What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 24 April 2023 – 30 April 2023

Former Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle Stripped of Order of Australia Title

Former Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Robert Doyle, was renounced of his Order of Australia honour this week. Governor General David Hurley terminated the appointment in March this year, with the news released on Friday this week in the Australia Gazette. Mr Doyle resigned from his role as lord mayor in 2018 after two women came forward alleging he had sexually assaulted them. Mr Doyle maintained his innocence at the time, however an investigation by the City of Melbourne in 2018 revealed he had acted inappropriately to the two women, including “placing his hand on one woman’s breast and another’s thigh.” A third woman came forward at a later stage, stating she had been sexually assaulted during a 2016 awards ceremony, where Doyle allegedly “placed his hand on the inside of her leg.” The City of Melbourne commissioned a report in 2020 which found that Mr Doyle’s behaviour was “sleazy” and “sexually inappropriate.” Mr Doyle apologised in 2021 over a radio interview to the three women for his “ugly” behaviour. No charges were laid by the Victorian Police in relation to the allegations.

Former Anglican Archbishop Peter Hollingworth Retains Role Despite Findings

The complaints body for the Anglican church has decided that Archbishop Peter Hollingworth, a former governor general of Australia, should not be removed from his current role despite receiving complaints over his handling of child abuse allegations. Hollingworth served as an archbishop of the Anglican church in Brisbane for 11 years, prior to his commencement as the Governor-General of Australia. According to the article, the professional standards board found Peter Hollingworth committed misconduct in the management of child abuse allegations of John Elliot and Donald Shearman. Further, he allowed the two clergy members to remain within the church, despite his knowledge that they had sexually assaulted children. Hollingworth was additionally found to acted inappropriately when he made “harsh and insensitive communications” in relation to another victim. Despite the findings, the professional conduct board decided this week that Hollingworth would be allowed to remain in his role as priest, “provided he apologised and is reprimanded.” The board found that there was “no unacceptable risk of harm” should Hollingworth continued to hold his role. The decision of the board has faced criticism, as well as concerns that the decision would push away survivors that wanted to come forward against the Anglican church.

Federal Court Allows Bruce Lehrmann to Commence Defamation Proceedings

The Federal Court decided this week that Bruce Lehrmann would be allowed to sue media outlets for defamation in relation to Brittany Higgins’ interview. The interview alleged that Bruce Lehrmann sexually assaulted Ms Higgins during her time as staffer at Parliament House. Lehrmann’s lawyers had asked the Federal Court to allow him to lodge a defamation claim due to the expiry of the typical 12-month deadline. Lehrmann had stated that his lawyer advised him not to initiate civil proceedings until after the criminal trial was resolved. Further, Lehrmann’s lawyers stated that the proceedings had not been initiated due to concerns over Lehrmann’s health and the “stress of the ongoing public scrutiny.” The original trial was abandoned due to juror misconduct in October of 2022. Prosecutors elected to not re-trial Bruce Lehrmann over concerns for Ms Higgins’ mental health. Justice Lee delivered his judgment on Friday this week, stating that it was “unreasonable” for Mr Lehrmann to have lodged his defamation proceedings within the 12-month period, noting that the “advice to defer fighting on two fronts was unsurprising.” Justice Lee further stated that the trial should commence as soon as possible, with the defamation proceedings now set to commence on 20 November 2023, with an expected duration of four weeks.

Doctor Sentenced for Sexually Assaulting Patients

Dr Milky was sentenced to 14 years and a half years’ jail on Thursday for incidents occurring between 2012 and 2019. The incidents included two counts of rape, nine counts of sexual assault and four counts of indecent assault. One victim had gone to Dr Milky with a sprained ankle, when he sexually assaulted by touching her on the breasts. Although one of the patients had complained to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), no action was taken against him and he was allowed to continue practising. It was only after one of the women reported the assault to police that four others came forward with statements. Despite the County Court’s finding, Dr Milky maintains his innocence. County Court Judge Felicity Hampel described the incidents as a “grave violation of trust”, stating that Dr Milky had taken advantage of his “authority as a doctor”, as well as “the power imbalance in the doctor-patient relationship.” Judge Hampel additionally criticised AHPRA, stating that she was “at a loss” as to how it accepted Dr Milky’s denial of the allegations and failed to investigate further. Dr Milky was suspended from practising in 2019, and will likely have his registration in Australia cancelled.

Queensland to Decriminalise Sex Work to Combat Violence and Discrimination

The Queensland government has indicated that it will decriminalise sex work across the state following a major review released by the Queensland Law Reform Commission. The review found that sex work should be handled like a job instead of a crime and “regulated the same as other businesses.” Presently, there are only 20 brothels that are legalised to sell sex work across the state. According to the article, there were 47 recommendations made within the review, including the removal of licensing for sex work. Laws surrounding sex work in states including the Northern Territory, New South Wales, and Victoria were examined in the review, as well as New Zealand. Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman stated that the government intends to introduce legislation at the end of the year to implement these changes, however the government must first liase with stakeholders to determine how to best include the recommendations. Fentiman further stated that “no worker should have to choose between working safely and working legally”, noting that “sex workers are being stigmatised and discriminated” against. The current laws reportedly create stigma towards sex workers, leading to issues such as increased vulnerability to exploitation and violence, as well as grater barriers to healthcare, safety and legal protections. The proposed recommendations include removing offences in relation to “consensual adult activity”, as well as introducing stronger anti-discrimination protections.