What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 29 May 2023 – 4 June 2023

One in Five Trainee Doctors in South Australia Bullied or Harassed

The Australia Medical Association (AMA) South Australia has stated this week that bullying is a significant issue faced by junior doctors in the healthcare sector. According to AMA SA, the issue of bullying is pervasive and can have a detrimental effect on the mental health and professional development of junior doctors. Of the 1,568 junior doctors surveyed, more than one-third of respondents had “witnessed bullying or harassment.” Further, 20 per cent of junior doctors at Flinders Medical Centre, Royal Adelaide, Queen Elizabeth and the Women’s and Children’s hospitals reported experiencing bullying, harassment or discrimination. Dr Cain, the AMA Training Committee chair, stated that “’a significant number of junior doctors’ were choosing not to report bullying because they ‘don’t believe that there will be repercussions for the perpetrator or because they are worried about the impacts of reporting on their own careers.” According to the article, senior doctors were the most highly reported perpetrators, with “over half of the bullying in South Australia” being committed by direct supervisors. Health Minister Chris Picton stated that “there is a culture we need to stamp out, it is not acceptable, we need to take action.” Further, South Australia Health Chief Medical Officer Michael Cusack said that “any actions that could impact upon the mental or physical health of our staff will not be tolerated” and that “any report made is followed up and formally addressed at a Local Health Networks (LHN) level.”

Extension Granted in Transgender Discrimination Case Against Women’s Only Platform

An extension was granted this week by Federal Court Justice Robert Bromwich in relation to a transgender discrimination case against the social media app “Giggle for Girls”, a platform created “by women for women.” Transgender women Roxanne Tickle is suing the platform for being blocked after she was “considered male.” Ms Tickle stated in her claim that she is “legally permitted to identify as female” and that she believes she was discriminated against by being provided with “extremely limited functionality of a smart phone app” in comparison to the other users. According to the article, the CEO of the app Sally Grover “did not know Ms Tickle was transgender and it did not inform the decision to revoke her access.” Ms Katherine Deves, a former Liberal Party candidate, was set to appear on behalf of the app on Thursday this week, however she was unable to connect to the court-room due to audio-visual issues. Giggle for Girls attempted to quash the matter, however Justice Bromwich refused to throw out the case, finding that the objection notice itself was incompetent. Further, Ms Tickle’s application to limit the “maximum amount of legal costs that she would be liable to pay if she loses to $50,000” was granted. Ms Tickle is seeking damages, a written apology, as well as access to the platform.

Perth Modern School Principal Dismissed Following Internal Investigations

Principal Lois Joll of Perth Modern School was dismissed this week following an internal investigation over claims that she had failed to “follow financial management policies when building a new 700-seat auditorium.” Ms Joll has lodged an unfair dismissal claim with the WA Industrial Relations Commission following the decision of the Department of Education. Ms Val Furphy, deputy principal of Perth Modern, has additionally been notified by the Department that she will be dismissed over “alleged breaches of recruitment and selection processes.” Mr Bevan Ripp, president of the Principals’ Federation of WA, stated that the process was a “witch hunt” and that both Ms Joll and Ms Furphy had “ample and adequate evidence to support their claims.” According to the article, Mr Ripp stated that earlier claims of “problems with workplace culture” did not form part of the Department’s decision. Mr Ripp criticised the investigation, stating that the process was “very poorly handled” and that the punishment was “way over the top.”

Bruce Lehrmann Settles Defamation Case with News Corp

Bruce Lehrmann and News Corp reached a settlement on Tuesday this week in relation to defamation proceedings brought by Mr Lehrmann over News Corp’s coverage of Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations. The Federal Court case was dropped against News Life Media and editor Samantha Maiden. The two main articles of the lawsuit remain accessible with an updated editorial note. The editorial note reads “news.com.au notes that a criminal charge of sexual assault was brought against Mr Lehrmann and later dropped. News.com.au does not suggest that he was guilty of that charge.” According to the article, News Corp will not be required to pay Mr Lehrmann damages in the settlement, however they have agreed to cover some of his legal costs. The defamation proceedings against Ten, journalist Lisa Wilkinson and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) remain ongoing. Brittany Higgins had accused Mr Lehrmann of raping her in Parliament House inside the office of then minister Linda Reynolds. A criminal trial was held over the allegations but was later abandoned due to juror misconduct. A second trial was not conducted for concerns over Ms Higgins’ mental health. Mr Lehrmann has maintained his position, stating that the pair “never had any sexual interaction.”