What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 9 September 2019 – 15 September 2019

Diagnostic Tool Developed to Diagnose and Prevent Workplace Bullying
New research published by the University of South Australia has proposed an evidence-based solution to recognising and preventing bullying in the workplace. University of South Australia Associate Professor, Michelle Tuckey and her team developed the method, which aims to help organisations cultivate a culture that diagnoses and prevents bullying. According to Ms Tuckey, ‘abusive behaviour stems from complex conditions and cannot always be blamed solely on individuals.’ ‘Workplace bullying is often mistaken as a problem between staff members, an interpersonal problem, when evidence shows it’s really a reflection of how the organisation functions.’ ‘It’s a cultural issue, a systems issue – if you have a healthy culture and healthy systems, then you don’t get a lot of bullying, but if you don’t have that culture and those systems, bullying is more common,’ she added. The method, which was a culmination of six years research, was developed through a review of 342 documented bullying complaints lodged with SafeWork SA. The review amounted to over 5500 pages of information. As Ms Tuckey said, ‘we turned that [information] into a survey-based measurement tool with 10 different domains used to deliver a score predictive of a broad range of work health and safety outcomes, including exposure to bullying.’ The new method is currently being trialled within various bodies.

Sexual Harassment Commonplace for Female Health Professionals
Louise Stone, Associate Professor at Australian National University’s medical school said that sexual harassment is commonplace for female health professionals. Ms Stone’s comments echoed the findings of a large survey conducted by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, which found that 30% of female surgeons experienced sexual harassment on the job. ‘In Australia, the surgeon apprenticeship model relies on senior staff selecting, training and mentoring junior staff,’ Ms Stone said. However, ‘training and mentoring can shade into beneficial mistreatment,’ Ms Stone cautioned. The issue in disrupting this cycle is that ‘holding more senior doctors to account for their behaviour has proven extremely difficult.’ ‘Senior doctors can see themselves as invulnerable, and recent high-profile cases suggest they are correct,’ she added. Junior doctors fear that calling out the toxic behaviours can come at a personal cost. For junior doctors who are victims, the risk of losing their careers after reporting harassment and bullying is high.

Asian-Australians Target of Unconscious Bias and Stereotyping
New research from the ANU Centre for Social Research reveals that Asian-Australians experience high rates of discrimination in the workplace. In a survey of 2,500 people by the ANU Centre for Social Research, eighty-two per cent of Asian-Australians reported having experienced some form of discrimination. An overwhelming sixty-five per cent said that discrimination occurred most often in the workplace. Further, the survey found that Asian-Australians are under-represented in senior leadership positions. The lead authors of the study said that the data highlighted the problem of unconscious bias or stereotyping. This finding was clear in the respondent’s submissions. As Irene Yu, Director of Migrant and Multicultural Banking at Westpac and the Bank of Melbourne, said ‘it’s very natural that customers will assume I’m there to take coffee and take notes.’ The ANU Centre for Social Research report comes in the lead-up to the first Asian-Australian Leadership Summit in Melbourne this week. The summit aims to identify strategies to shift the dial on diversity and highlight the important contribution that Asian-Australians play.