Super Sonic + tactless idiots

A Challenge To Australian Journalists: How Brave Are You?
A Challenge To Australian Journalists

I know a lot of regular RRSAHM readers remember Darrell, who is employed by DFAT, a department of Australia's Federal Government located in the ACT. I know you remember, because occasionally people still ask me how he's doing how things have worked out. And for every one person who asks, there is probably another ten people who are wondering.

I never know what to tell people, I am never sure how to answer that question. Because Darrell is OK. In all reality, Darrell is doing a kick–arse job of taking care of himself and recovering from a chronic illness. He's also attempting to return to work.

Still 'attempting'... months and months after initially liaising with CommCare and his superiors and management at DFAT. Having been copied in a lot of Darrell's correspondence with his union, CommCare, his superiors and various media representatives, I am confident that the verb 'attempting' is the most appropriate word to use. From the evidence I've seen, Darrell has made every effort to return to the 'exceptionally performing' employee he consistently was before he applied for, and took, medical leave. Or challenged the status quo and spoke up against bullying and stand over tactics within his workplace, and was awarded compensation for what has happened to him.

There's just so much going on here... I’m not even sure where to begin.

Among other issues, there's the ongoing problem of DFAT failing to provide a workplace that's safe and secure and caters to an illness that was, in the view of CommCare, exasperated by the sufferer's work conditions in the first place.

Then there was, a few months ago now, a bizarre incident where three anonymous workmates of Darrell's reported seeing 'Anti–Islamic' content on Darrell's FaceBook page. It took weeks before Darrell could even pinpoint the source of the offending content– a comment he had left on a media file that someone else in his timeline had posted. Given FaceBook’s random and confusing sharing settings, the comment posted publicly on Darrell's feed.

But they must have been looking awfully closely. A few days after the complaint was made, I personally went back through six months of Darrell's FaceBook feed. And I could not find the comment in question. (Which, by the way, had definitely not been deleted, especially at that time. And a discussion about our civil liberties, or BookFace sharing setting and what to do with them, is just too much for my slightly exhausted brain right now. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves in the comments.)

A month or so after disciplinary action was effected for that offense, Darrell's supervisors requested a meeting with him. In which they told him that other staff were worried that, because he suffered depression, he may 'become violent in the workplace'.

Again, I don't even know where to start with that. I'm so disgusted at that level of stigmatization and stereotyping that I'm ashamed. It feels akin to sitting in the Government Inquiry Into Workplace Bullying and feeling sick, wholly saddened by the crass uncaring quality of those responsible for taking care of us.

If this was, honestly, a valid concern held by Darrell's workmates about a man who has never shown any violent tendencies, nor has any history of violence whatsoever; then one would imagine that the ideal course of action would actually be some training in mental health and supporting a fellow employee returning to work after an illness. Ideally, you would hope that management would use such an obvious display of ignorance and intolerance to educate their staff and promote safety and harmony within the work environment.

Not order their employee into a meeting where he has no union representation and use claims such as these as just another reason to break him down, make him feel like sh*t and make returning to work full time just that little bit more difficult.

Tuesday night, as the state burnt like a huge, dry box of RedHead matches; I got a text from Darrell to tell me this...

“... Had my performance review today. Basically told that because I had (sic) depression and was at work I can only get a satisfactory rating. If at work your (sic) expected to be 100 per cent healthy... Kind of hard when you first get depression as you don't know it's happening, etc.”

And I responded with a whole string of swear words. Because, honestly, what the hell is that? Why, in light of such an excellent employment history, is an unavoidable illness that could happen to anyone at anytime being used to create a disadvantage against an honest, hard working man who just wants to return to the job they've lived and breathed for over ten years now?

If it were cancer, or MS, or a bad case of the chicken pox... would the outcome be the same?

I doubt it.

To compound all of that is the wall of all–consuming silence that seems to eat Darrell's story before it gets too big, before it goes too far. I watched it roll over, like a big fat cloud on a sunny day, obscuring the last post I published concerning DFAT and Darrell.

