What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 25 April – 02 May 2021

‘Misogynists, Egotistical Bullies’ Revealed in Aviation Firefighting Review

Victoria’s aviation firefighting agencies are being urged to clean up a negative culture within their ranks, with some staff accused of running a boys’ club and bullying colleagues, even during emergency situations. An external investigation was undertaken into the state’s aviation firefighting units after years of bullying complaints against several employees and a high turnover of managerial staff –10 managers in eight years – allegedly led to a poor workplace culture. The external report, titled Safe Landings, was handed to Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) – the agencies primarily responsible for the aviation firefighting unit – in November 2019. A majority of the staff interviewed as part of the review had concerns about the behaviour of certain employees in each of the two government departments, describing them as being part of the “boys’ club”, “misogynists”, having a “single point of truth” and “egotistical bullies”. Others referred to the fact that the behaviour has been tolerated by management because of a perception that the system cannot run without the perpetrators.

Protections Lacking for Making Bullying Complaints in NSW Ministerial Offices: Report

Staffers working for NSW ministers don’t have access to adequate protections to ensure they can safely report workplace sexual harassment and bullying, a new report has found. Former sex discrimination commissioner and NSW Liberal Minister Pru Goward’s report on complaints procedures for NSW ministerial staff was made public by Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Ms Berejiklian ordered the review after she reacted with “horror” to the allegations put forward by former commonwealth ministerial staffer Brittany Higgins, who alleges she was raped. Ms Goward’s report found the procedures for handling ministerial staff complaints were woefully lacking. Those features include the lack of employment security for staff, who are hired “at the grace and favour of the Minister” and can be fired without recourse to unfair dismissal laws. She also noted staffers were often young, inexperienced and afraid of causing embarrassment to the office they served if they made complaints. She recommended establishing an independent process to handle complaints, establishing clear guidelines, increasing training for staffers and making sure the Premier received regular reports on policies to ensure a respectful workplace. Ms Berejiklian said she would accept the recommendations in the report and it was only the start of a process.

Liberal MP Andrew Laming Says Shock Medical Diagnosis Explains Behaviour

Liberal MP Andrew Laming has revealed that he has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD by a psychiatrist. He’s told the Prime Minister that he’s now undergoing ongoing treatment. Dr Laming insists he’s not looking for a “free pass” for his behaviour that includes allegations of the online abuse of constituents of Facebook and taking an ‘up-skirt’ photograph of a woman while she was working, but admits his psychiatric diagnosis was a light bulb moment.

Gay Cleaner Fired After Reporting Homophobic Abuse by Co-Workers

A 29-year cleaner from Queensland, who was working for Ipswich City Council, west of Brisbane, is taking his now former employer to the Fair Work Commission, having claimed unfair dismissal on the basis of his sexuality. James ‘Jimi’ Fuller- a former nurse who is openly gay, began working for the city council in November 2020 on a casual basis, but says it didn’t take long before he was subjected to abuse from his colleagues, claiming on one instance that he was called a “dirty fag”. What’s more concerning about these accusations, is that Fuller alleges that it was his boss who started the ongoing abuse, after telling fellow cleaning staff of his sexuality. Despite Fuller having lodged a formal complaint with HR, it only resulted in the Council then asking Fuller to retract his statement. Several days later on April 9, Fuller was let go from this job via a letter, which claimed his work was ‘substandard’. Fuller rejected these claims pointing to a considerable number of written references relating to his cleaning work. The Fair Work Commission accepted Fuller’s claim, which may then progress to a tribunal.

Sexual harassment in APS ‘Significantly Underreported’ Due to lack of Trust in Leadership, Survey Finds

The Community and Public Sector Union has published survey results detailing the prevalence of workplace sexual harassment within the Australian Public Service, highlighting the “largely insufficient” prevention and response measures implemented by government agencies. The report has urged Senior Executive Service leaders to “be more proactive, engaged and vocal in creating safe and respectful workplaces”. The union has also developed a sexual harassment prevention and response framework that APS agencies can implement, which has been based on the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Respect@Work Report. A survey conducted by the CPSU during March and April received 3,280 responses from across public and private sector workplaces, including staff from the commonwealth, ACT and Northern Territory public sectors, as well as the CSIRO, ABC, Australia Post and Telstra. The majority of respondents were female (67%). The report noted that some workers have faced intersecting forms of discrimination, which has further affected their experience of sexual harassment. Vulnerable groups that reported having experienced sexual harassment in their current workplace included workers with a disability, those who identify as LGBTQIA, and those who identify as non-binary. Of the incidents of sexual harassment that were reported, workplace responses were often perceived as being inadequate.

How Much Is Workplace Bullying Costing You?

The Australian Human Rights Commission states that everyone has the right to work in an environment free from bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence. Under Occupational Health and Safety Acts, employers and employees have a legal responsibility to comply with any measures that promote health and safety in the workplace. It’s also worth noting that there is a huge cost to the business, because people who are bullied — even if the behaviour is reported, called out and dealt with — will rarely want to remain in their job. The costs associated with replacing a star performer are: the cost of hiring, onboarding and the cost of lost productivity and engagement.

Brittany Higgins’ ‘Difficult Conversation’ with PM

Alleged rape victim Brittany Higgins says she had a “difficult” conversation with the Prime Minister on Friday that she hopes will help change the system that “let her down”. The former ministerial staffer has alleged she was raped at Parliament House, setting off a cultural reckoning in Canberra and becoming a figurehead in a national movement for change. Her advocacy has put pressure on the government to address issues of sexual assault and harassment against women, in parliament and beyond. She said the Prime Minister agreed with her reform was needed and among the specific proposals she put to him was an independent authority where parliamentary staff could make human resources complaints. Mr Morrison said his government was “committed” to reform and he looked forward to Ms Higgins contributing to two reviews his government has established in the wake of her alleged rape. Ms Higgins also met with Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, who said while their conversation was private, the set of requests she put to the Prime Minister “are modest and a reasonable.”