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, November 30, 2012

Congratulations

Congratulations to Caroline McMillen for emphasising on her blog how unacceptable online bullying/cyber-bullying is.  She has highlighted the online attacks on Julia Gillard and Charlotte Dawson and states that these "have suddenly shone a light on the subterranean and cowardly world of anonymous online bullying."

We agree totally with her on this.

Julia Gillard (as reported by Anne Summers in a lecture) has suffered immense cyber-bullying.  Apart from sexist and demeaning photos, Julia Gillard has been called a witch, a bitch, a liar, a lying c--t, and a useless oxygen thief, and more.  Slogans have included "Hang Gillard", “If I wanted a greasy red box I’d go to KFC ya slut”,"We need her to bleed out”, “an unproductive old cow” etc etc.  More examples can be read and seen in the transcription of Summer's lecture.

What about Charlotte Dawson, a self-confessed fashion and social personality?  The cyber-bullying she suffered was mostly in the form of Twitter messages.  These included "stick your head in a toaster", "kill yourself", "go hang yourself", etc.  Even though Dawson is sometimes involved in controversial issues (e.g. "she was among a panel of fashion "experts" passing judgement on footballers' wives and girlfriends' outfits"), the comments made to her on Twitter are totally unacceptable.

These two women, singled out by Caroline McMillen for their experiences of cyber-bullying highlight the role of social media in unacceptably denigrating and bullying prominent people. 

sign on window says Kill Gillard Hang Bligh

In contrast, the social media when used appropriately has a huge role to play in changing society for the better - we only have to think of the role of social media in the Middle East as people try to achieve democracy in their countries.  Also the role of social media in Australia has been the instrument of change in a number of successful campaigns (see Change.org).  Email, facebook, Twitter and blogs (like this one) have an important role to play in keeping society informed about what is really happening in Australia - often that information is not available elsewhere. 

We continue on this blog to keep the public informed and to highlight any anomalies and absurdities that we observe.  However, unlike some blogs which delete critical comments by readers  (e.g. the  University of Newcastle blog), we do provide a forum for people to express their views (which may NOT be OUR views) on their experiences of bullying at the University of Newcastle.  People who have been bullied out, silenced and ostracised have very few opportunities to express their views or describe their experiences.

A fortnight later, the launch of her revealing biography was accompanied by an intense promotional campaign, but she again came under attack after hosting a red carpet fashion critique of the Brownlow Awards. She was among a panel of fashion ‘‘experts’’ passing judgment on footballers' wives and girlfriends' outfits.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/private-sydney/dawson-defends-decision-to-out-trolls-20121023-282ik.html#ixzz2DeUJ0Q2D

Nick Saunders and Bond University

"New deputy continues a distinguished career
Bond University has welcomed Emeritus Professor Nick Saunders AO as its new Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

He brings to the University a distinguished and outstanding record as an academic scholar and senior manager. He began his appointment in October.

Professor Saunders (below) was the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle for eight years. He has held other senior academic roles within Australia including Dean of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University; Head of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Dean of the School of Medicine at Flinders University.

He also has served in positions at McMaster University in Canada and Harvard University in the United States.

Bond University’s Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Tim Brailsford says Professor Saunders is highly respected within academic, health and government networks in Australia and internationally.

“He has led a remarkable international career in medical education and research and has contributed significantly through his participation on councils, committees and government review boards,’’ says Professor Brailsford.

Professor Saunders holds a medical degree with first-class honours from the University of Sydney. He has been influential in the advancement of medical education through his extensive contribution to, and participation on, many higher education, research and health care national committees, councils and State Government bodies."

P.S. NEWSFLASH - Bond University has announced that "Up to 24 staff at the university could be made redundant as part of a cost-cutting exercise." The redundancies will affect academic (up to professorial level) and administrative staff. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

From the VC's desk


"In this context, the comments of the Standing Committee in relation to the controls around cyberbullying were perhaps the less developed component in a comprehensive report. Anne Summers, at her Human Rights and Social Justice lecture at the University, recently detailed the utterly unacceptable online bullying of the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. This together with the recent vicious attacks by ‘cyber trolls’ on Charlotte Dawson in social media have suddenly shone a light on the subterranean and cowardly world of anonymous online bullying. It appears that trashing one’s colleague from the comfort of one’s sofa on the pretence that anonymity is somehow a necessary protection may represent the next frontier of workplace bullying."
http://www.newcastle.edu.au/staff/vc-desk/

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Workplace Psychopaths?