I watched thousands of people hit the page, but so few share it on their social medias. I watched traffic from the ACT go up by over 200% as people searched for the story that many of them already knew... there are so many government employees who have been there themselves, only in different departments, playing different roles.

And I watched various media outlets I once considered to have some balls ignore me– in one case, actually block me on Twitter after I pinged them a single time– when I tried to pull their attention toward Darrell's story. I witnessed one reporter who actually is gutsy take me on, allowed me to tell my story; but told me in honesty it would be near worth her job to discuss Darrell's story on air. I watched as private messages of support came in from people too apprehensive to publicly promote what I'd written, lest it effect their own employment. I took a phone call from another blogger, also employed in a government role, who recommended I take down the post lest I be accused of 'whistle blowing'.

To be very clear- 'whistle blowing' is exactly what I'm trying to do here. It's what Darrell has, in a way, been attempting to do for months. Forget your inquiry into Workplace Bullying... it is a widely held opinion that government departments are, by far, the very worst place for bullying and stand over tactics to flourish and pulse.

Even the process of writing this post is frustrating. I want to scream words at my computer screen, make someone with a voice bigger than mine listen and take note and be brave.

I've watched, sadly, as Darrell has searchd for someone, some publication, some media outlet– someone– to tell his story. I read an email a few months ago now that almost reached out and caressed me with it’s opaque vulgarity.

This email contained an exchange between Darrell and a journalist at a large–ish newspaper who had become interested in his story. The first email was bubbly and enthusiastic, an air of indignation regarding Darrell's treatment almost glowing from the edges of the journo’s words.

After a period of silence on the newspaper's side, Darrell had responded. A follow up– I haven't heard anything from you, what goes on?

The reply was everything that's wrong here, every infuriating back–down that's every happened in every school fight against bullies who are big and strong and use that to their advantage. It was apologetic but defensive, and summed up pretty much said...

“I've talked to my editor. We agreed that, perhaps, you shouldn't pursue this story any further. It could lead to very unpleasant ramifications for your job. You have a family to think of.”

What utter lay–down–and–be–a–doormat–to–the–world crap that is. It's fairly obvious, to Darrell and anyone else playing this game, that future advancement in this job is not going to happen. The journalists who have said 'no' to this story aren't worried about Darrell.... they're worried about themselves.

Darrell has not got a lot left to lose.

Really, this is getting beyond the point of being 'unfair' or even 'hard luck'. This is inhumane. This is torture.

I am worried about Darrell
. Because he is a friend of mine, and every time I hear his voice there is just that little bit more desolation in the middle of it. And his mum is worried about him, too. Her name is Aaimi, and she is lovely. She sent me an email just before Christmas that said this...

“So tell me Lori, what can I do? Stand naked on the steps of Parliament house with banners stating that “ Bullying in the work place is not tolerated”. Well maybe not to that extreme , particularly if the body of Michelin man is not a good look!!!! But seriously Lori, what can I do, apart from being his mother and giving him the love and support that we do. Me be there is something I can do that would not be acceptable for Darrell to do. How can we speak out and make our voices heard Lori? I am passed sitting here on my hands doing nothing ! There must be something more as his mother I can do."

Read that without your heart breaking for a mother screaming tears of frustration for her child. And sit on your hands and do nothing.

I fucking dare you.

I am pissed off. I'm angry and it scares me that at our highest level of government, in a country that's apparently so free and democratic, this kind of thing can happen, repeatedly. In deathly silence.

So let this be a challenge to you all... be you man, or mouse? Will you share this post, help me spread the word?

I am not a journalist... I'm just a blogger who writes pretty things occasionally. I don't understand all the elements here. This needs someone who does. This needs to be picked up, and this story told. So that the right people will listen, and be forced to act.

A challenge, an open invitation to journalists and media outlets, both 'mainstream' and 'social'...

Do any of you have the guts to try and ensure that this story gets told?

Are any of you brave enough to take this on?

For those of us who don't have that kind of voice, but think that those who do should use it... there's a petition here. Show some love.

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A Challenge To Australian Journalists: How Brave Are You? + tactless idiots