What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 7 – 13 May 2018

Victorian Bar Set to Conduct Health Survey of Barristers
The Victorian Bar is set to conduct its largest survey into the health of the state’s barristers with a special emphasis on workplace bullying. This comes as Peter Kidd, the Chief Judge of the County Court, acknowledged having received a complaint of bullying lodged against a fellow judge. While he dismissed it as not actually amounting to bullying, it did provide some insight into the fact that pressure in the industry comes from a number of sources including from judges themselves. Despite only commencing operations in July of 2017 the Judicial Commission of Victoria has already received 217 complaints relating to the state’s judicial officers, indicative of the potential for stress imposed from the bar. The President of the Victorian Bar, Dr Matt Collins QC, said, “While it is important to recognise the pressures that our judges and magistrates are under… bullying by judicial officers breaches community standards and expectations and is unacceptable”.

AFL Player Suing AFL for Discrimination and Racial Harassment
Joel Wilkinson is set to commence legal proceedings against the AFL for the racial abuse he endured in his career. The former Gold Coast Suns football player claims to have been the victim of discrimination and harassment on the bases of his race (being of Nigerian descent), sex and religion by staff, his club, club officials and teammates. He alleges not to have been offered future employment as a result of having spoken out about the racial discrimination that he suffered. Mr Wilkinson seeks compensation for lost past and future wages, and for the pain, suffering and humiliation he suffered. The AFL said in a statement that it was, “sorry [he] suffered experiences of racial abuse during his time as an AFL footballer”.

Union Delegates Dismissal Upheld for Abusing Contractors
The Fair Work Commission has upheld the dismissal of two union delegates for Esso Australia, who abused contractor workers and led to one attempting suicide. The Longford gas plant in Victoria has been the site of a year-long conflict with union workers after its contractor, UGL, retrenched the unionised workforce and offered to rehire them for lower pay and on worse conditions. Mr SP attempted suicide after he was abused and mistreated for taking up the offer. He said that an Australian Manufacturing Workers Union delegate prevented him entering the lunchroom for having signed up. The Fair Work Commissioner held the union delegate’s conduct constituted harassment and discrimination based on his right to accept employment. Another delegate, from the Electrical Trades Union, called others who took up the offer with UGL “f—–g scab[s]”. Participants in a union picket line also labelled employees a variety of vulgar terms, including, “dick head”, “scab”, and “scum” as they entered the plant, and displayed the names of those who had accepted the offer on a sign. One supervisor claimed that as he drove into work, two picketers opened his door and said, “I know where you live and I know where your family are”. The Fair Work Commissioner ruled that such language was, “very intimidating and… manifestly unacceptable in the workplace and amounts to serious misconduct”.

Qld Public Hospitals Shameful Bullying Culture
Described as “shameful”, the bullying culture in Queensland public hospitals is having negative repercussions among the profession. According to the Australian Medical Association (AMA), the extreme bullying is part of a toxic environment, which, coupled with the risk of burnout, is forcing doctors into the private sector. The AMA’s Dr Michael Gannon spoke of doctors being “muzzled” and prevented from speaking about certain issues. The extent of the cultural pressure on doctors had even forced some to take their own lives.