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, April 21, 2013


Did you know that
"THE University of Newcastle wants to be ranked among the top two per cent of the world’s universities by 2015, Vice-Chancellor Caroline McMillen said today.

Professor McMillen said the rise of the Asian Century combined with heightened competition for talented staff and students made it essential for the university to compete on the world stage." (emphasis added) (Newcastle Herald). (Also see uni video)

according to the University of Newcastle website

"The University of Newcastle is a challenger brand. We don't define ourselves by where we sit relative to other organisations, but by our achievements, who we are, the sort of people who work here and the students who study here." (emphasis added)

So is the University competing against others or comparing itself to others... or not????

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Nick Saunders named in ICAC inquiry into mine

Nick Saunders, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle and now Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Bond University, has been named in the ICAC inquiry into the Doyles Creek Mine. 

According to the Newcastle Herald,

"AN offer of $250,000 a year in funding from a state government department to the University of Newcastle was presented by a Doyles Creek mine proponent and close friend of then minister Ian Macdonald, a corruption inquiry has heard.

Senior university staff noted in internal emails concerns of the ‘‘irregular’’ manner by which John Maitland, also a former union boss and influential Labor Party figure, had made the offer on behalf of the Department of Primary Industries to establish a new chair position at the university.

However, the institute went on to write a letter of support for the mine proposal and sign agreements with the Department and Doyles Creek Mining, for $1 million from each over four years, to establish its Institute of Frontier Geoscience.

Other internal university emails, presented to the Independent Commission Against Corruption yesterday, showed staff, including Vice Chancellor Nicholas Saunders, began discussing a public relations strategy in about July 2008 to announce their collaboration with Doyles Creek Mining, on the understanding Mr Macdonald may make a decision or announcement about the company’s mine project by the end of the month."

The Herald further reports that Mr Maitland went on to say

"‘I sense that it is about the credibility and authority that the university can bring to this proposal,’’ he wrote in an email to his boss, Research and Development Pro Vice Chancellor Barney Glover.

In October 2007, Dr Johnson advised Professor Glover via email he had received an ‘‘unusual’’ phone call from Mr Maitland on a Saturday morning that included mention of the department providing funding to the university and the offer of a meeting with Mr Macdonald."

What does this say about the integrity of senior executives at the University of Newcastle?

For more details on the involvement of the University of Newcastle in this inquiry, see Newcastle Herald.

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.

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.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Use of tax payers' money by the University of Newcastle - response by Michelle Adams

I wonder how much money was spent by the UoN to get rid of me. Let's just consider the following (and I am including insurer cost as the UoN is SELF INSURED):
1. UoN sent me to two psychiatrists and 4 sessions, and the UoN Insurer sent me to three psychiatrists and a psychologist in attempts to get reports to support their case.
2. The UoN and their Insurer has had an external legal team (Solicitors and Barristers) to fight me against me in the Workers Compensation Commission, and the Industrial Relations Commission. I have forgotten how many hearings there have been, greater than ten at least. The UoN has not won any of these court cases against me. 
3. Even though I was fit to work, the UoN paid other casual people to take over my work duties, in fact one casual was my HOS wife! Then the UoN claimed I was no longer needed as there were no duties for me.....but the duties remained for the casuals.
4. The UoN commissioned an external legal agency to investigate my claims. The UoN defined the terms of reference to restrict the events that could be investigated to a specific and limited period of my claim, and also restricted which staff could be investigated in my claim. In particular I requested the actions of the then Vice Chancellor Nick Saunders and the then Chancellor  Trevor Waring be investigated, and I was told that these two were exempt from the investigation. The investigation involved 10's if not 100's of hours of personal interview, and huge report of 100's of pages, the cost.....well at least two solicitors at $300-400 per hour? An investigation that was flawed if not corrupted by the UoN from the beginning.

These exclude other medical, legal and other professional etc costs that have directly related to the way I was treated by the UoN.

My legal issues began with the UoN when I put a Workers Compensation Claim in for bullying. The bullying began after I reported an academic staff member for academic misconduct, in fact for plagiarising the work of an honours student. The UoN admitted in the Industrial Relations Commission that the ACADEMIC MISCONDUCT did occur. The Workers Compensation Commission ACCEPTED my claim for work place injuries caused by the UoN. 

Academic proven to to have engaged in ACADEMIC MISCONDUCT - promoted and supported by the UoN.
Student who was plagiarised - work never accredited back to them, and in fact remains credited to the  academic who stole it.
Me- I was terminated in 2011 by the UoN by email, giving me two days notice to clean out my office. I am still engaged in legal actions with the UoN, who still categorically deny any involvement and wrong doing in my case.

Am I the only one who has experienced this treatment. The answer is NO. 

That is what is so terrifying, how much tax payers money is the UoN willing to throw at covering up unethical and corrupt behaviour??

The ICAC - not interested in getting involved?
The Ombudsman - not interested in getting involved?
Our elected Parliamentary Representatives - not interested in getting involved?

The truth is the UoN is autonomous and not answerable to no one, so can use our tax money for whatever they please.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Financial advice for the University of Newcastle

The government has announced 2 billion dollars worth of cuts to tertiary education.

According to the ABC, "Caroline Perkins, the executive officer of the Regional Universities Network says the cuts will make it difficult for students from regional areas to enrol in courses and for those who are financially disadvantaged."

Here is some friendly advice to help the University of Newcastle save money so that it can deal with this shortfall of funding.

·         Stop gagging staff who have been victimised and bullied.  15 people reported in our survey that they had been gagged by the University.  We estimate that each of these were given around $250,000 or more e.g. additional funding into their super.  This amount is low compared to the payouts of senior executives who have had their contracts paid out - these executives earn over $350,000 per year.

·         Stop funding barristers and solicitors to fight legitimate claims of harassment and victimisation brought against the Uni.  Fees for barristers in Australia range from $5,000 to $8,000 per day.

·         Stop funding barristers and solicitors to protect individual senior management staff that have broken Australian Workplace and OH&S and other laws to cover up misconduct at the UoN

·         Stop employing external investigators to investigate complaints.  External investigators' fees range from $80 per hour and more.  The corporate investigators that the University of Newcastle use are Sydney-based and often involve legal firms that provide two or more senior solicitors to access claims, so it is realistic to have hourly rates around $400 per hour per investigator. The University of Newcastle always decide on the terms of reference for the investigations, and in so doing ensure their outcome if favourable.

·         Stop funding such a large legal unit within the University, particularly as the turnover of staff from this unit (with associated payouts) is high.

·         Stop funding psychiatrists to examine and re-examine staff and students until they get the report required. Even if that means writing to the psychiatrist providing deliberately false information to sway the opinion against the staff or student concerned

"Changing Universities" - a new book by John Biggs

Professor John Biggs who was Professor of Education at the University of Newcastle for fourteen years, has recently published his book entitled "Changing Universities:A memoir about academe in different places and time".

"How have universities changed? Are they functioning any better now than they once were? These are some of the issues that John Biggs faces in reviewing his long academic career".

This book includes a chapter on his experiences as professor at the University of Newcastle - a preview of this chapter can be found on John's website (Chapter 8).

The book is available as an e-book and in hard copy - for further information, visit John Biggs' website.

You can also read this chapter by John Biggs entitled  The University of Newcastle:Prelude to Dawkins, an update

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Anti-bullying video in Victoria

Victoria Government has launched a campaign, including a video, to tackle bullying and promote the anti-bullying legislation, following the tragic death of Brodie Panlock.

The video includes Brodie's parents, sportsmen and women and the police.

Have a look at it and see whether you think this would be effective in the bullying situation you have experienced?

The "Psychology of Evil"

Remember the Stanford prison experiments?

"when playing the role of guards, ordinary non-sadistic people became increasingly aggressive, were arbitrary in their punishments, and exhibited pleasure at the humiliation of their "prisoners." The more they dehumanized these prisoners, acted under the cloak of anonymity, and realized there would be no accountability for their abuses, the more their aggression escalated." (emphasis added).

"Even among those guards who initially resisted the aggression, all eventually rationalized their decision to join ranks with authoritarian guards, and all soon rationalized their behavior as legitimate due to the behavior of the one being punished -- even when the one being punished had clearly done nothing wrong and the punishment was by any standard a violation of human decency. Perhaps most disturbing of all, no matter how great and arbitrary the cruelty became, none of those who inflicted the brutality expressed any remorse when they returned home and were free of the artificial "prison" in which they'd acted with impunity. By having legitimated their actions as necessary and brought on by the target, through a process of cognitive dissonance the "guards" had come to believe they acted morally and appropriately. " (emphasis added).

Janice Harper has applied Zimbardo's findings to workplace bullying and states that "we can readily see how rapidly an entire workforce can be swept into the maelstrom of aggression when someone in a position of leadership marks a worker for elimination."

The slippery slope towards mobbing or bullying can start with something simple e.g. " retaliation for reporting sexual harassment, discrimination or unlawful behavior."

Many of us have experienced this type of group behaviour at the University of Newcastle - a culture of bullying and coverup seems to prevail.

Harper recommends that the focus should shift from the bullies, "to a focus on the institutional context that ignites group bullying or mobbing in the workplace".  She states that this may result in "more effective workplace policies and practices".

Monday, April 1, 2013

"University Inc"

Ian Kirkwood has written in the Newcastle Herald about the changes to academia which results in universities being seen and acting like big corporations, with highly paid executives at the top. 

In an era of increasing numbers of contract staff, Kirkwood points out the significance of academic staff having tenure.  If staff have job security, they may feel able to speak freely, one of the long-standing rights to free speech that has been so valued in academia.

Unfortunately, as Kirkwood indicates,
"Staff see what has happened to the few people who have launched complaints against their institutions and decide that discretion is the better part of valour."

A number of us involved with this website and others who responded to our survey are certainly not good adverts for speaking out about staff misconduct and/or made complaints - many of us are unemployed, with our skills, enthusiasm and passion wasted.

As Professor Raewyn Connell from the University of Sydney wrote,

"The very last thing a university needs is an intimidated and conformist workforce.’’