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)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dr Sue Gould challenges the University of Newcastle

Dr Sue Gould, who was Deputy-Vice-Chancellor of Services, is challenging the University of Newcastle about making her redundant (Newcastle Herald Sunday 31st March).

She was on sick-leave for over a year and was made redundant by Caroline McMillen, the Vice-Chancellor of the University, in October 2012.  Dr Gould maintains that she wished to return to work.

Dr Gould's departure has coincided with a number of senior staff vacating their positions at the University -  these include Kevin McConkey, Ian Pike, John Carter and Mike Calford, with Scott Holmes going on a year's research leave.  These senior staff had commanded high salaries e.g. in 2010, Kevin McConkey "was paid $489,623, deputy vice-chancellor research Michael Calford was paid $386,613, and deputy vice-chancellor services Sue Gould was paid $410,931.".  McMillen's predecessor, Nick Saunders, was paid "$617,859 in 2010, performance pay of $119,394 plus performance pay from 2009 of $55,265".  McMillen apparently receives even more than Saunders did.

McMillen denies that the changes in senior staff are related to her New Directions 2015 strategic plan.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"Healthy University" strategy

In her blog of 14th March 2013, Caroline McMillen, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle, has reported

"In 2013, I am particularly proud to champion a major 'Healthy University' strategy with my colleagues, John Germov and Tina Crawford. This initiative, will take an innovative and contemporary 'whole-of-university' approach to the important area of supporting our individual and institutional health. Evidence from literature and other sectors tells us how important good health and a positive culture are to build a resilient, grounded and productive workplace. The 'Healthy University' Steering Committee has started by recruiting willing colleagues from across the University to contribute to working groups focussed on understanding how we can act to ensure good psychological, physical and organisational health is a focus at UoN. Each working group would warmly welcome members from any part of UoN, as well as from our student body to contribute to this work and I encourage you to send your 'expression of interest' to HealthAndSafety@newcastle.edu.au

Does she also want to hear from those of us who have suffered ongoing psychological and physical ill-health as a result of the actions of the University?  We have much information from our survey that would be useful for the University to take into account.

Monday, March 25, 2013

McMillen criticises Newcastle Herald article on exodus of senior staff

Caroline McMillen, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle, has criticised the Newcastle Herald for their front page article on the exodus of senior staff from the University.  McMillen sent a long email on Saturday morning to all university staff - the Newcastle Herald has printed this email in full in the paper today.

The Newcastle Herald states that
"Professor McMillen said in her email  the idea ‘‘that some of our senior staff had left because they were not viewed to be part of the future of this great institution’’ was ‘‘complete rubbish’’."

She goes on to say that  "Clearly, the natural history of academic careers was less compelling than some mischievous conspiracy theory or some disaffected gossip."

The Herald reported that they had spoken to "three senior academic staff".  McMillen called them "three anonymous colleagues" (they are obviously still employed by the university).

  According to the Newcastle Herald, they have been contacted by other academics over the weekend "to praise the article" (i.e. the Herald's original article on the exodus). 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Senior staff exodus from the University of Newcastle

The Newcastle Herald has reported that there is an exodus of senior staff from the University.  Some are retiring, some are moving on to new positions and the future of some of them is unknown.

Those who have recently left and those now leaving include

  • Professor Mike Calford
  • Professor McConkey
  • Mary Sharp (IT chief)
  • Professor Stephen Crump
  • Professor John Carter

Professor Ted Wright is going back to teaching and Scott Holmes is going on a year's research leave.

Some other senior staff (not mentioned in the Newcastle Herald article) have "disappeared" e.g. Professor Sue Gould, Professor Tony Williams and Ian Pike (Director of HR). 

The Newcastle Herald states that some staff are on extended sick leave.

The newspaper article states further that

"While headhunters scour the globe for leadership talent, some current top academics claim they no longer feel wanted at the institution."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"Time to say no to bullying" - Letter in Newcastle Herald

This is a letter published in the Newcastle Herald on March 18.

"Time to say no to uni bullying

I HAVE a bachelor’s degree and masters from the University of Newcastle and feel ashamed to be part of its alumni in the light of current bullying allegations.

The irony of the matter is that systematic bullying is undertaken by educational institutions that should be there to promote egalitarianism.

I urge all University of Newcastle alumni and the community at large to send strong messages to the University of Newcastle and all workplaces that include:

1. Nil tolerance of any systematic bullying.
2. Nil sidelining of victims or rally organisers.
3. No reprisals for standing up and shouting ‘‘no’’  to bullying.
4. Bullying is against the  Workplace, Health and Safety Act.
5. Install systems that scream no tolerance of bullying.
6. Provide psychiatric evaluations of people in positions of power who have a proven history of bullying.
7. Do not put people in positions of power with a history of bullying.

