Bullying at the University of Newcastle (Australia)

We are working to highlight and stop academic workplace bullying at the University of Newcastle, Australia. We are a group of staff and students who have been bullied for speaking out about misconduct.

Help make a difference –

*answer our survey,

*contribute to the blog, or

*contact us.

This will help us gather as much information as possible so that we can put an end to this bullying with its’ decades-long history.

“Systemic bullying, hazing and abuse generally are identified with poor, weak or toxic organizational cultures. Cultures that are toxic have stated ethical values that are espoused but not employed, and other non-ethical values which are operational, dominant, but unstated.

Such cultures thrive when good people are silent, silenced, or pushed out; when bad apples are vocal, retained, promoted, and empowered; and when the neutral majority remain silent in order to survive. Those who are most successful in such a toxic culture are those who have adapted to it, or adopted it as their own”. (McKay, Arnold, Fratzl & Thomas, 2008)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Letter sent to Members of Parliament

This letter, requesting action, has been sent to all Federal Members of Parliament (see names below).

Dear MP
We are writing to request your support to instigate an independent investigation into the bullying, harassment and victimisation of staff and students at the University of Newcastle, NSW AUSTRALIA, who disclose misconduct or make allegations of this form of behaviour.
We constitute a representative group of the staff and students at the University of Newcastle, who have been victims of bullying, harassment or victimisation. Details on our position are provided on our web site Stop Bulling at the University of Newcastle, Oz.
We have considerable evidence of mistreatment of staff and students at the University of Newcastle, and we believe this treatment must in the very least be a breach of the OH&S Act, and the Protected Disclosures Act. This information includes:
v  A response of 175 current/ex staff and students who describe their bullying experiences in our online survey (for summary of responses, see Stop Bulling at the University of Newcastle, Oz).
v  A petition of 217 people (primarily current/ex staff/students) who have signed our online petition supporting an external investigation of the bullying at the University.
v  Evidence that 10,800 people have visited our website (Stop Bulling at the University of Newcastle, Oz).
v  Evidence that 12-15 people have been gagged by the University of Newcastle to prevent them speaking about their whistleblowing and/or bullying.
v  Evidence that at least 28 bullies at the University have been promoted.
v  Evidence that around 20 of the victims of the bullying have either attempted or considered suicide
v  100 comments to the articles on bullying at the University of Newcastle in the Newcastle Herald (comments reporting bullying and knowledge of bullying at the University).
The NSW Ombudsman is an “independent review body”, investigating complaints about public sector agencies.  According to their website, they give preference to
1.      “to matters identifying systemic(eg structural or procedural) deficiencies in administration”
2.      “to individual cases raising serious concerns as to people’s safety and well-being”
3.      “to sensitive issues which are unlikely to be, or be seen to be, properly addressed by the agencies concerned”
4.      “to issues concerning the treatment of whistleblowers”.
Individually, many of us have contacted the NSW Ombudsman with limited success or were told that the Ombudsman does not deal with individual cases.  Therefore, in a collective action, we have sent our online petition to the NSW Ombudsman. 
The response of the NSW Ombudsman (in their letter dated 31.05.2011) has been to
v  block our email address
v  state that their office has “no jurisdiction to investigate allegations relating to an individual’s employment, including bullying and harassment, unless... from making ..a protected disclosure..”.  (Compare this to their preferences 2, 3 and 4 above).
v  state that signatories to our petition from countries other than Australia “cannot possibly have experienced workplace bullying... at the university” and are “not considered persuasive by this office”. (A number of people bullied at this University have left Australia to live or return to other countries).
In addition, the bullying of “whistleblowers” at the University of Newcastle was previously scrutinized by the NSW Ombudsman who concluded in 2003(Ref: C/2003/7465), that
“Your case suggests this is another area of the University’s culture that may need to be addressed to make clear that whistleblowers –…– are given wholehearted support and encouragement by the university and staff. ANY FURTHER INDICATION that there may be problems in the handling of whistleblowers will provide A POWERFUL SPUR FOR US TO COMMENCE A FORMAL INVESTIGATION OF THE UNIVERSITY'S CONDUCT IN THIS RESPECT" (Capitals added).
We, and our supporters, have been horrified by the failure of our attempts to have the workplace bullying investigated by the NSW Ombudsman, especially when considering the NSW Ombudsman themselves identified a problem with the treatment of whistleblowers at the University of Newcastle at least from far back as 2003.  We believe an independent investigation into our claims will disclose a history of psychologically abusive treatment of whistleblowers at the University of Newcastle and would support a review of the current lack of answerability of University management.
With the recent passing of Brodie’s Law in Victoria, it is time for the rest of the Nation to follow, and make bullying a criminal act in all states of Australia. An investigation into bullying at the University of Newcastle will support this aim.
We have put our letter on our web site, with a list of all recipients. Dealing with the bullying at the University of Newcastle is a serious matter. We should not have to wait until someone from the University does succeed in committing suicide before action is taken. Surely we have all learnt a lesson from what happened with Brodie.
Please support us to have our allegations independently investigated by using your parliamentary privileges.

Yours sincerely
Stop Bullying at the University of Newcastle Committee
Names provided on request.
Contactable through email: stopbullyingat-newcastleuni@live.com

Recipients of this email

Irons, Mr Steve, Member for Swan                       Jenkins, Mr Harry, Member for Scullin

1 comment:

  1. This is a horrific story about the treatment of staff and students at Uni of Newcastle. If the MPs elect not to respond and there is a suicide...will they be answerable. I hope so, because the situation at Uni of Newcastle sounds horrible, and some one has to act.