What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 25th November 2019 – 1st December 2019

Sixth AFP Staffer to Commit Suicide Amidst Allegations of Toxic Workplace
A former Australian Federal Police (AFP) staffer was discovered dead in a Melbourne hotel on Monday morning. Before taking her life, Julie Woodward, who was employed as a criminal intelligence analyst at the AFP, sent police and news.com.au a 56-page suicide note. In the letter, Woodward detailed a culture of toxic bullying within the AFP. She claimed that she was bullied in the Northern Territory and Victoria police forces, but that it was the decision to accept a job offer at the AFP in Canberra that finally broke her. Several months before her death, Woodward contacted news.com.au, complaining about the ‘culture [of] bullying, extreme sexual harassment and the discarding of staff.’ She called upon fellow employees and stakeholders to ‘unite to have our voices heard and seek a royal commission.’ Woodward is the sixth AFP staffer to have tragically committed suicide in the past two years. In a statement, an AFP spokesman has said that ‘the matter will be oversighted by our Professional Standards Command.’ ‘Whilst it is inappropriate to comment on aspects of the letter, it is important to state that Victoria Police has and continues to invest heavily in welfare support for staff and we are strongly committed to creating workplaces that are safe, inclusive and respectful,’ the statement continued.

AI to be Used in Workplaces to Identify Bullying
Australian employers will soon be able to use artificial intelligence (AI) to tackle workplace malpractices such as micro-aggression, sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination. The new technology, developed by Cassiopeia, aims to assist managers to identify and understand teams that are most ‘at risk’ of non-inclusive and offensive behaviours before they happen. Cassiopeia founder, Shiran Yaroslavesky, said that while early detection is crucial, it can be the ‘most difficult’ part of eradicating biases and harassment in the workplace. ‘Detecting the teams that need your help the most can be difficult,’ Yaroslavesky stated. By using the technology, Yaroslavesky hopes that business leaders can put in place more effective solutions like training, advisors and feedback processes to manage those risks, thereby reducing the cost of attrition.

Police Officers Win Discrimination Case Related to their Homosexuality
Four gay police officers have won an anti-discrimination case against NSW Police (in the cases of Rapisarda v Commissioner of Police; Housego v Commissioner of Police; Sheehy v Commissioner of Police; McDonald v Commissioner of Police [2019] NSWCATAD 242) after being subjected to drug testing on the basis of their sexuality. On Friday, the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) ruled in favour of Steven Rapisarda, Shane Housego, Christopher Sheehy and Christian McDonald. The NSWCAT found that their superior officer, Simon Hardman, was ‘motivated, consciously or unconsciously, to make complaints … by reason of their homosexuality.’ Hardman, who now works as University of Sydney’s head of campus security, suspected the four of taking illicit drugs because they formed a ‘close-knit friendship group of homosexual like-minded’ officers. ‘George, Christian and Christopher are also notorious for their promiscuity,’ he was quoted saying. All four officers gave evidence that they heard homophobic slurs being used by fellow police officers and that there were ‘daily negative comments about gays.’ The group’s lawyer, Nicholas Stewart, said that the case was important for two reasons. ‘First, it shows that the NSW police force’s complaints system is vulnerable to misuse and abuse without independent oversight,’ he said. ‘Secondly, it demonstrates that in an age of progressive and inclusive corporate policies, discrimination can be found alive and well in pockets of any organisation,’ he added. NSW Police have since released a statement saying that it was reviewing the decision and considering its response. The matter is set to return to the tribunal on 10th December 2019, when the officers will seek damages for financial and emotional damage.

Victoria Plans to Introduce Gender Equality Bill
The Victorian government, under Labor leader Daniel Andrews, has announced its plan to introduce the Gender Equality Bill. The landmark law, if passed through parliament, will hold workplaces responsible for the treatment of women and is set to be a ‘once-in-a-generation reform’. Victorian Minister for Women Gabrielle Williams welcomed the Gender Equality Bill in a public statement: ‘we’re making history and making gender equality non-negotiable by law – because it is 2019 and women and girls deserve to have every opportunity to succeed.’ ‘We know we won’t reach gender equality overnight, but this is an important step in the cultural change we’re working hard to drive,’ Ms Williams said. The Bill will require public service organisations, universities and local councils to publicly report on their progress to ensure appropriate treatment of women, such as sexual harassment protection. Organisations will also be required to challenge workplace discrimination by preparing Gender Equality Action Plans and undertaking gender impact statements. The bill comes after the Victorian government revealed how three in ten employers do not provide any flexible working arrangements. More than 300 organisations and approximately 11 per cent of the Victorian workforce is set to be covered by the new legislation.