Hey Lifeline, take bullying seriously!
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Updated post-hospitalisation 1 February 2018
In case you are unaware, between December 2017 and January 2018, an employee in one of your member organisations – Lifeline South Coast – was forced to make the ridiculous choice between whistleblowing on bullying and other WHS concerns in her local branch or losing her job.
Luckily, for Lifeline Australia anyway, this coal-face Lifeline worker saw the future longevity and value of the 13 11 14 number as important enough to keep fighting for. Dr Angela Williams blew this whistle on Lifeline South Coast, lost her job and was driven to the brink of suicide (and hospitalisation after over fifteen years 'off the wards').
What Angela wanted was for workplace bullying to be taken seriously by Lifeline South Coast. She was driven to the edge by bullying and stonewalling then fired right when she was at the most dangerous according to Lifeline's own 'best-practice guidelines'. Her concerns and recommendations are to be dropped on the plate of new uninitiated workers, her team has been dumped (again) and if you don't listen to this appeal will continue to be swept under the rug.
This is an intolerable outcome of a suicidal worker blowing the whistle on an organisation committed to 'an Australia free of suicide', but that's for the lawyers to decide. As a member of the Board of Directors of Lifeline Australia, it is now your job to make something of this brave woman’s sacrifice and see ‘the opportunity for change which crisis presents’ (Your Values).
This petition asks you, the decision makers within Lifeline Australia, to immediately and without delay put in place a best practice reporting system where workers (both paid and voluntary) can report concerns ‘outside of the line management structure’, in particular concerns and feedback relating to management and board actions.
This petition asks you to implement the best-practice recommendations contained in the June 2017 publication ‘Whistleblowing at Your Not-for-profit: A leader’s guide’, considering their final word on the topic:
‘It all becomes easier once senior management understands how crucial whistleblowing is to good risk management – it’s often the earliest and best warning system on problem areas in the organisation.’
Professor A J Brown, Centre for Governance and Public Policy, Griffith University, 2016
The Crisis: January 2018’s Whistle
In December 2017, Dr Angela Williams, Team Leader, Books for Lifeline South Coast, put her job on the line to report serious WHS risks to her employers. The report was met with an external investigation and ‘special leave’. At no stage after the report did anyone from Lifeline contact her to ‘check in’, despite Angela being markedly mentally ill and having spoken openly about current suicidality. Her only contact with Lifeline was an Independent Investigator and the Chairman of the Board who was aggressive and dismissive from the start. You can contact Angela for a recording of the call Chair Stephen Long made to her initiating the investigation and recorded with his consent.
In January 2018, the Independent Investigator informed Angela that only a small section of her complaint was to be investigated by him, with the rest being handed over to two incoming hires, the new CEO and Trading Manager. This action failed to take into account the many words in the problematic December Feedback dedicated to the risks associated with this ongoing organisational practice of ‘let the new sucker handle it’ (and give them the boot when they inevitably fail/go mad). Angela refused to quietly allow the organisation to whitewash her concerns, and instead recorded the video attached to this petition and blew the whistle.
Angela recorded this video after attempting to contact your National offices about her concerns, an action considered by the regional office to be a ‘serious enough breach’ of directions to remain silent that they threatened to fire her. Angela blew this whistle because it should be impossible to be punished by Lifeline for speaking to Lifeline.
Angela recorded this video because the only line of communication with Lifeline left open to her was lawyers. Lawyers who used old stigmas regarding suicidality and mental illness to silence her and responded to her email saying she was going to hospital with a notice of dismissal marked ‘for your urgent attention’. Lawyers who sent police to Angela’s house, despite knowing she was driving interstate. Angela blew this whistle because those lawyers were paid for by money that should have been going to 13 11 14.
You are lucky Angela had the guts to do what Lifeline South Coast needed. Angela left Wollongong Hospital Psychiatric Unit on 31 January 2018 after 5 days stabilising medication and averting her own risks. She’s writing this before she talks to the lawyers again, because this whistle is too big and important to be silenced.
You can see just how much better she is here (only 12 mins this time): https://youtu.be/AMuCwqqIk-M
Why you need to act now
This whistle got a lot of movement. A lot of angry and hurt former Lifeliners heard it. And they came running and started talking.
Many of the undersigned names are people whose feedback to Lifeline has been ignored or erased, either as workers with different regional Lifelines all over the country or callers to the line.
Lifeline social media all over the country have removed any attempts at dialogue since Angela blew this whistle, part of an ongoing pattern of erasing all but the positive feedback. What this whistle has done is create a space where these voices can be heard but outside of Lifeline’s control.
You, Lifeline Australia, are fifteen days into a ‘post-whistleblow’ world. What you do next can make a difference for all those unheard former, current and future Lifeline workers.
Fifteen days in:
- Angela’s video, ‘Lifeline is trying to kill me’ has had 1,321 views
- The ‘Stop Lifeline Bullies’ Facebook post has been seen 18,162 times at
And this change.org petition has been signed 574 times
There is a problem. You, dear decision makers, need to fix it.
That 2017 ‘Whistleblowing at Your Not-for-profit: A leader’s guide’ lives here https://www.ourcommunity.com.au/files/whistleblowingbook.pdf
It has everything you need, all the draft pols, procs and checklists.
Get yourselves a national Whistleblower Protection Officer and fix the whole damn mess.
13 11 14 deserves best-practice. Now.
You can follow the story in real time here: https://www.facebook.com/angela.j.williams.author/
18 January letter from lawyers: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5wrkwCqgSJbaU1IREJDQ2dFVTZlQlF4dVpUV0NEV3VNT0V3/view?usp=sharing
Video link: https://youtu.be/JjFW7S20nAo
December 2017 Complaint: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1DPPxqIxoXhWy_RBmbvjWpju5X54kqtLu?usp=sharing
Bullying after probation: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1AGXFJEc1GJcMaHJT9oIDt976oJ48qWFK?usp=sharing
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