What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 22 May 2023 – 28 May 2023

Specialist Detectives Commence Investigation into Alleged Sexual Assault at Mine Site

Perth specialist detectives from the sex assault squad have taken carriage of the investigation into the alleged sexual assault at the Roy Hill mine site in Newman. The alleged assault occurred on Friday last week at the Roy Hill Mine Village. The report involved two contractors, with a spokeswoman stating that the assault was understood to have occurred at night “after the two parties agreed to meet earlier.” A police spokesperson stated this week that it is standard practice that the Sex Assault Squad (SAS) commence investigations into matters of this nature. On Sunday, White Ribbon director Allan Ball said that, while they were waiting for all the facts in relation to the alleged incident, “workplaces should be places of safety and respect for everyone, every time, everywhere.” Further, Mr Ball stated that they “are saddened but not shocked that these allegations have been made” and that “there are a number of Australian workplaces that are still not actively taking responsibility… to prevent all forms of sexual harassment.” The allegations arise following a guilty verdict of FIFO electrician Ryan Zabaznow last week, who was found to have sexually assaulted a female co-worker at the BHP Mulla Mulla camp in November of 2020. According to the article, the Zabaznow raped the woman after a night of drinking. Since the verdict, several female miners have come forward with similar allegations.

South Australian District Court Judge Resigns After a Complaint About Conduct

A District Court Judge in South Australia has resigned after an investigation was commenced in relation to a complaint about his conduct. Judge Timothy Heffernan reportedly stepped down on 17 May 2023, preventing the Judicial Conduct Commissioner’s investigation from making any findings in relation to his conduct. Chief Judge Michael Evans stated that the Courts Administration Authority (CAA) “continues to take all complaints of inappropriate judicial conduct very seriously”, despite the termination of the investigation. Further, Chief Justice Chris Kourakis stated that while he could not make any comment, he acknowledged that the community required judicial officers to “observe the highest standards of respectful and decent conduct.” New Corporation’s The Advertiser received permission by the Judicial Conduct Commissioner to confirm that the conduct related to alleged sexual harassment. According to the article, State Courts Administrator Penny Crosser stated that the CAA prioritises a “safe, inclusive and respectful workplace.” The same day Mr Heffernan resigned, the South Australian Legal Profession Conduct Commissioner introduced a new online tool to “allow legal professionals to confidently and anonymously report sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination.”

Indigenous TV Host Stan Grant Steps Down from ABC Following Racism

Aboriginal journalist Stan Grant has resigned from the ABC this week following claims of “relentless” racism. According to the article, Grant accused the ABC of an “institutional failure” by not protecting him during his employment. Further, Grant alleged that the racism he experienced during his career reached its peak after covering the King’s Coronation and after he had discussed the effect of colonisation. Grant was reportedly asked by the ABC specifically to provide this perspective, however failed to defend him when backlash arose. Additionally, Grant stated that other, more conservative media outlets had played a significant role and had “amplified” the outrage in relation to his statements. ABC director Justin Stevens stated that he was “incredibly sorry” that Stan Grant “felt let down by our organisation” and that they would do “all we can to make up for it.” Further, the ABC released an apology in the days after Grant resigned, promising that it would review how to better promote diversity and manage racism within the organisation in the future. Grant’s decision to leave the ABC has sparked fierce debate and protests online, with several conversations raised in relation to racism and media diversity in Australia.

Royal Commission Finds 690 Complaints of Harassment, Bullying in Australian Navy Fleet

A hearing held this week in the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide revealed that approximately 700 complaints of “unacceptable behaviour”, including sexual misconduct, harassment and bullying, have been reported within the past 2 years in the Royal Australian Navy Fleet Command. The Fleet Command involves the “command, operations, training and force generation of all ships, submarines, aircraft squadrons, diving teams and shore establishments of the Royal Australian Navy.” According to the article, over 25% of the reports in the past year had been corroborated. Further, there was 342 complaints in the year prior to February 2023, as well as 348 in the year before. The article states that “most senior ranks, including captain and commodore, were among the respondents of substantiated unacceptable behaviour complaints.” Additionally, there were more than two dozen corroborated complaints against lieutenants and lieutenant commanders. Shore Force Commander Commodore Heath Jay Robertson stated to the inquiry that “it is absolutely to the disadvantage of our ability” to combat unacceptable behaviour and “when it is seen… it is important, because perception is reality for that person making the complaint and there was probably still not appropriate behaviour that’s occurred.”

Police Officer Who Investigated Brittany Higgin’s Allegations Under “Significant Pressure”

A senior police officer has stated this week that he was “under pressure” from Brittany Higgins, the media and the police to charge Bruce Lehrmann. ACT Detective Superintendent Scott Moller gave evidence this week before the inquiry investigating the Bruce Lehrmann trial. Moller stated that the “investigating officers in the matter were under an exceptional amount of pressure.” Further, Mr Moller stated that he “believed there was not enough evidence to charge Mr Lehrmann but was told by ACT Commander Michael Chew to ‘get it done.’” According to the article, Moller additionally stated that there was significant pressure to “expedite the process” and bring Mr Lehrmann “before the court… from the public, the media and my own organisation.” Further, Mr Moller was also questioned as to the second interview conducted with Ms Higgins. Counsel suggested that the decision to conduct a second interview was contrary to the Victim of Crimes Act, stating that Moller had used the information “to bolster a submission that charges should not be preferred.” In response to this, Moller stated that the second interview was conducted to clarify inconsistencies in relation to the evidence that was presented to them. In addition to this, Moller had advised Ms Higgins to “not do any media”, explaining to her that the media could influence the trial.