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)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Full marks for the University of Newcastle, Australia!

The University’s new “Diversity and Inclusiveness Policy” identifies the following behaviours as “direct or indirect bullying”.
In red are the percentages of the 166 respondents to our survey that reported these behaviours.
     i.       physical or verbal abuse towards a person or group of people; - (insults or offensive remarks 37.1%, teasing mocking, sarcasm or jokes 18.9%, physical violence 4.9%)
   ii.       yelling, screaming or offensive language;-  (being shouted at 27.3%)
   iii.       spreading rumour or innuendo about someone;-  (gossip and rumours being spread 46.2%,
  iv.       excluding or isolating staff;  - (opinions and views ignored 70.5%, exclusion, isolation, freezing out, ostracism 58%),
    v.       intimidation;  - (pressure not to claim entitlements 32.2%, hints to quit your job, intimidating behaviour from others 42%,  feeling threatened in any way 42%, threatened regarding promotion etc 25.9%, employer not following procedures 53.2%)
   vi.       assigning meaningless tasks unrelated to the job;
vii.       giving staff tasks that are impossible to complete.  - (given unmanageable workload/deadlines 39.9)
viii.       unjustified criticism or complaints;  - (persistent criticism of your work 30.1%)
   ix.       deliberately excluding someone from workplace activities;  - (given little or no feedback on performance 45.5%, prevented from expressing yourself 39.2),
    x.       psychological harassment  - (continual checking up 40.6, humiliated, undervalued or ridiculed 54%),
  xi.       undermining work performance by deliberately withholding information that is vital for effective work performance;  - (withholding of information 47.6%)
xii.       setting tasks that are unreasonably outside or unrelated to an employee’s job; - (removal of responsibility 59%)
xiii.       deliberately changing work arrangements, such as rosters and leave, to inconvenience a particular employee;  - (treated unfairly compared to others 62.2%)
xiv.       setting timelines that are very difficult to achieve.
So the University has successfully identified the behaviours their staff use to bully other staff and students.

BUT how successfully did the University respond to these bullying behaviours?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Newcastle Uni hosts threat assessment conference

The university-instigated conference on "Campus threat assessment and management" is underway at the Crowne Plaza in Newcastle.  The Chancellor, Trevor Waring, is one of the psychologists who have been invited to speak.

This conference focuses on
"the assessment and management of persons who engage in threatening and volatile behaviours. Such persons can include current and former students, faculty, staff and even members of the community at large.  These individuals can be highly disruptive in campus settings.  Their behaviours may range from tactics of bullying and intimidation, to stalking and harassment, to acts of severe violence that devastate a campus, workplace, family, and community."

This looks promising - over 170 staff, students or ex-staff and students have reported bullying, intimidation and harrassment at the University of Newcastle.  Is the University responding to this????????.

So who are these people who need to be managed?  Well, our survey reveals that they are managers, lecturers, senior lecturers and higher up the .  Many have been promoted at the University for the skills at bullying and harrassment, especially if they have got rid of a whistleblower.
"We can't see anything wrong with the bullying culture at the University of Newcastle!"

Wait a minute......In the Newcastle Herald today, a "visiting security expert" said that "A MASS shooting could just as likely happen at the University of Newcastle as anywhere else in the world" and that ‘‘It’s not a high-likelihood event but if it happens it’s a high-consequence event".

Our survey shows the extent and severity of bullying and harrassment here BUT the University spends tax-payers' money on a conference addressing an event that is considered "NOT A HIGH-LIKELIHOOD EVENT".  Meanwhile, to date,
  • 37 respondents to our survey have considered suicide
  • Most have suffered substantial psychological and physical effects as well as losing their jobs, careers, families and friends.
Is this the HIGH-LIKELIHOOD AND HIGH-CONSEQUENCE EVENT that the university should be dealing with?

Posters and Banners Policy

In March this year, our anti-bullying posters were pulled down by campus security at the University of Newcastle.  We were told by Security that the Vice Chanceller, Professor Nick Saunders, had ordered the posters to be taken down. 

The University's Policy on posters stated that it "aims to allow freedom of expression and the free flow of information" and that posters should be of student interest.  Posters did NOT have to be approved or stamped.

On this website (see Post 27th March 2011), we highlighted the irrelevance and/or commercial nature of other posters which are allowed to be placed on campus.

Now the University has a NEW policy on posters and banners..............

Commercial posters are not allowed ("Posters which are for external commercial activities are not permitted on University campuses and locations").

A whole new section has been included:-

"2.4.  Unauthorised posters
In the event that posters appear in areas where provision has not been made or they are attached inappropriately, they will be removed by University staff or contractors. This applies to posters that are not respectful of all individuals, are defamatory or derogatory, or are not consistent with the University’s Code of Conduct.

Offensive, vilifying or otherwise illegal posters and banners which breach the values or provisions within the University’s Code of Conduct or Diversity and Inclusiveness Policy will be immediately removed and destroyed."

Well that is sufficiently broad to cover anything and everything ......


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Health Professionals and ethics

Professor Nick Saunders, VC of the University of Newcastle, is a medical doctor.

Professor Trevor Waring, Chancellor of the University of Newcastle, is a practising clinical psychologist.

Professor Kevin McConkey, DVC Academic and Global Relations, is a psychologist.

Over 170 staff and students at the University of Newcastle report being bullied.

32 had considered suicide because of this bullying.

What happened to the ethics of DO NO HARM?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Radio program on workplace bullying

Background Briefing (on Radio National) broadcast a program on Sunday morning about Workplace Bullying. 
Brodie Panlock

"Bullying at work
It's tricky territory. No one agrees on one definition, and what is bullying to one person is normal behaviour to another. But who investigates bullying, and is that process working? First-hand accounts from people who believe the system let them down. Reporter: Hagar Cohen"


You can listen online or download a podcast.  Don't forget the comments.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Have you been bullied at the University of Newcastle?

Would you like to meet up for a coffee?

We are happy to meet up with you if you have been bullied or seen other people being bullied.

We can meet away from the University.

Contact us via our email stopbullyingat-newcastleuni@live.com and we can set up a time and place.

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.

Calling international students

International students in New South Wales now have a confidential service to deal with any complaints or issues they have with "an education provider" - so if you have a problem with the University of Newcastle, you can contact the CRC.  Here are the details.