Media Release: Call for wider national action on Harassment, Bullying and Abuse in the workplace

Thursday, 8 March, 2018 - 14:30
Media release
National News

The Safety Institute of Australia (SIA) today called for a wider national conversation about Australian organisational and workplace culture, to address what it believes are disarmingly common problems of harassment, bullying and abuse in organisations and workplaces across a wide range of Australian industries.

Chairman of the SIA Patrick Murphy said “Thousands of our health and safety professionals in Australian workplaces are dealing on a daily basis with both the psychological and physical health of their workforce. Too many workplace and organisational cultures allow too much latitude to behaviours which expose people to daily experiences of bullying, harassment or abuse.”

“The recent high-profile issues which have come up within the media are no surprise to our health and safety people. Regardless of the merits of individual cases, the reason they have struck a chord in the community is because they are recognisable for so many people. It would be a mistake to think that such events are isolated and highly unusual. They are disarmingly common in too many workplace environments. If we as a nation are to change that, we need to set new expectations of acceptable behaviour in the workplace” Mr Murphy said. 

Dr Kelly Johnstone, Chair of the Institute’s think tank the SIA College of Fellows, said “we spend so much of our lives at work, and we need to pay more attention to the quality of that working environment, especially the right of all people to be treated with respect and be kept safe and healthy at work. It is not normal or acceptable for people to be treated this way, but too many people in the workplace have come to believe that these behaviours are normal and something they simply have to manage,” she said.

Dr Johnstone said “The Institute is implementing a range of new training to better equip the health and safety profession with the tools to address bullying, harassment and abuse in their workplace, but we also need other tools to provide guidance to drive change” she said. Dr Johnstone went on to call for a new Code of Practice for the Management of Work-Related Psychosocial Health Risks which covers issues of bullying, harassment and abuse, to be created by Safe Work Australia.

Alena Titterton, Chair of the Research and Thought Leadership Working Group for the Institute’s Women in Safety & Health Network, supported Dr Johnstone’s call for a code of practice "We have codes of practice for managing risks associated with hazards like confined spaces, electrical work, noise, plant and equipment and working at heights. It’s time we more openly addressed these other equally important issues that affect psychological health if we are going to successfully change this workplace culture issue.”

“It’s not an easy conversation, but it’s one we have to have” she said.

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About Safety Institute of Australia Ltd

The Safety Institute of Australia Ltd is Australia’s peak body for the health & safety profession. Established more than 60 years ago, our membership comprises more than 4,000 individuals, many of whom work in the field as Health and Safety Representatives, or OHS practitioners and professionals. Our vision is for healthy and safe workers in productive workplaces. Our mission is to advance the health and safety profession, to deliver the highest quality advice; and be a voice for the profession to positively influence the development of health and safety policy and practice.

To learn more, visit, or call (03) 8336 1995.

SIA Contacts:   

Patrick Murphy (SIA Chair)                     


Kelly Johnstone (Chair of College of Fellows)                      



About WISH

WISH is the Women in Safety & Health Network of the Safety Institute of Australia.  The goal of WISH is to see diversity and inclusion across the Australian health and safety profession and practice with a particular focus on supporting women in the profession (as well as those looking to join the profession).  WISH furthers this goal through 4 strategic pillars that include initiatives in mentoring and sponsorship, events for networking and sharing experiences, providing speaking opportunities and advocating for gender equity in conference programming, research and thought leadership on matters related to representation and diversity in the profession (including gender equity) and raising awareness through social media and marketing of its other initiatives.

WISH contacts:                

Kelly Lovely (WISH Network Chairperson)


Alena Titterton (WISH Research & Thought Leadership Working Group Chairperson)