What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 2 September 2019 – 8 September 2019

Disability Discrimination Number 1 Complaint
A new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) revealed that in 2017-18 the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) received more complaints about disability discrimination than any other category of discrimination.

People With Disability (PWD), one of Australia’s leading disability rights groups, has called for an overhaul of the country’s Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth). PWD CEO, Jeff Smith, has said that reforming the legislative framework in Australia could help reverse increasingly high levels of disability-based discrimination. ‘The government needs to review the disability discrimination act to increase its effectiveness because, clearly, it is not currently working,’ Mr Smith said. ‘We need to strengthen its enforcement, broaden its remit so it tackles systemic discrimination and better facilitate the making of complaints by people with a disability so they have effective access to justice,’ he added.

Yenn Purkis, an author who was diagnosed with autism and atypical schizophrenia, said her experiences with discrimination in the workplace have been evident. ‘I struggled at work. My first job was in a workplace where I was taken advantage of because of my autism and because of how I presented and how anxious I was about getting shifts’, she said. While

Mr Smith hopes that the upcoming Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability would provide an opportunity to reduce discrimination against those living with disability.

Hazing Rituals for Apprentice Chefs
Allegations of hazing, bullying and rampant sexual harassment against chef apprentices have emerged from the kitchens of Melbourne. In a recent expose piece by the Herald Sun, Victorian apprentices reported being locked in cool rooms, forced into eating chillies and pressured into burning themselves as a part of culinary hazing rituals.

Foster Carer Deemed A Worker for the Purpose of Accessing Stop Bullying Order
ACT foster carer, Benjamin Legge, has been deemed a ‘worker’ by the Fair Work Commission, allowing him to seek a ‘stop-bullying order’ against case management company Barnandos. Barnardos is a lead agency in the ACT that manages foster care and out of home care to children in Canberra. In pursuing his claim before the Fair Work Commission, Mr Legge argued that he was subject to workplace bullying by one or more foster care case managers at Barnardos Australia. To have the bullying claims considered, Commissioner Hampton first had to decide if Mr Legge was deemed a ‘worker’ under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and therefore eligible to make the application. Barnardos Australia argued that Mr Legge was not a worker because ‘a foster carer is more closely akin to that of domestic work by a family member.’ While Commissioner Hampton noted in his decision that ‘it was not the intention of the Legislature that [foster carers] would be deemed workers’, Barnardos was a ‘significant beneficiary’ of the work undertaken by Mr Legge. Commissioner Hampton reasoned that ‘the allocation of children or young people to Mr Legge as a foster carer [was] undertaken to meet [Barnandos’] obligations under the Child and Young People Act and the ACT Agreement’. ‘Mr Legge’s role in that regard is in practice to work along with the case managers and Barnardos Australia more generally to assist it to meet those obligations’, he concluded.

Prominent Scientist Suspended Amid Allegations of Bullying
Prominent New Zealand scientist, Alan Cooper, has been suspended amid an investigation into bullying at his lab at the University of Adelaide. The investigation into the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) came after the university commissioned an independent ‘culture check’. An external consultant was then brought in for the ACAD investigation, which invited past and present students of the Centre to make submissions. One of them, Dr Nic Rawlence, submitted that he left ACAD with ‘literally no confidence’ and severe health problems. ‘In many ways, it has taken me six years to recover from ACAD, while in some I still haven’t,’ he said. Cooper, who was named South Australian Scientist of the Year in 2016, had a prominent and untarnished academic career before the allegations surfaced.