What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 27 August – 2 September 2018

Mayor Emails Nude Photos of Himself from Council System
The mayor of Queensland’s Diamantina Shire has been found to have sent nude photos of himself using the council email system. Geoff Morton alleges that he intended to use his personal email account but mistakenly used the council’s instead. Shire IT staff discovered the photos, which were sent five years ago, as they were going through his email account. The Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning referred a complaint to the Regional Conduct Review Panel, which deemed Mr Morton’s behaviour to be a low-level offence. Mr Morton insists that no laws were broken.

Allegations of Abusive Behaviour from Principal of Bondi Beach PS
Bondi Beach Public School teachers are leaving en masse in the wake of an abusive principal. With the appointment of Debbie Evans as the primary school principal, eight teachers have left and five are planning to leave before the year’s end. Moreover, twenty former and current teachers have complained about her verbally and physically bullying staff and students. Teachers have variously described being bullied, ignored, yelled at and humiliated by Ms Evans, who has instilled a culture of fear and frustration among school staff. The P&C president, Rob Keldoulis, wrote a complaint to the NSW Department of Education, which, while investigating the matter, has sent a counsellor to work with staff.

Employee Seeking Compensation for Alleged Political Discrimination for Tweeting About Abortion
A former employee of Cricket Australia has filed for unfair dismissal on the basis of political discrimination. Angela Williamson had been working as a government relations adviser in Tasmania when she was dismissed for sending a tweet attacking the state’s inadequate abortion services. In the tweet, Ms Williamson had criticised Health Minister Michael Ferguson’s hesitancy to liberalise abortion services as “gutless”. According to Cricket Tasmania chief executive Nick Cummins, Tasmanian Premier William Hodgman was upset by the tweet and raised his concerns with Cricket Australia. In dismissing Ms Williamson, Cricket Australia maintains that her tweet breached their social media policy. However, Ms Williamson argues that they actually dismissed her due to her political opinions, which would be a contravention of the Fair Work Act. She is seeking compensation for her loss of income, humiliation and damage to her reputation.

Victorian Country Fire Authority Committed to Addressing Bullying
The chief of the Victorian Country Fire Authority has vowed to remove staff members who harass and bully their colleagues. Paul Smith’s comments come in light of the recent results of the People Matter Survey, which revealed the extent of problems across the Victorian public sector. In addition, a separate internal report revealed that half of men and women had been bullied and one third harassed. Already twelve people have been moved out of the Country Fire Authority as a result of their behaviour. Dr Smith said that while formerly there may have been an “avoidance culture”, there were “green shoots” coming through the forced culture change.

Young Labor Office Bearer Alleges Being Bullied by Several Labor Members
It has come to light that a federal Labor staffer and a pair of senior Young Labor members bullied a Young Labor office bearer in an effort to force her out of the position. Nick Douros, Francis Claessens and Niall Cummins began their assault when the CFMEU ordered that staff join the more left of two ideological Labor factions. When the junior Labor victim failed to follow suit in abandoning the centre coalition, they conspired to intimidate her into leaving her post altogether. The trio removed her from online groups, and prevented her from accessing the Young Labor social media and email account. Mr Douros privately messaged her that she needed to resign and find a proxy to take her place in a conference. Speaking with Mr Cummins, he further said that, “if she doesn’t proxy I’m going to make her life he’ll [sic]”. The victim has filed a complaint with ACT Labor, claiming that Mr Douros, Mr Claessens and Mr Cummins contravened ACT Labor’s Code of Conduct. The matter has been referred to an internal disputes tribunal to further investigate. The victim says she has been left with anxiety, has become socially isolated and withdrawn from university courses as a result of the ordeal.

Liberal MP Speaks Out About bullying in Federal Politics
Liberal MP Julia Banks has spoken out about the bullying and intimidation rife in federal politics. Speaking particularly of the poor treatment of women at the hands of both Liberal and Labor MPs, the Victorian politician declared she would not contest her seat at the next federal election. Ms Banks’ criticism came at the end of a tumultuous week, which saw Scott Morrison replace Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister. Fellow Victorian MP Sarah Henderson echoed Ms Banks’ sentiment but confined her experiences of “bullying and intimidation” to the Labor party. Meanwhile, the president of the Liberal’s Victorian division, Michael Kroger, denied receiving any complaints but promised to look into incidents that Ms Banks specifically raised.