What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 30 October 2023 – 5 November 2023

Public Service Census Finds More than 40% Plan to Leave Agency Within Five Years

A State Government survey of public sector workers has revealed that a significant number of employees are planning to quit their agency due to “pressure, bullying and harassment.” The census involved more than 47,000 public sector employees. 10.4% of the workers planned to resign in less than 12 months, while 40.8% intended to leave the department in less than 5 years. The most common age range was 60 to 64, but for those proposing to resign within the next year, the age range was 50 to 54. More than 55% of this demographic were “already applying for jobs in the private sector or outside of their agency.” CPSU/CA secretary Rikki Hendon stated that “there are already huge amounts of vacancies… just in general a real brain drain.” 35.7% of individuals intending to leave in less than 12 months reported bullying and harassment, while 27.9% of those planning to leave in the following years reported similarly. Mr Hendon stated that this is “obviously deeply concerning because bullying is a psycho-social hazard, it’s a workplace health and safety hazard.”

Education Department Official to Make In-Person Apology to Students that Experienced Anti-Semitic Bullying

An education department official is expected to make an in-person apology to five students that experienced anti-Semitic bullying in Victoria. The former students of Brighton Secondary College, Joel and Matt Kaplan, Liam Arnold-Levy, Guy Cohen and Zack Snelling, took the State, school, two teachers and principal to the Federal Court last year for a months-long trial. Chief Justice Mortimer found last month that the students were not protected from “bullying, discrimination and negligence.” Further, she stated that the principal Richard Minack failed to address “a high level of anti-Semitic bullying and harassment of Jewish students.” The judgment, handed down on Monday this week, ordered that the state pay the former students more than $500,000 in compensation, including interest and legal costs. Further, Chief Justice Mortimer ordered that a senior official from the Department of Education issue “an oral, in-person apology to the five students.” Former education minister Natalie Hutchins stated last month that “every Victorian student deserves to feel safe and respected at school.” Further, she said that “we deeply regret the anti-Semitism experienced by students at Brighton Secondary College and apologise unreservedly.”

Leaked Complaint Letter Reveals Toxic Workplace Overseen by Former Tasmanian Attorney-General Elise Archer

A leaked letter made by a complainant has revealed claims about the toxic workplace conditions overseen by former Tasmanian attorney-general Elise Archer. In the leaked letter, a former adviser of Ms Archer informed Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Sarah Bolt that he had been diagnosed with workplace stress and had seen employees leaving as a result of “disrespectful, rude, demeaning and soul-destroying” conduct. The former employee said he had been forced to quit after a year due to “severe workplace related stress.” The letter said that “to put it bluntly, I am a shell of the confident, highly capable person who walked into that office.” An investigation into Ms Archer’s conduct was announced in September following reports that at least two of her staff had written to the workplace discrimination watchdog and accused her of bullying. The letter stated that “of the 12 staff at the time of the release of the report, only one adviser and one administrative staff person remain.” Further, it said that “most just walk away when they’ve had enough bullying and return to their substantive positions in the Tasmanian public service.” Ms Archer has denied the allegations and has welcomed the investigation.

Indecent Assault Trial of Two Female Workers in a Regional WA Prison Alleges “Toxic” and “Unhealthy” Workplace

An indecent assault trial centred on two female workers at a WA regional prison has alleged that the workplace is “toxic” and “unhealthy.” The prison, court and individuals involved in the trial cannot be named due to legal reasons. However, a trial in a regional WA court has heard allegations of “bullying, harassment and toxic workplace at multiple WA corrective services facilities.” The trial involves an allegation where a female staff-member grabbed a female co-worker’s head and pulled it to her breast. The incident allegedly occurred in the prison’s administration office in February 2022, after the complainant asked a group of colleagues about a nice-smelling perfume. The accused allegedly approached the complainant and assaulted her for 20-30 seconds while repeatedly saying “smell me” in front of witnesses. Both the prosecution and defence have alleged that the prison has a negative culture, with one witness stating that they could not report workplace issues to senior management. The accused has stated that the prison has a toxic workplace and that she claimed to suffer a ‘psychological injury’ while she was previously stationed at a different corrective services site due to the staff and management.

