On 8 April 2022, the Minister for Women’s Safety announced the first Australian National Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commissioner will be Catherine Fitzpatrick. This new role is being created under the new budget to address women’s issues in Australia. The Coalition is pledging $22.4 million over a five year period to create the National DFSV Commission as part of implementing the recommendations by the House Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs Inquiry into family violence. Ms Fitzpatrick has said that the role is an opportunity to “galvanise the efforts of government, community and business – because we all have a role to play” in ending gender based violence. Ms Fitzpatrick will start her new role in July.
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) has announced that 12 National Boards will implement a shared Code of conduct on 29 June 2022. The Code prevents discrimination (including racism), bullying and sexual harassment in healthcare in Australia. An advance copy of the Code is available on the AHPRA website. Relevant information on its stance against discrimination, bullying and harassment is found on page 17 at section 5.3.
On 5 April, Paul Schneider was announced as the new member of the Fair Work Commission. He will commence the role on 2 May. Mr Schneider has worked in senior human resources roles in major Australian companies and studied Business at Victoria University. The Fair Work Commission deals with complaints related to workplace conduct, including matters of sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination.
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is currently the subject of a Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. The inquiry has involved gathering evidence from Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins. Almost 20% of the ADF is made up of women, yet the culture is heavily male-dominated. Physical prowess is considered desirable in the ADF as well as an accepted risk to personal safety. Ms Jenkins has compared the ADF to federal parliament, stating that there is a tendency to tolerate a certain level of behaviour by senior employees. Ms Jenkins has said that the ADF has a long history of ignoring complaints of sexual harassment and is concerned by the “callous attitudes to sex, sexual attitudes to women, a belief that violence is manly… and an experience of danger [is seen] as exciting”. The Royal Commission is set to recommence hearings on 10 April.
The Commonwealth government has admitted to requesting the non-disclosure obligation agreement in relation to the settlement case of former High Court Justice, Dyson Heydon. This has been revealed in responses to questions posed to the government by the Opposition. Each settlement deed included a non-disclosure clause to prevent the victims from disclosing the amount awarded to them. Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, has said that victims generally find non-disclosure agreements in settlements to impede their recovery.
John Atanaskovic is a corporate lawyer renowned for representing wealthy and prominent clients. Recently, claims have emerged revealing his aggressive demeanour. The Federal Circuit Court handed down its ruling on Thursday that examined his treatment of former employee, Elizabeth Kelly. Ms Kelly was the general manager at his boutique law firm, Atanaskovic Hartnell. Ms Kelly resigned in 2016 following abuse from Atanaskovic. She is owed $130,000 in wages and an additional $30,000 in general damages. The judgment is yet to be published.
In response to the National Student Safety Survey conducted at Australian universities, many of the universities have pledged to improve student safety. The findings of the damning survey were labelled “distressing, disappointing and confronting” by the chair of Universities Australia. The report also identified that LGBT+ students and people living with a disability were at a higher risk of experiencing sexual harassment and assault. Bond University has released a statement, saying the university is “deeply sorry” for the alarming statistics. James Cook University has also responded to the survey, experiencing its desire to end violence and harassment on its campus. Other universities have also committed to implementing new initiatives and measures to improve student protections. The chief executive of Universities Australia, Catriona Jackson, has said that “more work must be done to prevent this abhorrent behaviour and eliminate the destructive attitudes that foster and excuse it.”
A formal complaint has been lodged against Tasmanian Supreme Court judge, Justice Gregory Greason, by his former associate and partner. Sarah Gregory has alleged that she felt “belittled” and “shamed” out of her job once their romantic relationship became known to the public. A photograph of the two embracing at a nightclub was published last year in the media. The allegations have been received with seriousness to “protect the reputation of the court”. Ms Gregory was removed from her position as associate and told she had “brought the court into disrepute”. The claim is yet to be accepted by Equal Opportunity Tasmania.