A new report conducted by the Victorian Auditor General’s Office (VAGO) has found that more than one in four employees of Victorian councils have been sexually harassed in the last 12 months. The VAGO’s audit of five councils and nearly 10,000 employees found that while councils have the policies, procedures and training to prevent harassment, these institutions aren’t using them to their full advantage or engaging with staff to address the issue. ‘In our survey we found sexual harassment happens in every councils across all roles and levels,’ VAGO says. ‘Councils aren’t doing enough to understand the prevalence and nature of sexual harassment in their workplaces,’ VAGO added.
The University of Tasmania’s has received eleven complaints, including complaints of sexual misconduct and bullying, against its former vice-chancellor Peter Rathjen. Mr Rathjen made the headlines this year for his misconduct while at the University of Adelaide.
A position paper has called on the royal commission to recognise that segregation of people with disability is discrimination and a breach of human rights. The paper, backed by 42 disability organisations, expressed deep concerns over Australian laws that ‘maintain the segregation of people with disability from community life.’ Carolyn Frohmader, CEO of Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA), said ‘while the commission has committed to making recommendations within a rights-based framework, it is yet to fully indicate whether it considers segregation to be a human rights breach.’
Bullying allegations in the Northern Territory’s Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade have been referred to the Independent Commissioner against Corruption. In June 2019, eight mining officers lodged complaints with the department’s management about bullying and fraudulent behaviour. The Officers then took their concerns to the Public Employment Commissioner, Vicki Telfer, who produced a report in November 2019 rejecting the allegations. At the time, Commissioner Telfer declined an interview but told the ABC ‘no evidence of bullying or unlawful activity was found’ and ‘several areas for improvement were identified and steps were put in place to address them.’ Despite this, the Commonwealth Public Sector Union’s NT secretary Kay Densley, who helped the eight officers with their initial complaint, said they felt the commissioner hadn’t taken their concerns seriously. The group have now submitted their allegations to the ICAC for review.
One of Australia’s most prominent female hockey players Lily Brazel, 25, has lodged a discrimination claim with the Western Australian Equal Opportunity Commission board. Brazel alleged that Hockey Australia terminated her contract when she requested a six-week break to deal with her mental health issues. Brazel claims Hockey Australia rejected her request because she mistook legitimate mental health issues with unhappiness. Brazel said she ‘was basically put in a position where I had to choose between looking after my mental health and my position in the team and consequently my Olympic dream and so I decided to prioritise my mental health.’ ‘That meant that my contract wasn’t renewed and rolled over like the rest of the squad members for the end of 2020, it finished in August.’ Hockey Australia has declined to comment.
Hockey Australia has launched an independent inquiry into accusations of a ‘toxic’ and ‘bullying’ culture within the women’s national program. Current and former players have complained about Hockeyroos coach Paul Gaudoin and high-performance director Toni Cumpston. Hockey Australia has since fired back at claims, calling them ‘unfair.’
The South Australian Ombudsman has found that the County Fire Service failed to properly handle persistent allegations of sexual harassment and must overhaul their policies.
Rosalind Croucher, president of the Australian Human Rights Commission and Anne Robinson, founder and partner with Prolegis Lawyers expressed dissatisfaction with the second exposure draft of the Federal Government’s proposed religious freedom bill. The pair claim that Australians would be better served through new human rights legislation with proven mechanisms to adjudicate conflicts involving religion rather than the Federal Government’s proposed religious freedom bill.