 

Workplace psychopaths show a cluster of personality characteristics as well as antisocial behaviours.  According to Clarke (2005), these include
  • lack of remorse or guilt
  • criminal behaviour
  • prolific lying and deception
  • manipulation of other people to get what they want
  • lack of conscience
  • superficial charm and good intelligence
  • insincerity
  • grandiose sense of their own self-worth
  • egocentric
  • lack of emotion.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Parliamentary report on Workplace Bullying

The parliamentary inquiry states that it has heard over 300 "deeply moving" experiences of bullying, some of which have ended in ruined careers and suicidal thoughts/attempts.  A number of us who were employed by the University of Newcastle spoke at the inquiry's public hearings - for those of us that did, we had all had our careers destroyed, our mental and physical health damaged and had considered suicide.  Our submissions regarding our experiences of bullying at the University of Newcastle can be read on the parliamentary website (nos 8, 25 and 53 - other submissions regarding the uni were considered confidentially).

The "committee singled out "psychologically abusive group behaviour" in which workers banded together to try to drive a worker from their workplace, as a particular concern. The phenomenon, known as mobbing, was most prolific in nursing and teaching".


This mobbing behaviour has been of specific concern to us - employees of the University of Newcastle collude with each other to cover-up any report of misconduct - thus the cover-up continues through the ranks from the individual involved in the misconduct, through heads of discipline, heads of school to Pro-Vice-Chancellors of faculties, human resources, and into senior management, including the Vice-Chancellor.

It is bad enough when one person tries to cover-up their misconduct but a million times worse when the whole organisation colludes together to protect their position and hold on power.  What does that say about the bullying culture endemic in the University of Newcastle?
The parliamentary inA Parliamentary committee has concluded a special investigation into workplace bullying in which it heard more than 300 ''deeply moving'' stories, some of which had ended in ruined careers or suicide attempts after months of psychological warfare.

Read more: http://www.news.com.au/business/police-action-urged-on-mobbings-in-the-workplace/story-e6frfm1i-1226524378013#ixzz2DNEHqQUl
A Parliamentary committee has concluded a special investigation into workplace bullying in which it heard more than 300 ''deeply moving'' stories, some of which had ended in ruined careers or suicide attempts after months of psychological warfare.
Its report, Workplace Bullying: We just want it to stop, found constitutional limitations meant federal laws could not be brought in to better protect beaten-down workers.
But it recommended state governments bolster their laws and bring criminal charges against serious workplace bullying more often as a deterrent to others.
It recommended Victoria's Brodie's law be the example.
That legislation was introduced after 19-year-old bullied waitress Brodie Panlock committed suicide and means bullies can face 10 years' jail.
The committee found while physical cases of bullying were taken to court, no cases of psychological bullying had ever been pursued by authorities, despite the damage it could cause.
The committee singled out ''psychologically abusive group behaviour'' in which workers banded together to try to drive a worker from their workplace as of particular concern.
The phenomenon, known as ''mobbing'', was most prolific in teaching and nursing, it said.


Read more: http://www.news.com.au/business/police-action-urged-on-mobbings-in-the-workplace/story-e6frfm1i-1226524378013#ixzz2DNE1B3nU
A Parliamentary committee has concluded a special investigation into workplace bullying in which it heard more than 300 ''deeply moving'' stories, some of which had ended in ruined careers or suicide attempts after months of psychological warfare.
Its report, Workplace Bullying: We just want it to stop, found constitutional limitations meant federal laws could not be brought in to better protect beaten-down workers.
But it recommended state governments bolster their laws and bring criminal charges against serious workplace bullying more often as a deterrent to others.
It recommended Victoria's Brodie's law be the example.
That legislation was introduced after 19-year-old bullied waitress Brodie Panlock committed suicide and means bullies can face 10 years' jail.
The committee found while physical cases of bullying were taken to court, no cases of psychological bullying had ever been pursued by authorities, despite the damage it could cause.
The committee singled out ''psychologically abusive group behaviour'' in which workers banded together to try to drive a worker from their workplace as of particular concern.
The phenomenon, known as ''mobbing'', was most prolific in teaching and nursing, it said.