Bullying and sex molestation are similar in that they destroy human beings.

 Maria Charlton,
Newcastle East"

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Another "Let's be clear"......

According to Caroline McMillen, VC of the University of Newcastle in March 2013.

"Let’s be clear that our university is a remarkable and rewarding place to work for more than 6400 staff who feel absolutely passionate about what they do through their research, their teaching and as professional staff. They have told us this directly – in our 2012 survey of our staff, 80per cent expressed ‘‘strong job satisfaction’’." (Emphasis added)

According to the Newcastle Herald in December 2012

"The Newcastle Herald can reveal that an average of three  employees started  counselling sessions every week last year.

And nine staff lodged workers’ compensation claims for work-related psychological injuries between January 2011 and March this year. Six were accepted by the university’s insurer.

Figures obtained under freedom-of-information laws (Government Information Public Access)  show 227 people, including 160 staff and 67 relatives, saw psychologists for counselling last year.

This included 79 people who sought help for anxiety, 33 for depression and 59 for stress. The figures did not distinguish  between staff and relatives or work- and non-work-related problems.

By comparison, the number of staff and relatives who accessed counselling services in 2005 during the university’s radical restructure and job cuts was 126." (Emphasis added).

Monday, March 18, 2013

Let's be clear.....

In her opinion piece in the Newcastle Herald, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle, Caroline McMillen said regarding bullying that

"What can start out as an interpersonal conflict can sometimes spiral and firmly held professional opinions can lead to strong disagreements. "

If the Vice-Chancellor/university media had conducted even a brief search of the research into bullying, she would have found that terms such as "Interpersonal conflict" or "personality clash" are standard rhetoric used used to deny or dismiss bullying. 

Here are a few examples:-
  • Calling bullying a personality clash "is an infringement on target's human rights and a denial of his/her dignity."
  • "A personality clash is where two people of equal rank or status or value or power don't see eye to eye. Bullying consists of a pattern of persistent, daily, trivial, nitpicking criticism, isolation, exclusion, undermining, discrediting, setting up to fail, etc on a target who the bully has disempowered and disenfranchised. HR departments frequently write off bullying as a "personality clash", much to the delight of the bully who is always trying to heap all the blame onto their target."
  • "Personality clash is used to deny or discount the experiences of those being bullied or used as an excuse to avoid getting involved."   
We are happy to provide the University with extensive information on bullying and its implications if they need any clarification on these issues.
Caroline McMillen, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle, has stated in the Newcastle Herald that

"This is part of an ongoing anonymous campaign run through both virtual and other means  to suggest that bullying is rife."

FACT: The "campaign" is not anonymous.  We are happy to use our names, and do so.  As with any blog (the VC herself has a blog), we cannot force people who make comments on our blog, to identify themselves. Three named ex-academics asked the Vice Chancellor for a meeting to discuss the results of our survey - she emailed these people by name but refused to meet them because they are "anonymous"!

FACT: This website has never alleged that "Bullying is rife".  We have never attempted to find out how many people have been bullied at the University.  What we have done in our survey is asked people to describe their bullying experiences  Nearly 200 people have now done this of their own free will. 

As stated previously on this blog, it is crucial that any discussion about bullying keeps to the facts.

According to Caroline McMillen, Vice Chancellor of the University of Newcastle,

"IN recent weeks, cars in the university car parks have been regularly plastered with flyers about bullying in the workplace and our students and staff have been corralled to rallies." (The Newcastle Herald)

FACT: The United Stand against Bullying has not "regularly plastered" cars with flyers.

FACT:  "Corralled" = confined, locked up.  The United Stand against Bullying has handed out flyers to staff and students (as do many other organisations, associations, groups and commercial enterprises).  Those staff and students who attended the rally did so of their own free will.

As McMillen states, bullying is a complex issue. 

It is very important to keep to the facts so as not to inflame the situation.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Free speech

"Free speech and open debate are hallmarks of any good university and are the foundation of any tolerant and respectful community." - Caroline, McMillen, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle.

The University of Newcastle tries to stifle reports of bullying (“University Vice-chancellor Nick Saunders has strongly denied a culture of bullying at the institution.” - Newcastle Herald, 18th March 2010).  “Stop workplace bullying” posters on campus have been instantly removed by security guards.  Security recorded the personal details of the person putting up the posters, apparently under direct instruction from the previous Vice Chancellor, Professor Nick Saunders.

