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)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Do murderers have more rights in Australia than academic whistleblowers?

It would seem that if you kill someone in Australia, you have more rights than someone who commits the “crime” of whistleblowing in academia, the “crime” of speaking out about wrongdoing or misconduct. 

Take for example one recent case of whistleblowing at an Australian university.  How do the circumstances of this whistleblower (WB) compare to that of a murderer?

·         A person is convicted of murder after a fair trial.
·         This WB was never charged with any “crime” - was not given any warning or explanation of her “crime” (before, during or since) and was never provided with an opportunity to discuss the matter.

·         A murderer is not punished until proven guilty.
·         The whistleblower was “punished” immediately and continuously by not having her contract renewed (after it had been renewed for many years) and was told to relocate.  Academic work at other instututions was suddenly withdrawn, job applications at a number of universities were suddenly “not received” and previous research collaboration magically disappeared.

·         A convicted murderer is denied her liberty and is removed from society.
·         This WB was physically removed from her usual office and moved to a remote location.  She was not permitted to enter her own office (to collect her professional and personal belongings) during working hours for almost four months, despite the university having undertaken in writing to provide research infrastructure to the WB.

·         As a murderer, your personal possessions may be removed and kept until you are released.  However you are often allowed to keep personal photos.
·         This WB had personal possessions taken from her locked office by an academic colleague and only returned after six months of unacknowledged requests.

·         A convicted murderer is allowed to have telephone contact and visitors (depending on prison regulations).
·         This WB was deprived of contact with any previous colleagues and her profession (including all meetings, workshops and research groups).  If the WB attends a conference, previous academic and research colleagues act as if they have never met the WB – workshops are miraculously “full” even though only five participants were attending.  She has been physically prevented from entering a research group meeting (after many years of membership of the group).

·         In prison, murderers may be accorded a measure of respect in the prison hierarchy.
·         Whistleblowers are viewed with suspicion and disdain within and without the organisation and the community.  They may even be considered as “un-Australian” dobbers.

·         If there is a wrongful conviction (which can include people being arrested and detained but released without being charged), the person will be released and may be given compensation. (Wrongly convicted people suffer serious emotional effects, including post-traumatic stress disorder.  These effects are similar to those experienced by whistleblowers).
·         The WB has never been charged, not provided with previously held levels of freedom and not compensated.

This is just one case at one university in Australia – it is by no means unique. 

A brief look at whistleblowing sites in Australia will demonstrate how commonly this occurs universities in this country and across the world.  The concern is that it continues.  As one writer stated

Where does it end? Does it end? No, it does not, it goes on and on and on”.

The advantage for society is that academic whistleblowers, unlike murderers, are so destroyed that they would not be a threat to anyone.  Another advantage for the country is that whistleblowers are completely silenced and isolated and the taxpayer doesn’t even have to pay for them to be in prison! 


  1. In most instances a murderer is allowed to return to society and is not prevented from returning to his or her previous life. Another example would be how a pedophile could claim discrimination if he or she was not allowed entry into a community. However,it was my experience at the University of Newcastle following my claim of bullying to be banished from my discipline, school and Faculty and finally the University and ultimately from academia. No charge was laid against me but I was severely punished because I had lodged a grievance.
    Unfortunately in some cases where gagging clauses are introduced the tax payer does pay!!

  2. Devastated but still fighting the University of NewcastleJuly 5, 2011 at 8:22 AM

    Also the huge cost to the tax payer of the medical treatment of the large number of academics bullied out of their jobs and careers because they spoke about misconduct. How can we know the true cost also of the effect on the family, on marriages, on children - what about those who have had to move cities and countries? Also the cost to the students and the academic community of the loss of hard-working, conscientious and principled academics - immeasurable!

  3. A whistleblower from the University of NewcastleJuly 9, 2011 at 8:10 AM

    One day "whistleblowers" will say enough is enough. The University does not understand. The University thinks that it will break "whistleblowers". It will not. The University thinks it can squash these honest people because of its power and resources. It can not. One day "whistleblowers" will take the matter in their own hands...They already are.