Barkly Regional Council Criticised over Handling of Sexual Harassment Complaint

Barkly Regional Council has received criticism this week over its handling of a sexual harassment complaint. The incident involved a teenager who had complained of sexual harassment while working at the Barkly Regional Council. Erini Tsavaris has alleged she was “sexually harassed by a senior manager, leaving her too scared to go to work and leading to her eventual resignation.” The complaint was considered by an internal review in 2022, but the findings have not been made available to the public. Ms Tsavaris alleged that during a team meeting on 3 March 2022, an older male colleague acted inappropriately to her. She stated that “I couldn’t look at him straight because all I seen was him making these facial expressions – biting his lip and stuff with his tongue – really childish expressions a teenage boy would make.” Further, she said that “I was just frozen, I didn’t know what to do… I was just so scared.” Ralph McCoy, who was also in attendance at the meeting, stated that the behaviour was “disgusting” and so “inappropriate” that it had to be shut down. Mr McCoy stated that “there were five of us in the room… and it was just all really based at Erini, like he was talking to Erini alone.” He said that “she was a minor. She wasn’t even 18 yet.” Following the meeting, the colleague sat down on the floor with the team and began “doing these really inappropriate things with his legs.” Mr McCoy described it as “bucking his body – body movements – even biting his lip, licking his lips, sort of things – oh it was terrible.” Ms Tsavaris made a formal complaint, however the matter was not referred to police.

GP Banned for 12 Months Due to Sending Racist Email to Australia’s First Indigenous Eye Surgeon

A doctor has been banned from registering for a year in Australia as a result of discriminatory behaviour towards an Indigenous doctor he claimed was a “fake Aboriginal” who was akin to “a watered-down bottle of Grange.” The decision has been described as a “landmark outcome” as it is the first case to refer to changes in Ahpra’s (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency) national law introduced last year to include a definition of cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The name of the accused was suppressed in the findings of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal. However, the Indigenous doctor, Yuggera Warangoo and Wiradjuri associate professor Kristopher Rallah-Baker requested that his name be published. Dr Rallah-Baler stated that “it was important for me that this outcome wasn’t faceless, for people to see they won’t be brought down if they complain about racism.” According to the facts in the case, the email sent by the GP stated that “you are not full blood are you? Half? Quarter? One eight?… Not the real thing. I have attached two photos of what real aboriginals look like just to remind you.” The findings of the tribunal stated that a psychiatrist’s report described the GP “as having a personality with cognitive rigidity and a difficulty in understanding others’ emotional responses to his actions.”

Bruce Lehrmann Responds to Toowoomba Rape Charges, Brittany Higgins Statement

Bruce Lehrmann has broken his silence over the Toowoomba rape charges this week. Mr Lehrmann said in a statement that “the non-publication order we sought unsuccessfully last week would have ensured the subsequent prejudicial and often inaccurate reporting would not have occurred.” The statement was made hours before his mention hearing in the Toowoomba Magistrates Court on Wednesday this week. Further, Mr Lehrmann said in response to Ms Higgins post on Instagram that “her statement was public and widely reported.” He said that “as such, my team will be considering our position and the relief the justice system rightly has available to us now.” Mr Lehrmann additionally stated that “the only verdict of any substance that’s been handed down this year was that of Mr Sofronoff’s condemnation of the behaviour of the DPP and Mr Shane Drumgold.”

Brittany Higgins Releases Statement Following Lehrmann Toowoomba Rape Charges

Brittany Higgins released a statement on Instagram this week after it was revealed that Bruce Lehrmann was the “high profile” Toowoomba man accused of rape. Ms Higgins, who had previously accused Mr Lehrmann of raping her at Parliament House in 2019 before his trial was abandoned due to juror misconduct, stated that the new alleged incident was “devastating.” Ms Higgins stated on Instagram this week that “when I first found out about the alleged assault my heart broke for you.” Further, Ms Higgins said that “to know that this has allegedly taken place while he was out on bail in 2021 is devastating.” Finally, she stated that “I’m so, so sorry this allegedly happened to you.” Mr Lehrmann was named last week as the accused in the Toowoomba rape case, despite his lawyers arguing for a suppression order due to the risk of “catastrophic” self-harm, including suicide. Mr Lehrmann has always maintained his innocence and no findings have been made against him.