In October 2011, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Kevin McConkey, informed all staff that the University had engaged “external agencies, including the Australian Federal Police” to investigate the issue of “stop workplace bullying posters” and the blog site.  University lawyers also instructed Youtube to block a video clip reporting the survey results; this video clip could not be (and still cannot be) viewed from Australia (http://youtu.be/GFtmRmtvhAQ).  
In the survey, 15 people reported that they have been gagged by the university.  They reported that the University  “provided me a written policy that I was not allowed to discuss any information about my situation inside and outside the university” or ”had to sign a document not to discuss or sue or take class action”.
A recent request from three named ex-academics to meet the new Vice Chancellor, Professor Caroline McMillen was refused on the grounds that she does not engage with “individuals who post anonymous messages on line”.

The Newcastle Herald reported the following quote from Professor Caroline McMillen, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcstle.

"‘‘We can only request that organisers and supporters of today’s rally reflect on whether such consequences related directly to their actions and whether they could have been foreseen and mitigated,’’ Professor McMillen said."

FACT: The United Stand against Bullying movement received threats about the rally.  They took these threats seriously.  That is why they reported the threats (with written evidence) to the police.  What happened was not "related directly to their actions".  The rally was a peaceful protest against bullying in any form and in any situation.

Did the University know about these threats?
Is that why the venue of the hearing was so suddenly changed to Cessnock (about one hour's drive from Newcastle) ?

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Professor Caroline McMillen, Vice Chancellor of the University of Newcastle, as reported in the Newcastle Herald,
"accused the anti-bullying group of its own ‘‘cyberbullying’’, reprising comments made by the university in relation to a protest against her predecessor, Nick Saunders, in 2011."

Here is the Youtube clip that the University had blocked in Australia (viewed via the creator's facebook page).  Youtube did not consider it illegal.


Judge for yourselves if this is cyberbullying!

Friday, March 15, 2013


 To make bullying stop, we have to act
We are making a stand against bullying anywhere
School, playground, workplaces, cyber bullying 
Friday 15th March at 1.30
17 Bolton Street, Newcastle (Oz)

Parking available at Courtroom Parking, directly across from 17 Bolton Street.
 Questions?  Info? standupagainstbullying15032013@gmail.com

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

“Extreme and unrelenting” says victim of bullying at the University of Newcastle

Extreme and unrelenting” says victim of bullying at the University of Newcastle
The bullying suffered by current and past staff at the University of Newcastle has been  described as “extreme and unrelenting”, “appalling, devastating, shocking” and “offensive and embarrassing”.  Another victim reported that it was “like being stripped naked and taken into a gas chamber.  The only difference is the pain isn’t stopped by dying, because somehow you have to live through it even though the toxicity just never stops”.  The effects of bullying on physical and psychological health are substantial.
More than half the 195 respondents from the University to a survey stated that they had sleep problems and depression.   They spoke of being under extreme stress, “constant panic at the workplace”, “random periods of tears”, “feeling under threat, walking on eggshells” or “feeling overwhelmed, extremely disliked, powerless, disenfranchised”. 
About one-third also reported headaches and constant tiredness, as well as digestive problems and nausea.   Of concern is the high number (40 people) who had increased their alcohol and smoking intake, with 42 suffering from hypertension and heart palpitations.  Smoking and alcohol are a major contributor to death rates and ill-health in Australia.
Last year, the Parliamentary Inquiry into Workplace Bullying produced a report on steps to be taken to stop bullying.  The “United Stand against Bullying” movement is holding a protest at 17 Bolton Street, Newcastle, at 1.30 pm on Friday 15th March 2013.  This protest will coincide with a Work Injury Damages Claim, the first ever in Australia because of bullying.  If you would like to join the protest or get further information, please email  standupagainstbullying15032013@gmail.com

Monday, March 11, 2013

4 (four)
sleeps to go 
until the United Stand against Bullying protest.

To make bullying stop, we have to act
Friday 15th March at 1.30
17 Bolton Street, Newcastle (Oz)

One of the first ever Work Injury Damages Claim in Australia for bullying, harassment and victimisation will be mediated in the Workers Compensation Commission.  
 Parking available at Courtroom Parking, directly across from 17 Bolton Street.
 Questions?  Info? standupagainstbullying15032013@gmail.com

Friday, March 8, 2013

All is right with the world!!?????

"Bullying can happen in any workplace and at any level. With the right culture and the right framework, we will continue to ensure that at UoN we are minimising the risk of bullying occurring and, when it does, our response is timely, professional and supportive of everyone involved."
Professor Caroline McMillen, 
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle 

"University Vice-chancellor Nick Saunders has strongly denied a culture of bullying at the institution."
Newcastle Herald
18th March 2010

Thursday, March 7, 2013


8 (eight)
sleeps to go 
until the United Stand against Bullying protest.

To make bullying stop, we have to act
Friday 15th March at 1.30
17 Bolton Street, Newcastle (Oz)

One of the first ever Work Injury Damages Claim in Australia for bullying, harassment and victimisation will be mediated in the Workers Compensation Commission.  
 Questions?  Info? standupagainstbullying15032013@gmail.com