Stop Bullying at University of Newcastle - Australia

We, the undersigned, petition the Ombudsman to instigate an open enquiry into allegations of workplace bullying / harassment at the University of Newcastle, NSW, and concerns about the way senior management have dealt with complaints about such bullying.

In a survey (166 respondents), conducted via the web-site Stop Bullying at University of Newcastle (Oz), the most common effects of bullying were:

• Sleep problems 75.8%,
• Depression 68.9%
• Headaches 46.2%
• Constant tiredness 36.4%

Of major concern is the fact that 24.2% (32 respondents) had suicidal thoughts.

At the University of Newcastle, workplace bullying has become part of a management culture, and policies on workplace bullying are ignored or are ineffectual in dealing with the problem. Unions recommend victims and witnesses of bullying avoid making complaints if they wish to preserve their career. Survey results of bullied victims report:

• 42.8% of respondents were planning to leave the university
• 34.8% were looking for or had found work outside the university
• 27.7% had asked for or already been transferred to another area of the university
• 31 respondents had themselves, or knew of others who had, been given a payout with a gagging clause

Dissatisfaction with the way bullying is dealt with at the University of Newcastle has come under public scrutiny. Significant amounts of tax payers’ money has been used by the University to cover up the serious nature of bullying in this workplace including so called “independent investigations”, paid for and supervised by the University. Survey results indicate:

• Only 4.5% of respondents were satisfied with the outcome of their complaint
• For over half (51.8%), no action was taken by their supervisor or human resources.

Most cases of bullying at the University of Newcastle are directly or indirectly related to the reporting of misconduct. This bullying of “whistleblowers” at the University of Newcastle was previously scrutinized by the NSW Ombudsman who concluded in 2003, that

“Your case suggests this is another area of the University’s culture that may need to be addressed to make clear that whistleblowers –…– are given wholehearted support and encouragement by the university and staff. Any further indication that there may be problems in the handling of whistleblowers will provide A POWERFUL SPUR FOR US TO COMMENCE A FORMAL INVESTIGATION OF THE UNIVERSITY'S CONDUCT IN THIS RESPECT" (Ref: C/2003/7465) (Capitals added)

Therefore, we ask the Ombudsman to act on their statement and commence an independent investigation into the fact that the University of Newcastle fails to provide a safe work environment for staff or students by condoning bullying behaviour and using bullying tactics against staff and students who speak out against inappropriate practices.

We invite you to join our petition for an investigation into workplace bullying and harassment at The University of Newcastle.