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)

Friday, August 31, 2012

REMINDER: Injured Workers Support Network Meeting

Injured or ill workers, their families, support people and interested community members are all welcome to attend.

The aim of this meeting will discuss planning for future meetings and activities.

Date: 3rd of September, 2012
Time: 2-4 PM

Location: Newcastle, Workers Health Centre, Suite 5, 453 Hunter St, Newcastle 
(The Workers Health Centre is situated in the arcade next to "Hamburger Haven").

If you are interested in attending please contact John on  (02) 9749 7566, or email: john.mcphilbin@injuredworkerssupport.org.au  

Sign this WorkCover petition

The Injured Workers Support Organisation has created a petition, asking the NSW State Government to scrap recent changes in WorkCover in New South Wales.

"It is injured workers and the community who already bear an overwhelming majority of the costs associated with their injuries or illnesses. Injured workers much more so. Employers (and no doubt insurers), on the other hand continue to get an increasingly free-ride."
To read more about this petition and to sign it, click here.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Submissions - Workplace Bullying Inquiry

Submissions to the parliamentary inquiry continue to arrive - there are now 216 submissions.  This is an increase of seven submissions during the past week.

Only one more submission has been authorised for publication - No. 216 from the Government of South Australia.

All the submissions so far authorised for publication (115 submissions) can be read on the Parliamentary Inquiry website.   Three of the individual ones (nos 8, 25 and 53) are submissions from ex-academic staff of the University of Newcastle who reported staff misconduct.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Make up your own mind!

According to Gerard Phillips in the Australian Financial Review, "bullying laws are a threat to workplace".

He states that
"Probably the most telling argument against legislative intervention is definitional".  He gives examples of "bullying":-
  • "criticism by a superior about work presented"
  • "giving of directions or merely disagreeing with the subordinate"
He goes on to say that bullying is highly subjective and "very much in the eye of the beholder".

His answer to bullying is to "remove the incentive to create disputation" and 
"reset the rules at the workplace so that staff understand that their role is to 
facilitate the workplace and not to frustrate managerial prerogative".

According to him, legislation against bullying will "cause absolute mayhem 
in the workplace".
We invite Mr Phillips, who states he is a partner at the national law firm 
Middletons, to read the three submissions  published (see here nos. 8, 25 
and 53) about the experiences of three ex-academics from the University 
of Newcastle.  

Tell us, Mr Phillips, 
  • how you would describe the experiences of these three academics ?
  • are their experiences merely "in the eye of the beholder"?
  • are their experiences merely "subjective"?
We look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, August 20, 2012

...and now there are three...

A third submission from an ex-academic at the University of Newcastle who was bullied out, has been authorised for publication by the parliamentary inquiry.

S.S. (no. 53) has reported her experiences of being bullied in Speech Pathology at the University of Newcastle as a result of reporting staff misconduct (e.g. soft marking, told to ignore plagiarism, conflict of interest, etc) to the head of discipline.  SS was told by the head of discipline to relocate to another office on the other side of the University, not to enter it during office hours and not to communicate with the head of discipline.  This delayed her government-funded research for 14 weeks.

SS also reports that she cannot obtain employment - her applications "go missing". her emails are "never received".  Her previous teaching in Sydney evaporated. She is shunned by previous research colleagues and other speech pathologists in universities in Australia.  She has been physically prevented from attending her inter-university research group, was unable to obtain her mail, and has also been prevented from attending workshops.  She has been isolated from her discipline in Australia.

SS also states that she was never given any reason for this, either before, during or since.  When she made a Protected Disclosure and a complaint to the University, she was told that she had been thrown out of Speech Pathology because she had made a complaint about being thrown out of Speech Pathology!!
She was subsequently employed in another school at the University but early this year she was told that HR had refused to issue her with any more contracts, despite the fact that the details of the contract had been finalised within that school.

This additional submission provides further evidence of how the University of Newcastle uses bullying and collusion to cover-up staff misconduct.

In all three submissions, staff involved in this bullying and collusion have been rewarded with promotion and/or other rewards.  This sends a clear message about the University of Newcastle - bullies are rewarded and the victims of the bullying are destroyed.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


The Workplace Bullying Inquiry held its final public hearing in Canberra on Friday, 17th August.

People who had been bullied were invited to present impact statements to the Committee.  Twenty people gave impact statements.

THREE (3) (of the twenty) were ex-academic staff of the University of Newcastle who had been bullied out of the University for reporting staff misconduct.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Still awaiting more submissions to be published

The number of submission which have been authorised for publication remains unchanged - only 71 of the 209 received have been published.

The Committee has a huge job to read and edit these publications.  News is that there will be another lot of submissions authorised for publication tomorrow, Thursday.

Exciting news - there should be more submissions from bullied staff and students from the University of Newcastle authorised for publication.  We will keep you alerted to this!

Remember what John Howard said "Stay alert but not alarmed".

So be alert - it is the University of Newcastle that has to be alarmed.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"Hidden burden of mental health and substance use"

The University of Newcastle is collaborating with a number of other universities and organisations in the

"world first Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use: Translating Innovative Prevention and Treatment will receive $2.5 million in National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding over the next five years. "

In our survey about bullying at the university, the effect of bullying resulted in  21.5%  of our respondents (i.e. 40 individuals) reporting that they had increased their alcohol and smoking intake.    

