Juliana Knight and her former Canberra Institute of Technology colleague Patrick Reubinson have decided to speak out on behalf of a group of former and current CIT staff who say there is a culture of bullying and harassment at the institute.
They have finally gone public following successful Comcare claims for psychological damage and because they say they have nothing left to fear. (The pair were two of four successful Comcare claims for psychological damage.)
Patrick Reubinson speaks with a thick Gloucestershire burr, but his voice breaks and tears well in his eyes when he talks quietly about his love of teaching and imparting skills.
Reubinson devoted his career to teaching.
But the litigation took its toll on his health and family.
He says four Comcare court cases which found staff had suffered serious psychological harm as a result of employment at CIT should be ringing alarm bells.
Reubinson was unsuccessful in his first claim with Comcare, but a hearing in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal subsequently upheld his complaint.
The former cooking teacher says he decided to speak out about his experience because he was afraid it would be swept under the carpet.
The Federal Administrative Appeals Tribunal ordered CIT to compensate the 55-year-old after his treatment during a 2008 complaints investigation process left him with adjustment disorder and depression, and he was unable to work.
The tribunal found that the CIT's actions after two students accused Patrick Reubinson of inappropriate language were unreasonable, untoward, misleading and without procedural fairness, and he was paid $152,000.
Juliana Knight, 61, says mismanagement, bullying and harassment by her employer, the CIT, almost killed her.
The former occupational health and safety teacher succeeded in a claim for compensation and rehabilitation for a psychological disorder, after an incident at CIT left her unable to work.
''I do not want this to happen to anyone else, and at some stage someone has to stand up and stop it - it's got to stop,'' she says.
''I was intimidated and appalled by their behaviour. ... Before all this happened I was extremely confident I would take on challenges, I was totally independent.''
Meanwhile, WorkSafe ACT is still investigating seven complaints against CIT.
The watchdog issued improvement notices on three separate work areas at the institute earlier this year.
The CIT's chief executive, Adrian Marron, says ''he was not, and is not'' aware of any culture of bullying and harassment at the institute - although he was made aware of the allegations which are being investigated by WorkSafe.
''Nobody has made a formal complaint to us and we don't have any formal complaints on record,'' Marron says.
Marron stresses the Comcare cases, including Reubinson's and Knight's, were not about bullying and harassment. ''It's about a procedural issues which is not about bullying and harassment ... That whole process in the early part in 2010, did raise to me that we needed to have a look at what was happening, and that drove some of the intervention that we subsequently made. I did that because I'm a manager but I did that without making a judgment because I didn't have any evidence. I had a lot of people saying this and a lot of people saying that - but I didn't have any evidence [of bullying].''
Patrick Reubinson questions how workers can have faith in the new policies and procedures when they were clearly not followed in the past and there has been no acknowledgment that there was a problem.
''They could not follow the procedure they had in place previously so the new procedures are just token word of mouth,'' Reubinson says. ''Staff are still intimidated and the culture is still very very intimidating.''
Other staff who remain employed by the CIT, and spoke on the condition of anonymity, say nothing has changed.
The special counsel for Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, Geoff Wilson, represented four CIT employees in their Comcare claims.
Geoff Wilson says the cases prove there were, and perhaps still are, systemic health and safety issues at the CIT as all the workers he represented suffered a psychological injury.
''Comcare claims were lodged and all of these claims were successful,'' Wilson says. ''This is an indication that there are systemic health and safety issues in that workplace.''
The acting secretary of the ACT Australian Education union, Glenn Fowler, confirmed a number of members had made allegations of harassment and bullying against the CIT to the union.
Big toll from bullies at work, Ewa Kretowicz, The Canberra Times, 17 Sep 2011