What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 21 December 2020 – 27 December 2020

Legal Action Against NSW Health Related to Toxic Culture

Karen Allen and John Greville have commenced legal action against NSW Health over what they claim is a ‘flawed and toxic’ work culture. The two former senior employees of NSW Health at the Mid-North Coast Local Health District (MNCLHD) claim they were punished for speaking up about alleged misconduct and mistreatment within the Department. Since 2018, Mr Greville has taken leave from his position after being hospitalised for exhaustion, dizziness and anxiety related to his workload. Similarly, Ms Allen, a MNCLHD nurse manager for mental health, was diagnosed with severe depression and a panic disorder which medical professionals linked to her employment at MNCLHD. Mr Greville and Ms Allen’s experiences prompted Safework NSW and NSW Ombudsman to investigate the claims, with the latter finding that MNCLHD ‘missed opportunities’ to focus on their concerns. NSW Health has since categorically denied the assertion that either Mr Greville or Ms Allen were disciplined for speaking out and say external investigations have made the same conclusions.

The Law Council of Australia Recommends for Independent Body to Hear Sexual Harassment Complaints

The Law Council of Australia has called for the creation of an independent body to hear complaints of sexual harassment against judges in the legal profession. Outlining its recommendations in the National Action Plan to Reduce Sexual Harassment in the Australian Legal Profession, the Law Council says an independent body is needed to deal with the prevalence of sexual harassment allegations in the profession. ‘It is imperative that this matter be addressed at every level to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the profession and public confidence in the legal system as a whole,’ the plan states. The Law Council has also recommended that the Sexual Discrimination Act be extended to include and cover harassment by judges as well as other figures in the legal profession such as barristers, witnesses and lawyers.
Sexual Harassment Action in Federal Court

Emma Hendry, the former chief executive of the $6 million property company Hendry Group, has commenced an action in the Federal Court against private equity firm The Salter Brothers. Ms Hendry claims that Robert Salter, founder of The Salter Brothers and his employees, Bevan Nicholson and Tineyi Matanda, sexually harassed her. In early 2019, Ms Hendry approached the Salter Brothers seeking private equity investment in the Henry Group. It was then that Ms Hendry alleges Mr Matanda, Salter’s investment manager, asked ‘many inappropriate personal questions.’ These questions ‘pertained to my private and personal life which were very inappropriate,’ Ms Hendry said. ‘When I asked, “Why are you asking me these questions?” [Mr Matanda] responded he just wanted to work out what type of a woman I was,’ she explained. Ms Hendry said the harassment forced her to take stress leave from her position on the board. The Salter Brothers have since published a statement ‘strongly denying’ all claims. They intend to ‘vigorously defend’ the allegations but could not comment further while proceedings remain before the courts.

Two More Unis Release Cultural Surveys That Show a Culture of Bullying

The University of South Australia (UniSA) and Flinders University have released the results of the last two integrity surveys to employees this week. This follows Adelaide University’s decisions to make its report public – exposing a culture of ‘veiled terror’ where bullying and harassment are commonplace. The two reports – which informed ICAC’s overall University Integrity Survey – compiled responses from 1173 UniSA and 695 Flinders staff members from March to April 2020. The reports aimed to determine the ‘attitudes and experiences’ of employees regarding corruption and inappropriate conduct at their respective workplaces. The surveys found that nearly a third of respondents from Flinders and more than 25 per cent from UniSA reported encountering bullying and harassment at their university. ‘I can’t even list the amount of examples of corruption, bullying, nepotism and unethical practices that occur at Flinders University,’ one respondent said. Another Flinders staff member said ‘a culture of bullying has developed among the senior Executive of the University.’ At UniSA, one respondent said they were ‘aware of a colleague being bullied by another academic colleague,’ but the offender remained undisciplined by the university despite it being ‘common knowledge that they often claim credit for others work.’ Flinders University Vice Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling said in an email to all staff on December 18 that the university ‘need[s] to do better in the ways in which we handle complaints and in how we communicate outcomes in a timely fashion.’ ‘I will work with my senior leadership team to ensure that we find ways to improve our processes while also ensuring that we treat all complainants and respondents both fairly and respectfully,’ Prof Stirling said.