What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 17 July 2023 – 23 July 2023

NSW Anti-Discrimination Act Referred to NSW Law Reform Commission

Attorney-General Michael Daley has stated this week that he has referred the NSW’s Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 to the NSW Law Reform Commission following increased pressure from civil liberty groups. The legislation will be reviewed to determine whether the discrimination laws made in 1977 remain “fit for purpose.” Mr Daley stated that “we have come a long way since 1977 and it is time for the anti-discrimination laws to come under scrutiny so we can assess whether they are still fit for purpose.” According to the article, the referral is due to criticism in relation to amendments that Mr Daley introduced to parliament last month to “prohibit religious vilification.” Further, the bill “would make it unlawful to publicly incite hatred towards or severely ridicule a person or group because of their religious belief, affiliation or activity.” Groups including the Greens, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and the NSW Council for Civil Liberties asked for the laws to be reviewed by the Commission, rather than include Mr Daley’s amendments. Josh Pallas, president of the Civil Liberties Council, stated that “religious beliefs are often discriminatory in nature, and the right to call them out must be preserved.” The NSW Law Reform Commission is to determine whether the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 provides adequate protection against vilification and whether it should include criminal implications. Mr Daley stated that “there had been monumental shifts in society, demographics and attitudes since the Act came into force nearly half a century ago.” Further, he stated that it is important a review be conducted “to ensure our laws represent who we are today as a community.”

Neurosurgeon Charlie Teo Claims He Has Faced ‘Medical Bullying’

Controversial neurosurgeon Dr Charlie Teo stated last week that he had experienced the “worst example of medical bullying” after being found guilty of professional misconduct. According to the article, Dr Teo was found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct in relation to two patients between 2018 and 2019. The Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) delivered its decision last week, with Dr Teo stating that he felt “distressed” in relation to the findings. Dr Teo stated that “I understand many of the attitudes calls the tumour inoperable. I say it is operable. I take it out, everything goes well. I can understand why that surgeon looks like an idiot.” According to the article, no hospitals are prepared to allow him to operate, with several patients reportedly travelling to China and Spain to seek his treatment. Dr Teo has stated the action was fuelled by many reasons, one including “being Asian.” According to the decision, Dr Teo has several restrictions placed on him, including “a requirement to obtain written permission from a Medical Council-approved neurosurgeon with at least 15 years’ experience as a registered specialist in neurosurgery” prior to him performing any “malignant intracranial tumour and brain stem tumour surgical procedures.” Dr Teo has stated that he will not appeal the findings of the HCCC, however he “will never” accept that he “failed to gain proper consent or lacks empathy for patients.” The article states that Dr Teo “doesn’t have the fight left” to appeal the decision to the NSW Supreme Court. Dr Teo cited that “I am not guilty of what I am accused of. I reject what they said I have done. They just don’t believe me, so why would I show remorse for something that I deny?”

Crucial CCTV Footage in Brittany Higgins Case Has Been ‘Automatically Wiped’

A court has been informed this week that “crucial” CCTV footage relating to the night Brittany Higgins was allegedly raped by Bruce Lehrmann in Parliament House has been “automatically wiped.” Lehrmann has sued Network 10 and journalist Lisa Wilkinson for defamation in relation to a 2021 media coverage of Ms Higgin’s accusations. Additionally, Mr Lehrmann has commenced defamation proceedings against the ABC in relation to a live broadcast of Ms Higgins’ National Press Club address. According to the article, silk Sue Chrysanthou SC asked earlier this month why Parliament House did not have CCTV from 22 March 2019, despite it being broadcasted in a Channel 7 spotlight interview. On Monday this week, Justice Lee was informed that “there no longer had to be evidence given as to why the footage could not be produced.” Further, the Court was told that “the Department of Parliamentary Services could not access the raw footage as it had been automatically overwritten on the Parliament House servers.” Barrister Tim Senior, who is representing Ten, stated that “the material that has been produced today in relation to the latest subpoena, I believe, is the material that would have been broadcast (on Channel 7).” Mr Lehrmann went to trial last year after it was alleged that he had sexually assaulted Ms Higgins in Parliament House, however the case was aborted due to juror misconduct. A further case management hearing has been listed for August of this year.

Royal Commission Finds ‘Terrible ADF Culture’ Key Challenge

The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide stated earlier this week that key themes had appeared from the Commission’s hearings, including “poor mental health outcomes,” “inadequate ADF support services,” “terrible ADF culture” and “bullying, harassments, abuses of power.” The Commission is holding a “series of hearings” in Adelaide, with Commissioner Nick Kaldas stating that there will be “no quick fix” in relation to the issues, with a key focus on “real, long-lasting and meaningful reforms.” According to the article, the Commission was informed that South Australia was home to “over 100,000 members of the veteran community,” including approximately 6,000 serving members. A report delivered by the Royal Commission last year suggested 13 key recommendations, of which 11 had been adopted by the federal government. Commissioner Kaldas stated that “we are aware that the defence and veteran community is keenly watching and waiting to see what this royal commission will actually achieve.” Further, Mr Kaldas stated that “the high rates of suicide and suicidal behaviour among our military community are, undeniably, a national tragedy.” Mr Kaldas cited that the suicide rate for male veterans is 27 per cent higher than the general population, while for female veterans it is 107 per cent higher. Veterans have been urged to come forward before October, with participants stating that “this is our one opportunity” and that “we are not going to get another royal commission.”

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Attempts to Appeal Sentence of Teacher Who Had Sex with Student

This week, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) appealed the sentence of former teacher Monique Ooms who was found guilty earlier this year of having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student. Ms Ooms was sentenced to 300 hours of community work after she had pled guilty to the four charges. According to the article, Ms Ooms had “struck up a supportive friendship with the boy and spoke over Instagram and text messages” before commencing a “sexual relationship.” The DPP submitted that Ms Ooms should have been given a jail sentence, stating that the judge who sentenced Ms Ooms “really underestimated” the severity of her offending. Elizabeth Ruddle KC stated to the Court that “this is such serious offending, repeated offending, that for the respondent to not be in prison at all really undermines confidence in the system.” According to the article, Mr Jason Gullaci SC submitted on behalf of his client that she did not “engage in grooming or predatory behaviour.” Mr Gullaci submitted that “she had suffered extra punishment… since her case was made public in the media.” Ms Ooms has reportedly received a phone call from an individual who had pretended to be a police officer and stated “I heard you’ve been touching kids at some other high school.” Mr Gullaci urged the Court to not send Ms Ooms to jail due to her current high-risk pregnancy and her mental health issues. The appeal justices reserved their decision, with the judgment to be handed down at a later date.