Read more: http://www.news.com.au/business/police-action-urged-on-mobbings-in-the-workplace/story-e6frfm1i-1226524378013#ixzz2DNE1B3nU

ABC News report on the Workplace Bullying Inquiry report

In its 7.30 Report, the ABC has discussed the report produced by the parliamentary inquiry into Workplace Bullying.  They reported on two main aspects:  firstly that there is no universal definition of bullying behaviour and secondlyl, a hotline should be set up for people who are being bullied.

To view the video or read the transcript, go to the  ABC.

ABC News

Monday, November 26, 2012

Workplace Bullying Inquiry Report

At least seven submissions were made to the Inquiry by staff/ex-staff and students/ex-students of the University of Newcastle. 

Some of these submissions were treated as confidential by the inquiry.  However the submissions 8, 25 (plus 25.1, 25.2, 25.3) and 53 were made by ex-staff of the University of Newcastle.  These submissions can be read in full at the Workplace Bullying Inquiry website.

We will also be publishing the results of our survey of the bullying experiences of 195 respondents at the University of Newcastle.

NEWS FLASH - Parliamentary Workplace Bullying Review report is out!

A House of Representatives email has just been published.

"Monday 26 November 2012

House Education and Employment Committee report tabled on workplace bullying

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment has today released its report, “Workplace Bullying: “We just want it to stop”.

According to the Productivity Commission workplace bullying costs the Australian economy between $6 billion and $36 billion annually.

The Committee received over 300 written submissions – mostly from individuals who have experienced bullying first-hand - but also from organisations, about the enormous human toll that workplace bullying takes.

The report contains 23 recommendations that focus on:

·         defining what bullying is and is not;
·         promoting and strengthening existing legislative and regulatory frameworks;
·         ensuring that the requirements of the draft Code of Practice: Managing the Risk of Workplace Bullying are met, with guidance and support provided to employers;
·         improving workplace cultures;
·         and enhancing tools for the prevention and early resolution of workplace bullying  incidences.

The Committee Chair, Ms Amanda Rishworth MP, said “Workplace bullying is happening far too frequently in Australian workplaces, and occurs in all sectors and industries. We started this inquiry with a focus on examining whether we should introduce a national equivalent of Brodie’s Law. We discovered throughout the inquiry that prevention and early intervention is critical.  A chief concern of witnesses was the lack of clarity about what to do and where to go for help. That is why we recommend, in consultation with stakeholders, that the Commonwealth Government establish a new national advisory service to provide advice, assistance and resolution services to employers and workers alike. We hope that this report forms part of the national conversation we need to have on this topic and offers ways for moving forward. We all have a responsibility to stop bullying behaviour in its tracks.”

The full report is available from the Committee’s website:
http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House_of_Representatives_Committees?url=ee/bullying/report.htm 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

New book on Workplace Health and safety from within the ranks of the masters of LACK of workplace health and safety!

Neil Foster of the Newcastle Law School has just published a book on

Workplace Health and Safety Law in Australia 

 "Workplace Health and Safety Law in Australia provides an introduction to the law of workplace health and safety in Australia and offers clear concise commentary on all aspects of related civil and criminal law. Written by Neil Foster, an expert in the area of workplace health and safety law, with a foreword by the Honourable Justice Roger Boland, President of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, this text is an invaluable resource for business and law students, legal professionals and senior business managers alike." 

PLEASE give some complimentary copies to Professor Caroline, McMillen, Professor Kevin McConkey (somewhere in China) and Professor Nick Saunders (now at Bond University).  Perhaps you could develop a professional development quiz for them to complete to test their knowledge of this area.
 
Will this book become like the University of Newcastle policies?  The University can do anything it wants, as long as it can say "but we have a policy for that".


New camping destination

 A student was had been enrolled at the University of Newcastle has been "camping" (Professor Caroline McMillen's term) at the University of Newcastle.  He has been protesting against his treatment by the university and the lack of any appropriate response by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Caroline McMillen and her management team. More details of this case can be read at the NUSA website. 


Another case regarding a student has been reported in the Newcastle Herald.
Image
Whilst we are not privy to the exact details of these case, we know categorically from our experience (and the experience of 195 respondents to our survey) that the University of Newcastle behaves predictably in any situation where their absolute authority is questioned - for almost all staff members or students who have spoken about irregularities or misconduct, the University of Newcastle has acted swiftly to silence them.  

The silencing by the University follows a predictable pattern - discrediting, ostracising, removing staff from their positions, removing students from their studies, "gagging' clauses, etc.  It comes as no surprise that in our survey only 3% (of 195 respondents) obtained a satisfactory outcome to the investigation of their complaint.  


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dealing with workplace bullying



Complex Consultancy Services has concluded after the recent high profile workplace bullying cases that "by opting to try and resolve the issue in house the complaint has escalated to the legal system".
 
They advise that
  1. "Each claim needs to be graded in terms of severity & how it should be handled. The complaint grading process needs to incorporate a number of issues including the severity of the allegation and the hierarchical levels within the organisation of those involved in the complaint.
  2.  Trying to sweep issues “under the carpet” is a dangerous path to follow.
  3. The person making the complaint must feel they are going to get a fair hearing and that there will not be any recriminations against them for bringing the issue out.
  4. Similarly trying to protect an individual within the organisation who has a workplace bullying or sexual harassment complaint laid against them by keeping the matter in house can often backfire. The accused person is entitled to have a fair and balanced hearing about the allegations. In many cases this is best achieved by external mediation."
    Imag
The University of Newcastle has made the blocking of complaints into an art form - and then when people take their complaints to outside bodies (e.g. the Ombudsman, Human Rights, WorkCover), they still do not get any help. 

Why is no-one prepared to take on the University of Newcastle?  Would they act differently if this was a commercial organisation?  Why is the widespread bullying at the University of Newcastle ignored both within and without the organisation?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Anonymous whistleblowing

We know that many people affected by bullying at the University of Newcstle are naturally nervous to report misconduct that they experience, observe or hear of.

image
Westmead Hospital Whistleblowers have set up an anonymous dropbox - this allows you to report wrongdoing/misconduct without being traced.  Follow the steps on the website to ensure that your submission is anonymous.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Googling the University of Newcastle!



Wow - if you google the University of Newcastle, this blog comes up second!  At least we are managing to alert potential staff and students about the bullying culture at the University.


Businesses pay a lot of money to get such a good result.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Isolated act - NOT bullying?

Slater & Gordon, the well-known Australian law firm, have included "Isolated acts" in their list of what is NOT bullying.  Their website states:-


"Isolated acts. If you are subject to a single incident of unreasonable behaviour, it’s unlikely to be classified bullying. Addressing the behaviour before it is repeated is the best way to manage the situation; conflict in the workplace can progress to bullying if left unchecked."

The notion of isolated acts requires some consideration.  Our experience at the University of Newcastle is that  there may be many isolated acts that combine together into bullying.  For example, you speak out about staff misconduct/unethical behaviour - you are ostracised by one of your colleagues, then the next, then the next.  Then any complaint you make to the Head of School gets no response.  Then individuals throughout the uni in various relevant positions (e.g. PVC of the Faculty, DVC of Academia, Head of Human Resources, Vice-Chancellor) all individually decide to ignore/ostracise/not respond to you. 
Image
These are all individual acts but they combine into a culture of bullying.  These individual acts become even more powerful as bullying because it is no longer one person who bullies you - all the individual parts of the bullying machine collude and combine together into a ruthless mechanism of destroying anyone who steps out of line (i.e. anyone who behaves ethically in the face of unethical behaviour). 

Surely all the individual acts of bullying (such as at this University) combine into an even more destructive and hazardous form of bullying and make reporting/complaining about the bulying behaviour even more impossible.  You have to take on the whole university machine, not just one person who has repeatedly bullied you.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

"Australia’s worker’s compensation scheme is fast becoming one of the worst in the developed world."


Cartoon


We have been alerted by John McPhilbin of the Injured Workers Support Network to the following

"According to studies still being conducted at RMIT University, Australia’s worker’s compensation scheme is fast becoming one of the worst in the developed world.

We received an interesting email from RMIT film student and WorkCover Victim, Kris Vanston, who was responsible for putting together a great piece on ‘toxic’ WorkCover Systems. Kris is now seeking stories from a wide section of people in order to make a documentary.  If you would like to share your stories, please do so via thescheme@centralmusic.com.au Kris points out that what started as a minor project is now gathering steam and a great deal of interest.

Kris has just sold his story to quite a large production company who is going to make a documentary film called ‘The Scheme’. It is hoped that it will be released late next year."

More details from Kris are available on the Injured Workers Support Network website. 

Kris says "We want to hear your stories! We want the big issues! The stories that need to be heard. Let us know what you think about this system and what could be changed. I for one, would never want my family, friends or any of you to be processed by the WorkCover system. Because more often than not, WorkCover and the insurance companies cause more problems than they set out to solve."

If you have a story to tell about your experience with WorkCover following bullying at the University of Newcastle, please contact thescheme@centralmusic.com.au
 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"Newcastle researchers applaud Stop Bullying campaign"

Did your heart miss a beat when you saw that headline?  It is from the University of Newcastle Blog.

As you would soon realise, this has nothing to do with bullying at the University.. It relates to the new campaign called "Be Bold and Stop Bullying", aimed at young people.

According to the uni blog,
"Bullying is rightly back in the spotlight".

From what we see with the number of visitors to our blog, bullying was never out of the spotlight..

"Be Bold and Stop Bullying encourages all of us to take a stand against bullying and is designed to educate parents, teachers and our youth about actions to empower young people and teach them to stand up if they are being bullied, or if they see bullying in action"

Well we know of a number of young people (students) who have been bullied at this University.

The  University of Newcastle’s Family Action Centre has been working with schools and parents for more than 10 years on this "critically important social issue".  We applaud their work and we would like to see it being applied in the University as well, for students and staff.

"More importantly, Be Bold and Stop Bullying is a platform for us to work together as a community to build resilience against bullying in its many forms."

Please can you explain to the senior management of the university what bullying is, how it is manifested and what can be done to prevent it.  We want an adult version of the "Be Bold and Stop Bullying" for the University of Newcastle.  As can be seen from this blog, the University is in DESPERATE need of it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

"What is not understood is the gravitas of psychological injury that bullying can cause"

In an article in the Brisbane Times, Dr Anne Wyatt, consultant and co-author of the book, Preventing Workplace Bullying, said

"It used to be, 'If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,' " "Now it's, 'Why is the kitchen so hot?' What is not understood is the gravitas of psychological injury that bullying can cause. It can destroy a person's ability to work, it can destroy their sense of self. Families and relationships are destroyed. It can be deadly."

Also, re workplace culture (makes us think of the University of Newcstle) -

"Yet Wyatt believes bullies may not be solely to blame for their behaviour and that we are all capable of it, given the right circumstances. She identifies several factors which may motivate someone to bully, including competitiveness, envy, compensating for deficiency, complying with management philosophy and, hard as it is to believe, being oblivious to what they are doing.

Their behaviour may also be perpetuated by the company culture, the "how we do things around here" ideal, which sets the rules of what is acceptable. And it's that which, in bullying situations, needs to change. "What we're looking at now," says Wyatt, "is not just the people involved but the context, such as the failure to manage people, culture and policies and procedures in an organisation with scarce resources and increased competition."

Evelyn Field added that

"Bullies don't want to be seen as incompetent. They're very insecure, and if you do something that threatens them – if you're too good at your job, for example – they'll attack. It's the law of the wild. They don't mean to destroy your life; they're just protecting themselves." But getting rid of the bully is not the solution. "It's about leadership," adds Field. "People pick up the name of the game. It's up to the leaders to say, 'We must treat people with respect.' " (emphasis added)
 
Knowing that victims of bullying threaten an insecure bully is not much solace when your life is destroyed!


Friday, November 2, 2012

Congratulations

Congratulations to Gillian Sneddon, a Hunter area whistleblower who was treated abysmally.  She has now been victorious in court..

"I've won the one against Parliament, the one against Orkopoulos and the one against the State of NSW.

‘That’s what I wanted – justice. It wouldn’t have been right to have lost this case.’’

Gillian has shown much dignity and courage and her victory is an important one for justice and fairness in Australia.

Huge interest in our blog

The University of Newcastle may not be interested in dealing with us but many people from around the world are.

To date we have had
  • Over 70,000 visitors
  • 235 posts
  • 1027 comments
Visitors have come from many countries; here are the ten most frequent countries represented.

 

Despite all this, we would be much much much much happier if we had never had to start this blog in the first place!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A night time thought for all the staff bullies at the University of Newcastle


“In the quiet hours when we are alone and there is nobody to tell us what fine fellows we are, we come sometimes upon a moment in which we wonder, not how much money we are earning, nor how famous we have become, but what good we are doing.(AA Milne, creator of Winnie the Pooh)(emphasis added)

Is your power and standing at the university worth destroying another person's life? 

Can you ignore the little voice inside you which whispers that what you did and continue to do  is unjust, undeserved and unethical?