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, April 18, 2013

Have you been defamed as a result of reporting misconduct at the University of Newcastle?

According to the Defamation Act of 2005 (which is now uniform across Australia),
"Defamation is primarily a civil action that allows a person whose reputation has been harmed by way of publication of materials, by words, or by any other means, to sue those responsible." (UTS Law Centre)

Firstly the material must have been published - under the Act, published means that it has been communicated to someone other than the person concerned.  Also communication means oral, written (including the internet) or by conduct (e.g. gestures). 

Secondly, the person must have been identified by that publication. This does not only mean that you have to be named - if enough information is given to identify the person concerned, that is enough (e.g. giving details of your position at the University and what section/school/faculty).

Thirdly, the material that is communicated must be defamatory. Material is defamatory if it
  1. exposes a person to ridicule, or
  2. lowers the person's reputation in the eyes of members of the community, or
  3. causes people to shun or avoid the person, or
  4. injures the person's reputation in business, trade or profession.(UTS Law Centre)
In Australia, you do not have to prove that you have suffered financially or otherwise because of the defamatory publication - damage to your reputation is presumed.

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There are a number of defences against defamation: e.g. if the material is not likely to do anyone's reputation any harm it is considered trivial.  THe material communicated may be considered to be true and in the public interest.  Certain material communicated in Parliament or in court cannot be defamatory (under the defence of absolute privilege).  Under the defence of qualified privilege, "the defendant needs to prove three things. First, that the recipient has an interest or apparent interest in having information on some subject. Second, that publication of the information to the recipient occurs in the course of giving to the recipient that information. Third, that the defendant's conduct in publishing the matter was reasonable in the circumstances." (EDO NSW).

45% of respondents to our survey (i.e. 88 individuals from the University of Newcastle) reported that gossip and rumours had been spread about them.   For some, these rumours were spread within their immediate working environment; for others they were spread further within the University.  For some, the gossip and rumours were communicated to individuals at other Universities, resulting in these individuals being blacklisted and unable to find other employment.

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