What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 4 November 2019 – 10 November 2019

Serious Injuries Related to Workplace Bullying Doubled in the Last Decade
New data from Safe Work Australia has revealed that ‘the number of serious workplace injuries related to bullying and harassment has nearly doubled in Australia over the past decade.’ In the 2018-19 financial year, more than 1,800 people were compensated for a workplace injury incurred as a result of bullying at work. Employment law expert, Giri Sivaraman, said the increased bullying statistics were most likely the result of growing awareness and stigma reduction. Despite this, Mr Sivaraman said that ‘a lot of bullying still goes unreported and people are too scared to speak up, they don’t want to be a whistleblower and they’re not empowered’. James Cook University professor of employment law, Louise Floyd, said that for more bullying claims to succeed, it is important that victim’s keep detailed records of the alleged conduct. She advised victims to keep a diary of incidents, print out emails and keep a copy of the organisation’s workplace bullying and harassment policies.

Bullying is Leading Cause of Work-Related Mental Stress
According to the Australian Productivity Commission’s draft mental health report, which was released last week, workplace bullying is one of the leading causes of work-related mental stress in Australia, The report estimated that the issue costs Australia’s economy between $22 billion and $47.4 billion each year due to ‘loss of productivity, absenteeism, legal costs and early retirement payouts.’

Royal Commission Commenced into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability
The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability conducted its first public hearing to much criticism. Greens senator Jordon Steele-John, who advocated for the royal commission in 2018, has openly criticised its administration, stating that ‘people with disabilities have not been given enough time and support to safely and effectively engage with the commission.’ During the first public hearings, which were conducted in Townsville (QLD), commission chair, Ronald Sackville, rebuked Steele-John’s claims. He addressed the criticisms in his opening statement by saying that ‘unfortunately there are one or two commentators whose contributions often appear calculated to discourage people from telling their stories to the commission and to increase their levels of anxiety.’ During its first four days in Queensland, the commission heard harrowing stories of bullying toward people living with disability occurring in both workplaces and schools. The royal commission will reconvene next month in Melbourne for public hearings into group homes.

Survey Reveals One in Four Qantas Flight Crew Have Experienced Sexual Harassment in the Past Year
According to an independent survey of 2,400 Qantas pilots and cabin members, one in four Qantas employees have experienced sexual harassment in the past year from either a co-worker or passenger. The survey found that within this statistic, female pilots reported the highest rates of sexual harassment and bullying. A shocking two-thirds of female pilots reported that sexist comments were ‘common’. One respondent, describing the culture at Qantas, said that ‘as soon as a female pilot makes a mistake, it’s as if all female pilots are bad or hopeless.’ The damning survey comes just two years after the airline launched the Nancy Bird Walton initiative, named after the pioneering female pilot. The initiative aimed to have women comprise at least 20% of its pilot intake in 2018. As part of the initiative, Qantas also set the target that at least 40% of its new pilot hires will be female within a decade.