This increased intake accompanied reports of mental health issues resulting from their bullying viz.

  • depression (56.4%)  
  • suicidal thoughts (23.1%)
  • panic attacks (27.2%)
  • sleep problems (61.5%).
The University of Newcastle would seem to be in the frontline position to investigate this issue - the researchers involved in this Centre of Research Excellence are welcome to contact us for more information or for participants for their research.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

.. and now there are two!

So far, 71 of the 209 submissions to the bullying inquiry have been authorised for publication.

For visitors to our blog, there are now two published submissions from ex-staff at the uni - KH (see previous post) and MA (Michelle Adams).

Michelle's  submission can be read in detail on the Workplace Bullying Inquiry's website (M.A.).  She has also had her experiences reported in a number of newspaper articles (see right-hand side of this web-page and a very recent one here).

Her experiences started when she reported academic misconduct (as staff are required to do according to the uni's policy).  She has been subjected to almost ten years of "bullying, harassment and victimization".

She states that
"In 2012 the Workers Compensation Commission (WCC) determined that my psychological injury was permanent and caused entirely by the bullying and workplace harassment I had experienced from the University of                 . I was awarded compensation. Days latter the University of                     released a statement to the Herald, denying that it was liable for my injury."

Michelle's submission provides clear evidence of the University failing to follow its own policies, providing erroneous information to various legal bodies (the Police, Workers Compensation Commission, Human Rights Commission, medical practitioners, etc) and using university funding to pay for legal services.

These two submissions provide the public with a clear picture of how the University treats anyone who does not collude in the cover-up of staff misconduct.

Additional submissions relating to the University, not yet published, will support and confirm the bullying situation at the University of Newcastle.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

No longer gagged!

KH (see submissions on the Workplace Bullying Inquiry website), a former staff member of the University of Newcastle, stated in her submission that

"in July 2008 under considerable duress I signed a confidentiality agreement (aligned with a ‘voluntary’ redundancy) stating that I would not discuss my employment with a third person or take legal action against the University. However, I will always regret being complicit in a cover up of malicious workplace behaviour at the University             ."

Under the parliamentary privilege afforded to submissions to the Workplace Bullying Inquiry, KH now has the opportunity to have her experiences of being bullied out of the University of Newcastle published in the public domain.

In her submission, she details the extremely punitive and ongoing bullying she received by the staff and management in her School, Faculty and in the senior echelons of the university.

Her maltreatment included a survey by the university to determine whether her “return would adversely impact on the working environment for staff and/or the operations of the area".  This survey of discriminatory questions was completed by eight staff members, even though only two had any personal involvement with KH's dispute.  How much lower can an organisation sink!

At last, the extreme lengths that the University of Newcastle goes to to get rid of ethical and hard-working academics is there for the public to read.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

209 submissions to the Workplace Bullying Inquiry

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of submissions to the Workplace Bullying Inquiry - from 89 to the current 209.

A total of 71submissions have so far been authorised for publication.

At last individual submissions (indicated by initials), including some relating to the University of Newcastle, can be viewed on the website.

This is a huge step - it means that even people who were gagged by their organisations have the opportunity to publicly report the bullying they experienced without fear of litigation (under parliamentary privilege).

$25 million verdict against employer for workplace bullying

A jury in the United States has awarded $25 million in damages to a steel plant worker - the worker had been "made the brunt of abuse and bullying mostly centered on his African-American race".
"It’s one of the largest jury awards in a single-plaintiff employment case in American history." (according to a newspaper report).
The company said that it felt "caught in the middle" and that bullying/abuse was "nothing more than “trash talk” that is common in blue-collar manufacturing facilities".
What excuse is the University of Newcastle giving for the bullying that occurs so widely and so frequently throughout the organisation??

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Workplace bullying involves everyone - new research

“Bystanders are not incidental, but are an integral part of the context of bullying, with some siding with the bully or victim, either actively or passively,”.

Dr Paull from Murdoch University concluded that there were 13 types of bystanders - from the  aggressive Instigating Bystander to the Submitting Bystander, who ends up becoming a substitute for the victim.

Respondents to our survey on bullying at the University of Newcastle reveal that the usual pattern of events is that once a bully starts bullying, co-workers very quickly side with the bully.  This pattern of taking sides with the bully continues all the way up management to the top.  Co-workers/colleagues collude with the bullying to protect their own positions.

Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor 
who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler
 and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

Pastor Neimoller described the dangers of being a bystander:-

First they came for the Communists And I did not speak out 
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists And I did not speak out 
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the Jews And I did not speak out 
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Stop the Uni from halving student representation on council

Previously we reported on the changes the Uni is making to student representation.  In a blog post in June, we reported that

"University of Newcastle has very quietly reduced student and union representation on the governing council of the Uni.  Once there were four.  Now there are two!
What is the effect of this?  According to the article in the Herald,
"The laws required a two-thirds majority vote to pass the move, meaning the votes of student and staff representatives were eclipsed by the votes of up to 15 other members.""

This is another example of the Uni ignoring the law, rules, policies, etc.

Help stop the Uni from halving student representation - sign this petition.

Sign here.: