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)

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

An open letter to those academics who bullied me out of my job at the University

Remember me?  I am the person who you bullied out/got rid of/destroyed/vaporised/ eradicated.  I have never been given a reason why, neither before, during or since.  Was it because I spoke to my immediate manager about staff misconduct?  I am the person who is now unemployed, not allowed to attend meetings, prevented from attending workshops, shunned and ostracised by the academic community in my field.  My physical and psychological health has been destroyed, my relationships with family and friends are strained.

The work we do is a significant aspect of our identity – for all of you your profession, your academic standing and your university titles are very important.  How would you feel if  this was all suddenly taken away from you – your plans, your goals, your training, your studies, your hard work, your passions, your dreams – all trashed.   Even worse, how would you feel it this was taken away from you because you followed university policy i.e. you did the “right” thing and reported staff misconduct?

Because of your “power” and “standing”, you were easily able to influence your colleagues throughout Australia and could easily spread untruths.  Why did you do this?  To get in first so that I would not be believed??

Try to envisage my life as it is now - imagine if every day was a struggle as it is for me.  I get up every day and know that I cannot do my work, cannot continue doing what I  love, cannot help the people I want to help with my clinical work, my research, etc.  I know that most of the people in my profession “no longer know me” – I am shunned, ostracised, isolated and ignored.  I can be at a conference and I am invisible.  I can be at a workshop or meeting and I am invisible.  Even those people who may want to be in contact with me cannot be seen talking to me because their careers are at risk.  My job applications, emails and letters are never “received” by your colleagues from other universities.

My family relationships are tense – my family do not know how to help.  My kids are so disilusioned – I always taught them to stand up for what is right.  My family and friends do not know what to do with my depression, with my suicidal thoughts.  What would you do if your partner, your mother, your child, your friend was considering suicide?  Would you want to put the burden of your suicidal thoughts on anyone else?  Would you want your child to worry that you might be dead by the time they get back home from work or school?

Does it feel like a huge victory to you to see someone so destroyed?  Do you quietly gloat and wink knowingly with your co-conspirators?  Do you smile with satisfaction when you see me snubbed and ignored?  Does it make you feel happy when you see my unhappiness and tears?  Do you applaud yourself for rising through the ranks because you colluded with others in covering up the truth and thereby managed to silence me and prevent me from telling the truth?

Can you ignore the little voice inside you which whispers that what you did and continue to do  is unjust, undeserved and unethical?  When you look in the mirror in the morning, do you have a clear conscience?  Or do you enjoy the reflected image you see of someone who has been promoted, by unfair and immoral means?  How would you and your colleagues feel if you were the direct cause of someone’s suicide?  Would you have a clear conscience then?

As A A Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh, stated
“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.”

Perhaps that small voice will whisper to you that your career, power and standing were not worth destroying another person’s life.  

Friday, August 31, 2018

The death of Michael Spautz

It is with considerable sadness that we have heard of the death of Michael Spautz, a past senior lecturer in the Commerce Department at the University of Newcastle.

Michael tried by various means to raise issues about the research record and PhD research of a newly appointed professor.  He tried official channels which were blocked.  He then attempted to raise the issues with the administration of the University. 

His efforts drew the attention of the University of administration – an inquiry was set up.  Instead of investigating Michael’s allegations, the inquiry focused on Michael’s own behaviour.  “Basically, he was told to shut up” (Martin 2018).

Following a second inquiry, Michael was dismissed.  in Australia it is quite rare for a tenured academic to be fired” (Martin 2018).  He continued his campaign, launched court cases and was eventually declared a vexatious litigant.

“The University of Newcastle paid a severe penalty too. Spautz’s campaign brought it unwelcome attention, and several senior figures at the university had to spend considerable time dealing with Spautz’s charges against them. There were occasional news reports about Spautz’s legal cases. For a university administration, this is not a desired sort of media coverage.”

“More damaging was the effect of the dismissal on the academic culture at the university. Although many staff found Spautz’s behaviour objectionable, many also were disturbed by his dismissal. “

“When I visited the campus in 1981, a year after Spautz had been dismissed, I could sense fear. Some staff did not want even to discuss Spautz, as if that would taint them and make them vulnerable. Openly expressing disagreement with the dismissal was felt to be risky, perhaps because they might be next. Spautz was unbowed by his dismissal, but it frightened many others.”

“At the University of Newcastle, all that administrators did was set up committees of inquiry that focused on Spautz’s behaviour.” (Martin 2018)

Michael’s case was and is not unusual for the University of Newcastle.  Professor Don Parkes has reported on how the University of Newcastle handled a case of fraudulent doctoral level scholarship in his book “Doctored”.

The widely-publicised case of Dr Michelle Wills (Adams) is another case in point.  So are cases brought before the Parliamentary Workplace Bullying Inquiry.

This website has survey results from 195 staff and students at the University of Newcastle who were victims of bullying at the University – many had raised issues of staff misconduct and had been bullied as a result.

Recent cases of bullying at the University of Newcastle indicate that NOTHING has changed.  

Friday, November 24, 2017

Banning sex between academics and students

"Academics at RMIT University in Melbourne are calling for Australian universities to institute a blanket ban on sex between faculty members and students." (ABC online)

Whoa!! That's big!

10 per cent of all postgraduate students in Australia had been sexually harassed by a tutor or lecturer, and 6 per cent of undergraduate students, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission survey.

It is well known that sexual harassment and sexual relationships occur in certain schools at the University of Newcastle.

It's also well known that those students often get privileged access to employment based on these relationships.  Nepotism, nepotism, everywhere!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A classic case of workplace bullying and ostracism?

The following summary (submission 53) was obtained from 


From 2003 to 2007 (a period of five and a half years), I worked predominantly within the speech pathology discipline as a part-time or casual lecturer, course co-ordinator, researcher and/or clinical educator with the then head of discipline, XXXXXXX   (“ XXXXX   ”). During this period, my conference presentation and paper publication rate was similar to or greater than most other staff members in the discipline. I also contributed a substantial amount (around one to two days a week) of my own unpaid time supporting students, ongoing and casual staff. I was involved in a number of external grant applications and had an NMHRC UQ administered post-doctoral fellowship for three years. For four years I was on an annually-renewed contract as a clinical educator with the university’s highly successful aphasia groups, run as a joint project between the speech pathology discipline and XXXXXXXX, XXX XXXX.

During this lengthy period, I also discussed a number of problems that arose within the discipline with XXXXX  . These problems included soft marking, being told to ignore plagiarism, staff absences due to personal interests, unfair, incorrect and unrepresentative exam papers and assignments, as well as a lack of preparation and support for students on their clinical placements, amongst other difficulties. On all these occasions, XXXX   was receptive to these difficulties and spoke openly about the staffing difficulties she was having.

In mid-2007, a new ongoing lectureship was approved for the discipline.  XXXX approached    (“XXXX   ”) to fill the position.   XXXX did not fulfil the essential criteria for the position and was the only person interviewed. Furthermore, there was a conflict of interest on  XXXX  ’s part during the recruitment process. I discussed these anomalies confidentially with the Faculty representative in Human Resources.

Reprisals against me were swift, immediate and devastating. I have been subject to “harassment” and “bullying” as defined in Policy XXXXX   This situation is known to the Head of School, Humanities and Social Sciences, and to Human Resources but no action has been taken.

In December 2007, on the second working day after my HR meeting and whilst I was still employed, I was told by XXXX   that I was hostile and could not work with a team. She told me to relocate my office and refused to renew my aphasia group contract, despite the fact that the groups had already been organised for the following year and that around 30 patients would be without therapy. She said that I must not contact her directly – only via the head of school. She later also told me that I could not enter my office during working hours. At that stage, I was using software licensed to my computer for my NHMRC research (on which  XXXXXXXXX was an investigator). It then took two and a half months before I was able to continue my NHMRC research in my new office. I had a personal item stolen and was physically prevented from attending meetings, obtaining my mail and removed from all mailing lists or any contact with Speech Pathology, despite XXXX   being my “supervisor” on the NHMRC project and also despite my name and personal website appearing on the speech pathology discipline webpages.

