What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 31 January 2021 – 7 February 2021

Preventing Workplace Sexual Harassment, Violence and Aggression

New national work health and safety guidance has been developed by Safe Work Australia to help businesses prevent workplace sexual harassment, violence and aggression. These new guidelines are a response to The Australian Human Rights Commission’s report on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, which highlighted its prevalence, and they represent the first comprehensive guidance in Australia to focus on the prevention of sexual harassment.

Inappropriate Gestures Lead to the Suspension of GP

Dr Nigel Farrier has been reprimanded and had his registration suspended for six months by the Medical Board of Australia. This suspension was due to inappropriate conduct towards a pharmacy worker in 2019. Allegedly Dr Farrier made unwarranted sexual gestures and actions towards the woman when she was employed at the pharmacy next to his former medical practice. These gestures and actions included blowing kisses at her repeatedly and cornering her in the kitchen to non-consensually kiss her on the lips. Dr Farrier was charged for unlawful indecent assault under the WA Criminal Code in June 2019 and, although he was not ultimately convicted of that offence, he failed to provide the Board with written notice of the charge as is required. Consequently, the Board took immediate action to suspend Dr Farrier’s registration and the State Administrative Tribunal has imposed a condition requiring him to complete six hours of education regarding professional relationships, sexual harassment and the effect of an unsafe work environment on patient safety.

Junior Drs Bullied by Senior Staff

A recent survey of medicos in training has revealed that junior doctors are often bullied. The Medical Training survey conducted by the medical Board of Australia questioned more than 21,000 doctors in training and found the professional culture to remain poor, with 1 in 5 survey respondents having experienced bullying, harassment or discrimination in their workplace. Another 15% had witnessed it. Half of these respondents reported that senior medical staff were responsible. Two thirds of trainees stated that they did not report the incident they experienced. Dr Tonkin says that it is integral to “the future of our profession” that the thousands of trainees be listened to in order to cultivate a “culture of respect.”

Report Shows 40% of Minerals Industry Workforce are Victims of Sexual Harassment

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable says the mineral industry will be taking immediate action to eliminate workplace sexual harassment. This action includes an expansion of the scope of the industry’s safety and health policy, as well as the release of a direct statement on the importance of eliminating sexual harassment. This decisive response comes in the aftermath of a recent report by the Australian Human Rights Commission, which found that 40% of the minerals industry workforce had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the last 5 years.

Sacked Metro Train Driver Seeking Unfair Dismissal Remedy

Mark Lawrence, who was sacked for punching a beggar in August 2020, has launched a legal bid to get his job back. Lawrence disputed the dismissal by alleging that Metro Trains had failed in its duty of care because the beggar was known by Metro Trains for his anti-social behaviour towards staff. This behaviour includes physical threats to staff, indecent exposure and a failure to wear a mask at Flinders Station during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawrence’s legal team argued that the incident would not have occurred if not for Metro Trains’ negligence and he only acted in the way any reasonable person would have under the circumstances. It is argued the dismissal is unnecessarily harsh.

Police Treatment Leading to Officers leaving

The internal culture of the NSW Police Force can be punishing in ways that demand the state government’s intervention. Hundreds of NSW police officers are leaving the force because of the toll their job is taking on their mental health. It is costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year to compensate and replace these officers. As Nigel Gladstone has revealed in a series of reports, police are not only dealing with psychological injuries associated with the stress and human tragedy of the job. Bullying within the force has contributed to a culture that treats police officers as expendable and has been allowed to quietly develop undetected and unexamined for several years.