It's 2018 in Australia, lets protect individuals who wish to speak out about serious abuse

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It's 2018 in Australia, is it time for us to strongly protect in law those who wish to speak out about serious abuse they repeatedly witness in the workplace?

This petition seeks the support of all Australian Parliamentarians to clearly and explicitly protect in law, individuals who speak out about abuse they repeatedly witness in the workplace. To put in place laws which provide immunity from criminal and civil actions and penalties when individuals make public disclosures in good faith regarding an organisation &/or individuals' repeated and clear refusal to prevent acts of serious harm. Whilst the courts currently give consideration to the 'public interest', the glut of systemic abuse and suffering in our community urgently demands more clearly defined and supported pathways to facilitate earlier interventions. I believe that the concept of supporting any individual who witnesses and discloses a failure by their employer, union or an individual to stop repeated and serious harm in their workplace may attract widespread support across the diverse spectrum of political beliefs in our community.

It was disappointing that the recent Parliamentary Inquiry into Whistleblowing appeared to place the issue of systemic abuse in the too hard basket, despite making passing reference to the Moss Review's finding that significant numbers of disclosures regarding abuse and harassment were ill-suited to the current Public Interest Disclosure Act (2013). Whilst the report appeared to regard employment grievances and personal disputes as almost insignificant, this petition seeks to directly engage with all systemic abuse as a priority. I am unconvinced that the proposed Whistleblower Protection Authority will have the scope, nor be equipped to investigate serious health and safety issues given that it's focus appears to be elsewhere. Whilst recognising the importance of identifying and investigating all misconduct, I believe that repeated and serious abuse of an individual or group is as just as concerning as instances of fraud, corrupt conduct and the other 'more serious integrity risks' that the committee identified. This petition seeks to reclaim and strengthen the rights of individuals who speak out in the public interest about abuse. 

Over a period of 7 years in a former workplace, I repeatedly witnessed and was aware of numerous instances of threatening and unsafe behaviour impacting upon my colleagues, myself and my family by staff based in one problematic work unit. In early 2015 whilst acting in my capacity as a first aid officer, I attended a multitude of escalating medical incidents involving a colleague engaged in a workplace dispute and legal conflict that involved the problematic work unit. I then witnessed, read and heard about multiple instances of bullying, harassment and coercive behaviours by not only the problematic work unit but also the union and later, the most senior individuals in the organisation - an unprecedented experience which reflected an aggressive escalation of what was already a serious cultural problem in the workplace. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to intervene or initiate any form of common sense response throughout 2015, 2016 & 2017 via repeated and detailed disclosures to the employer, union and a number of federal and state government agencies. I believe darkly absurd and unsafe behaviours involving 'matters before the courts' or 'part of settlement negotiations' should be subjected to open scrutiny when they fail basic common sense standards rather than remain confidential. Whilst recognising that some situations may have a complexity that doesn't foster this pathway, my circumstances contain details that echo those found in many abuse stories involving repeated and clear failures of common sense, due process and natural justice.    

This petition chooses to not just focus on abuses in industrial relations disputes but to bring about common sense, timely responses to abuse in all manner of settings. Our current defamation laws and legal system has repeatedly favoured perpetrators and those who exploit power and agency in a way that is disturbingly out of step with Australia's true egalitarian values. Whilst not discrediting the focused and analytical approach of Royal Commissions, Inquiries and other investigations, this petition seeks to gauge community support for proactive and preventative reforms that empower us all rather than more policing, auditing, compensation, redress, untimely litigation and measures that simply further burden our law, legal, compliance and health services. It is time to level the playing field and provide a truer reflection of the importance of minimising all human suffering above the reputational harm.

We often seem to be permissive of harm thriving unchecked in our community.  In my home state we have recently been confronted by details regarding widespread systemic elder abuse at the Oakden facility and by the perplexing finding by SafeWorkSA that the murder of a nurse whilst undertaking her duties wasn’t work related. Many parliamentarians currently choose to engage in personal slurs and sweeping statements routinely vilifying large, often vulnerable sections of our community, further reflecting the growing normalisation of abuse. This petition seeks to forge one pathway with urgency but also hopes to provide the impetus for a broader discussion about the most effective means we can intervene and stop systemic abuse nearer its core. This petition dreams that this is just one step along a path where our community can evolve beyond the cycle of chasing abuse to one where we call out and stop abuse in a timely manner, where we truly hear, recognise and protect all victims and survivors.



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