Subsequently, I have been ostracised by the majority of SP academia in Australia. My applications for employment as a lecturer/researcher and email contact with colleagues in other universities are not acknowledged and previous teaching in Sydney has been discontinued. I have been unable to obtain employment as a lecturer and/or researcher within speech pathology. At conferences and workshops within Australia, my research colleagues actively scorn me.  XXXX ’s lack of involvement in the NHMRC resulted in our research data being incomplete.

In April 2010 I made a Protected Disclosure to   XXX, VC of the University as well as a complaint regarding the reprisals that had been taken against me. Both these were dismissed by the university.
I was subsequently employed within the School of Architecture and the Built Environment at the university (March 2009 to February 2012). When my contracts came up for renewal at the start of the academic year (2012), the Pro-Vice Chancellor refused to allow any further employment contracts be issued to me, despite the fact that my contract, number of hours and number of students had already been arranged within the Head of School. I have never been notified of the reasons for this, or contacted by the Head of School. I am now not employed."

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"Rape, attempted rape, and other sexual misconduct" at the University of Newcastle

"THE largest ever Freedom of Information investigation into reports of rape, attempted rape, and other sexual misconduct at Australian universities shows most victims have been wasting their breath reporting their abuse."

We have had reports of sexual harassment and abuse at the University of Newcastle from both students and staff.  What happens when people report this?  Does it vanish into a big black hole like most misconduct at the University of Newcastle, particularly if it is staff misconduct?

In this FoI investigation by Channel 7, there were 14 reported cases at the University of Newcastle.  Two people were suspended and there were two expulsions.

What about all the other cases?  We know that international students who have been sexually harassed by professors and other senior staff have had their complaints silenced within their school or faculty.  We also know that school heads have evidence of sexual harassment by staff but the university will not take any action.

At least the University of Newcastle is consistent - any misconduct, particularly by members of staff, must be silenced, those who make complaints must be gagged, destroyed and vaporised.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Keeping the Bentley in petrol!

Staff, both professional and academic, are in uproar about the university-wide restructure that is aimed at cutting professional staff jobs.

"This restructure follows a constant stream of no less than 15 major, formal, reviews and restructures of organisational units across the university over the past three years", according to Associate Professor Tom Griffiths of the NTEU.

All the usual empty slogans are being trotted out by Caroline McMillen, the Vice-Chancellor:-
  •  "agile solutions’
  • ‘greater flexibility’
  •  “embracing changes”
  •  “ensuring that we’ve got the best organisational and professional support at the university for what is a changing academic enterprise”.
  •  “It's a conversation … about thinking through different changes that might come and how do we handle that. 
The results of the annual "Your Voice" survey have not been released.  "However Professor McMillen said the survey was being released in a more targeted way than in the past" Newcastle Herald.

Is this because the results will demonstrate the low morale of staff and their lack of confidence in the university management?  "This is unprecedented, and reflects very poorly indeed on management,” Professor Tom Griffiths said.

"The available evidence, in fact, suggests that the university’s senior leadership may be in crisis.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) is leaving at the end of this month, and despite significant notice, interim arrangements to cover this role were announced just this week.

The Faculty of Science and IT last had an ongoing leader back in 2014. Since then, no fewer than three acting or interim leaders have been drafted to hold the fort.

The leader of the Faculty of Business and Law is due to leave next year, and again it appears likely that instead of a timely and considered succession, interim arrangements will follow." (Newcastle Herald)

The senior managers at the University enjoy astronomical salaries as well as bonuses which they award themselves when they do a good job.   The current Vice-Chancellor, Caroline McMillen, gets around $900,000 a year.

She needs that to keep putting fuel in her Bentley!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Calling all those who have been sexually abused at the University of Newcastle - Submissions on sexual assault and sexual harassment at university

The Human Rights Commission is conducting an investigation on sexual abuse at universities. 

"The Australian Human Rights Commission is calling for submissions relating to individuals’ experiences of sexual assault and sexual harassment at university. This is part of a major project being undertaken by the Commission which is looking at the nature and reporting of sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities."

You can make a submission via their website - here.

Closing date is Friday 2nd December 2016.

All information they get will be de-identified so that no-one can be identifiable from their submission.