michaelia Cash acknowledged their bravery and the serious impact the incidents have had on their lives.

Victorian Supreme Court Judge Sexually Harassed Two Associates

Two women approached Maurice Blackburn in 2020 alleging that they were sexually harassed by a retired Victorian Supreme Court judge, Peter Vickery. The claims have since been substantiated. The reports were made following the independent investigation into the behaviour of Dyson Heydon. The Victorian Supreme Court justice would make unwanted sexual advances towards the women. This included an incident of sending a woman sexualised poetry and placing his hands on the women. The Victorian Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Ferguson commented on the incident, thanking the women for coming forward despite the trauma they had experienced. The incident adds to the concerns surrounding the high-risk of sexual harassment within the legal profession. Peter Vickery has maintained his innocence.

New Codes of Practice Tackle Inappropriate Work Behaviours

On 15 February 2022, the Western Australian Government released three codes of practice to address inappropriate workplace behaviours. The Codes were made after extensive consultation processes. First, the Code of Practice on Workplace Behaviours aims to tackle misconduct, prolonged conflict, discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment and bullying. Second, the Code of Practice on Psychosocial Hazards in the Workplace includes guidance on violence, aggression, fatigue, burnout, stress and trauma. Third, the Code of Practice on Violence and Aggression at Work provides for guidance where workers may be exposed to physical assault, verbal abuse, threats, intimidation and harassment, often by external clients/service providers. The Codes modernise the previous Code of Practice on Violence, Aggression and Bullying that was released in 2014.

Parliament To Establish Code of Conduct

On 14 February 2022, federal parliament set up a joint committee on parliamentary standards to determine how a code of conduct can be created. The code will focus on prevention of bullying, harassment, sexual harassment and sexual assault. The written code of conduct policy is part of the response to the review made by Kate Jenkins into workplace culture in the federal government. The committee is projected to release a report to parliament on the policy by November this year.

WorkSafe Victoria Investigating Kaushaliya Vaghela’s Labor Bullying Claims

WorkSafe Victoria is to investigate bullying claims at the office of Premier Daniel Andrews. The allegations were made by MP Kaushaliya Vaghela in an article published on 12 February 2022. Ms Vaghela accused the Premier of turning a blind eye to bullying. The Premier responded to the claim, saying that her accusations were a “fantasy without foundation”. Ms Vaghela has stated she has documented evidence of bullying dating back to April 2019. WorkSafe confirms it has received, and will investigate, the complaint.

Woman At Centre of Tim Paine Sexting Scandal Alleges Texts Were Not Consensual

A former receptionist at Cricket Tasmania is seeking $100,000 in compensation for receiving unsolicited ‘sexts’ from former cricket captain, Tim Paine. The matter is before the Federal Court. The complainant, Renee Ferguson, claims she was sexually harassed by several employees including Paine during her employment at Cricket Tasmania in 2017. The messages, including photographs of Paine’s genitals, were sent without consent from Ms Ferguson. In an 18-page legal document to the court, Ms Ferguson included multiple examples of sexually explicit text messages sent by Paine. Mr Paine has denied all the allegations.

SAS Witness Denies Fabricating Bullying

Bullying allegations have emerged against Ben Roberts-Smith in light of his defamation action against multiple media companies. An SAS soldier gave evidence to the court of Mr Roberts-Smith “ruthless and unwavering bullying”. The soldier was a former colleague of Roberts-Smith. He told the court that Mr Robert-Smith threatened to “put a bullet in the back of [his] head” if his performance did not improve. Other incidents included spitting on the ground in front of comrades, slamming doors, and hitting the back of people’s heads. Roberts-Smith is adamant that these allegations are false. Mr Roberts-Smith addressed and denied the claims of bullying while giving evidence in 2021. The defamation trial is set to continue on Monday 21 February.