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.

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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, September 5, 2012


In a new initiative, the University has set up "ENGAGE NEWCASTLE" - "the University of Newcastle is committed to the pursuit of meaningful community engagement".  This initiative is
  • "designed to facilitate and enhance the University’s community engagement mission" and
  • "will also help in creating sustainable University-community partnerships and programs that add value to our communities.”

Our blog has been alerted to one of these impressive community engagement initiatives that benefitted students, the University and local patients.

This engagement took the form of therapy groups which were set up to provide therapy to people with chronic aphasia (i.e. communication difficulties following stroke) and also as an adult experience placement for third year speech pathology students.  The groups also provided an opportunity for first year student observation.  The groups' continued existence was dependent on the university funding a clinical educator for the students placed with the groups. 

For four years, these groups provided weekly therapy for around thirty people with aphasia who were no longer able to access ongoing speech therapy services.  The outcome measures of these highly successful groups demonstrated that this therapy had a significant effect on personal identity and communication.  These results were highly-praised at a Think Tank at the Aphasia Institute in Toronto, Canada, which was attended by leading international aphasia specialists.  These groups also provided students with a rare opportunity to participate in aphasia group therapy which is becoming increasingly prominent in speech therapy practice worldwide.

This excellent example of community engagement was suddenly axed by the speech pathology department.  
Why was this?  There was money. It was successful. It benefitted the students and the patients.

The reason was solely to get rid of the clinical educator (a whistleblower).  An additional "benefit" was the fact that the group members are people whose very difficulty prevents them from speaking out about what has happened to them.

So much for community engagement!  So much for the code of ethics of "do no harm"!

A perfect example of community DISENGAGEMENT by the University of Newcastle!


  1. This is so typical of the uni. They lie through their teeth. They have got rid of so many programs popular with students and community without consulting with anyone.

    McMillen has received numerous letters from students, parents of students and prospective students, complaining about the axing of their programs and the effects of the uni's actions, but she told them to drop dead. She's not hands on and takes her cues from the bullies. It's mind-boggling that she has this blind faith in the lies fed to her by the old guard. Or she just doesn't give a damn.

    I bet if she did hold a community forum in the real town hall, she'd be booed off the stage because the locals have heard enough of the uni.

    These are no initiatives; they are just brownies points to get another bunch of bullies promoted at the next round.

    My friend told me about this so-called indiginization of the curriculum "initiative" by a lecturer of some famous language who got a promotion for this outlandish "initiative", among others. I also wonder how much money they got for it since there's obviously a lot instant money available there.

    We are yet to see how this particular language is going to indiginise its own curriculum after forcing others to take up their righteous "cause" and how many disciplines have truly indiginized their curriculum.

    I thought sloganeering was something the east european communists were accused of. It seems some habits have no national or ideological borders.

    1. How far has Australia progressed on the reconciliation front after Cathy Freeman's famous ran at the Sydney Games?

      400 metres!

  2. News Alert! The spread of UoN bullies to other parts of the country. This is no joke!

    "Saunders pops up at Bond as DVC" - The Australian, 05/09/2012

    "NICHOLAS Saunders has been appointed deputy vice-chancellor at Bond University.

    Professor Saunders retired as vice-chancellor of the University of Newscastle at the end of 2011 after eight years in the role."

    It's a tragic day for all the victims of bullying at the UoN!

    Another example of the UoN's engagement with the "larger" community!

    We should be writing to staff and students at Bond, warning them of what's to happen to THEM.

  3. Former geography academicSeptember 5, 2012 at 6:42 PM

    From my experience at the UoN, the clinical educator was obviously far too successful that promoted jealousy and vindicativeness. This person also had the added burden of being a whistle blower.

  4. I work at the University of Newcastle as general staff. In over 30 years in the workforce at many different organisations I have never experienced such nasty behaviour and such an acceptance of bullying. The ongoing foul behaviour of staff particularly by those who have been there for many years to newer staff is disgusting.

    There are two women who are very aggressive and arrogant and speak to many of us in a really demeaning way when we call for help with one of the finance systems. Other staff in their area say the women are the same with lots of people and openly bully some of the other staff in their office and have been like this for many years and it is just accepted. There is also a women in my area who is really nasty and rules the roost as she has been here so long even though she has no seniority but no one will stand up to her. It just wouldn’t be accepted in most workplaces. I am too scared to speak up as I don’t feel anything will be done and my work life would become totally unbearable. I would have to leave a job which I otherwise love.

    I have met and talked with the VC (Caroline McMillen) several times for work matters and she seems to be a sincerely decent person. I do not believe she knows how nasty some of these people are nor who they are. It is all just swept under the carpet out of her view. She may even be worried about being bullied herself by those below her, to be put under unbearable stress and made to look incompetent.

    They need to bring in external consultants and every staff member should be required to anonymously fill in a questionnaire as to who they have ever witnessed acting inappropriately whether it be to them or someone else. Then when it is all collated it will be obvious who the problem people are I have faith that the VC will do something. Unless it is anonymous no one will ever have the courage to speak up loudly enough.

    1. Survival tips for the UoN:

      The minute you speak out, you are on your way out. So place just keeps generating more bullies because no one dares to speak out. Those who did/do, are normally the foreign who have worked in decent and normal places and those who are ethical and refuse/d to play the game. The place is particularly lethal to those who are naturally brilliant because their colleagues don't tolerate anyone who's better than themselves.

      Of course, these people don't last there. Their best bet is to find another job before they are destroyed.

      The UoN is the saddest workplace under the sun.

  5. Wow, this backs up everything people have said on this blog.

    Try working with the academic bullies and you'll be horrified - I guarantee it. Those who are equipped with "higher qualifications" (quite a few from the snob universities) to aid them in their bullying of others in very sophisticated ways.

    The biggest problem in that place is the professoriat which has long sold out to power and self-interest, in my school anyway. You'd have to be a bully, a yes-man or a mediocrity to get in. As a young academic, I used to look up to the professors and associate professors, but I now think I am more principled and ethical and I don't want change myself to be in that club.

    I don't believe McMillen is a decent person - that's just a mask she wears. She is very smart so she's not easily duped. Her problem is she's complicit in the bullying game, which is a real worry.

    She has shown that she doesn't want to listen to those with a different view from the bullies and that says a lot about who she is and what she stands for.

  6. As a rehabilitation speech pathologist, the groups have been a lifeline for people re-establishing themselves in the community. It has made our job easier because we can refer patients to the group and know that they will benefit. What a wasted opportunity for students and their training, especially as clinical placements for students are so difficult to organise.

  7. I was saddened to recently read the submission made by this speech pathologist to the parliamentary inquiry on workplace bullying. Although I've not worked in academia, when I trained in speech pathology at another institution, it was clear (and students noticed) that there was much disharmony and pettiness amongst the School's speech pathology staff.

    I can imagine the ostracism the target experienced from speech pathology colleagues at other universities from speaking out about her experience, as I have faced similar issues (in a public industry position) through speaking up about workplace bullying/corrupt practices (including from other speech pathologists, one trained at Newcastle) in my current work place. Like this target, I also have a good reputation with clients/colleagues in other settings, and unfortunately some people feel very threatened by this and subsequently the need to bully others.