What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 26 June 2023 – 2 July 2023

Legal Practice Board of Western Australia Launches ‘Speak Safely’ for Legal Professionals

The Legal Practice Board of Western Australia has released a new online tool for legal professionals to report instances of harassment and inappropriate behaviour within workplaces. According to the article, the new “Speak Safely” program provides an anonymous online portal for legal practitioners to submit a report if they believe they have been “sexually harassed in their office or bullied in the courtroom.” The reports submitted to the portal can be made either formally or informally and will be “secure, confidential and anonymous.” The only individuals who will be able to access the reports are “specially trained, selected” staff. The process involves discussing the issues with the reporter, creating a complaint and “outlining their options with the Board’s potential actions.” Legal Practice Board of Western Australia Chair John Symington stated that “sexual harassment has no place in our society or in the legal profession” and that the Legal Practice Board “is committed to ensuring that everyone in the legal profession feels safe and is supported in their workplace.” Further, Mr Symington stated that the Legal Practice Board wanted “to ensure that the profession has in place policies and procedures to enable not only a safe working environment, but one that promotes public trust in the legal profession.” In recent times, there have been calls for a mechanism where Western Australian lawyers can submit a report if they believe they have been sexually harassed or bullied within the legal workplace. A recent 2019 survey by the Women Lawyer’s of Western Australia found that of the 500 respondents, 72% had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, while only 8% had submitted a formal complaint.

Discrimination Case Against University of Sydney Discontinued

A discrimination case made by an Iranian professor against the University of Sydney has been reported this week as being quietly discontinued. The case involved Dr Omid Tofighian who claimed that he had been discriminated against by the university based on his nationality. According to the article, the university was sued in August last year, with Dr Tofighian claiming that he was discriminated against after applying for an associate professor position because “another professor thought Iranians were difficult to supervise or manage.” Dr Tofighian claimed that remarks made by Professor Maurice Peat had allegedly affected the selection process of the committee. NCCC executive director Leanne Kapoor claimed that she had heard Dr Peat say words to the effect of “you’ll find it difficult to supervise him” and “I have worked with a lot of Iranian men and they’re like that.” Dr Peat rejected the claims and denied that Dr Tofighian’s race was the reason he had not been selected. In fact, it was reported that Dr Tofighian had been the fifth preferred candidate for the position. Following his rejection from the role, Dr Tofighian obtained a position at the NCCC, but said he had felt “anxious, tense and uncomfortable during his time there because of the comments made.” The discrimination case was abandoned last month by the agreement of all parties involved. According to the article, Dr Tofighian had sought a written apology, compensation for not being accepted for the role as well as “future losses from being mentally unfit to work,” including “any hurt, humiliation, distress and anxiety caused.”

Principal of Highview College Resigns Following Racial Discrimination Case

Former principal of Highview College Melinda Scash has resigned this week after being involved in a racial discrimination case concerning two students’ African-style braided hair. Ms Scash was the principal of Highview College from 2016 but had taken paid leave while an independent review of health, safety and procedures at the school was conducted. Ms Scash resigned on Thursday this week prior to the findings of the review being published. The review, led by the principal of FCW Lawyers, Kim McLagan, centred on staff-related workplace matters and was “informed by a range of legal, practical and privacy considerations, with the best interests of the school community at its centre.” Sisters Safhira and Amayah Rowe had been “unenrolled” from the school following a dispute in relation to the uniform policy last year. Ms Rowe stated that she had wanted her experience of being excluded at the school for not tying back her box-braided hair to be featured within the review process, however she had not been offered the opportunity. According to the article, Highview College has additionally faced claims in the past of “bullying, intimidation and inappropriate staff behaviour,” with several spouses of teachers having sent a letter to the school in relation to the welfare of their loved ones. WorkSafe Victoria issued a notice to the school in 2017 after a bullying complaint by a staff member had been brought forward. It was found that the school “did not have appropriate reporting and investigations processes in place to manage allegations of workplace bullying.”

Anglican Schools’ Commission Release New Code of Conduct for Perth Parents

A new code of conduct has been released this week by the Anglican Schools’ Commission in relation to the conduct of parents. The new code details that parents could be banned from entering school grounds or face cancellation of their child’s enrolment if they use “disrespectful or profane” language, as well as sending “aggressive” emails or using threats of violence. The new code applies to 11 Western Australian schools within the Anglican Schools Commission and details that parents must “refrain from all forms of bullying and harassment” and “communicate politely and respectfully with staff.” The several types of unacceptable behaviour include “fighting, assault or threats of violence” as well as “inappropriate, disrespectful or profane words or gestures and images.” Further, parents are not allowed to make negative comments about the school or staff on social media, as well as attend school functions while intoxicated. The new code of conduct has been introduced following a finding last year that 30.6% of Western Australian principals from public and private schools “had been subjected to violence or threats from parents.” Association of Heads of Independent Schools Australia Western Australia chair Alec O’Connell stated that the code is a “statement that the profession deserves respect and that parents’ expectations have to be reasonable.”