What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 22 – 28 October 2018

ABC Reporter Accused of Sexually Assaulting a Colleague
The ABC has inquired into a reporter accused of sexual assaulting a colleague. A “small number of complaints” into the conduct of a male reporter prompted the follow-up action by the broadcaster. It is alleged that the unnamed man made sexual advances towards a female reporter, who denied him and was subsequently abused. He has been notified of the allegations and may not take on new roles.

On-Going Defamation Hearing Regarding Allegations of Sexual Behaviour by Rush to Co-Star
In Geoffrey Rush’s ongoing defamation trial, the director of King Lear has denied telling Mr Rush that his actions were becoming “creepy”. In 2017, The Daily Telegraph reported that Eryn Jean Norvill complained to the Sydney Theatre Company about Mr Rush engaging in “inappropriate behaviour” during its production of King Lear. In cross-examination, Mr Armfield said he did not see Mr Rush engaging in “gratuitous action for his manipulation of her body”. Ms Norvill is still set to attest that she was the target of Mr Rush’s sexual harassment, including once when he ran his hand “down her torso and traced across her right breast”. He claims not to have done anything wrong and argues that the newspaper defamed him by portraying him as a “sexual predator”.

Allegations of Bullying Culture at Sydney Hospital
The College of Intensive Care has stripped Sydney Westmead Hospital of its Intensive Care Unit training credentials in response to complaints of a toxic workplace culture. It is alleged that senior medical staff engaged in serious bullying and harassment. This was reflected in an email sent to Australian Salaried Medical Officer’s Federation NSW members, which stated that the “serious failing and erosion of trust and confidence in management…” would impact patients and increase workloads for ICU doctors. Mark Priestly, a senior clinician of Westmead Hospital, said it was taking the claims of a “culture of bullying” seriously and needed to focus particularly on addressing supportive working conditions.

ACT Seeks to Remove the Right of Religious Schools to Discriminate on Sexuality
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr will seek to remove the right of religious schools to discriminate against and reject gay teachers. Mr Barr will clarify current legal ambiguities by amending ACT discrimination laws, and block discrimination on the basis of sexuality, gender identity and intersex characteristics among others. This move comes in light of the Ruddock review’s recommendation to entrench religious schools’ current exemption from discrimination laws. Mr Barr argued that discriminating against teachers on the basis of their sexuality “should not, must not, be acceptable anywhere, especially not in our schools”. While broadly agreeing with him, ACT Opposition leader Alistair Coe said the Opposition wants to “allow faith schools to still be faith-based schools. It is a matter of getting the balance right, but I think we can get a reasonable approach”.

Survey Reveals 1/6 WA Dept of Health Employees Victims of Bullying
Preliminary survey results revealed that one sixth of employees of the WA Health Department were the victims of bullying or harassment over the past year. These results, the responses of 700 staff members, were obtained through Freedom of Information. They follow other surveys conducted by the department and also the Australian Medical Association WA, which similarly indicated poor morale and culture among staff. Despite this, the WA Director General of Health David Russell-Weisz found the results “pleasing”, given that 84% still answered favourably to questions of bullying and harassment. Nonetheless, he encouraged staff to “speak without fear of reprisals” if they believe they have been mistreated.