What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 18 – 24 September 2017

Former Partner Alleges Law Firm Discriminated Against Her
A former partner has brought a claim of sex discrimination against law firm, HWL Ebsworth. Elizabeth Patrick alleges that from 2009 to 2016, she was bullied, harassed and paid less than male colleagues because of her gender. In addition to the firm, managing partner Juan Martinez, Nicholas Matkovich and former employee Michael Bowyer were also named but all refute the claims. Only 20% of the 219 partners at HWL Ebsworth are female, one of the lowest rates in Australia and lower than the 25% average. The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal will fix hearing dates in November.

Australian Defence Force Seeks Exemptions to Sex Discrimination Act
The Australian Defence Force may apply for the right to discriminate based on sex. The exemption to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 will purportedly be restricted to allow them to treat people of non-binary gender status less favourably. This move comes in response to the recent enrolment of a cadet who identified as gender-neutral. The ADF claims that they are seeking “to ensure that military operations and training can be conducted effectively”. They maintain, in particular, that the ADF has “unique operation requirements”, which make this move necessary. The ADF is set to consult the Attorney General’s Department upon completion of the policy.

Allegations of Bullying Place Mental Health Facility at the Centre of a Senate Inquiry
It has been alleged that staff at South Australian Oakden Mental Health Facility bullied people who raised patient complaints. In 2009, the federal audit agency found the centre had failed to ensure residents could bring complaints without fear of repercussions. Despite the report, the Australian Aged Care Quality Assurance agency permitted the centre to continue. A further audit from early 2017 revealed staff members were still failing in their responsibilities. These investigative documents, which will be used in an upcoming Senate inquiry, held that their “actions… [were] seen as intimidating”. Complainants felt bullied when confronted with up to five other staff members in the relevant meetings. The centre was closed on 23 September 2017, following chief psychiatrist Aaron Grove’s report providing insight into the extent of staff abuse of patients.