Tireless whistleblower advocated and anti-bullying campaigner calls it a day

Posted on November 18, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

A short while ago we learned that a great friend and anti-bullying campaigner, Mike Welsh has decided to leave the Canberra-based Radio 2CC Drive Time show  which he has been hosting for the best part of a decade.  Mike contacted the Victims of CSIRO group after hearing about us through a media article, offering the group the genuine opportunity to speak on his program and provide a victims point of view on the topic of workplace bullying, a voice that is often buried beneath the carefully manicured “departmental” press releases subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) vilifying and denigrating those with the courage to come forward, through the use of terms such as disgruntled former employee, sensationalist or melodramatic.  Mike interviewed many, many people in relation to the allegations of bullying within the CSIRO and was unrelenting in

Mike’s efforts earned him the wrath of CSIRO public relations spin-doctor, Huw Morgan who is reported to have questioned Mike’s journalistic credentials in somewhat vulgar terms, leaving no-doubt as to the extent to which the CSIRO will go to stifle dissent and/or any form of adverse reporting.  This is apparently not an isolated incident as other journalists have alleged being on the receiving end of very similar behaviour.

Whilst the tone of the article written below might be viewed as a little self-deprecation, nothing could be farther from the truth!    There would be very few people within the public sector who have not experienced personally or viewed someone else experiencing some form of workplace bullying but it is still a topic that many are reluctant to speak about public. Mike has brought the matter of workplace bullying, particularly rife within the Commonwealth and ACT public services (and associated agencies) into the public spotlight.

Many, many people who Mike has assisted and championed over the years, owe a debt of gratitude, and we here at Victims of CSIRO will be forever grateful for his support.  His service and contribution to the community is outstanding and has without a doubt saved many lives by empowering victims to speak out in might what otherwise seem a hopeless situation.

We wish  Mike all the best in every future endeavour and are deeply grateful to him, as are no doubt, many within the Canberra community.

When the whistleblower can’t be heard

On air and in private, award-winning broadcaster MIKE WELSH has been the tireless whistleblower’s whistleblower against workplace bullying. Here he reflects on its corrosive effectsI’VE been been bullied once, that I can recall. An overweight redhead, that perennial schoolyard victim, chose to pass some of the action down the line to a smaller kid… me.

Mike Welsh

Mike Welsh

I punched him in the face, got strapped and was never bullied again.

But you can’t punch the bully in the face anymore. So what to do?

The more I know of this destructive human trait, the less encouraged I am of a solution.

The Sydney “Telegraph” recently featured a 40-year-old man who’d been bullied at school. He gave horrendous examples of the abuse he copped in the yards of several schools he was forced to attend.

The ensuing years proved to be problematic, with relationship breakdowns and an inability to hold down regular employment.

There was a positive outcome though, several of his peers, including his own brother, read the article and were shocked to learn of his suffering. Furthermore, several of them got in contact to apologise. They were unaware of the suffering they’d inflicted.

Over my 11 years on the 2CC Drive Show, I have become educated on the long-term and permanent damage done by bullying, including workplace bullying and it seems to me that we don’t mature much once we’re out of the schoolyard.

I assured scores of victims of workplace bullying (largely within the ACT Public Service) that I could protect them should they choose to go to air. But it turns out, I couldn’t in many cases. Whistleblowers are often bullied again.

The standard management approach of “is that really bullying?” or” is he/she just too sensitive?” is wearing thin. Or the old fallback: “Better watch your step, lest you wreck your career”.

If you’re in the foetal position at 3am terrified at the prospect of going back into the battle zone… more than likely, it’s bullying.

If your day brightens up 100 per cent the moment you arrive and discover Bully is off for the day…. more than likely, there’s a bullying problem.

I also urged those who contacted me to get together in numbers But  safety and power in numbers is not always a guarantee. The strategy is to worm out the ring leaders of the “revolt” and put pressure on them. A group of six becomes two, split the two and you may just have “made this thing go away”.

One worker, a big, strong man standing 6’3” told me he was fearful of returning to work in the yard where he’d been bullied.

A woman told me that while she won her case, she would not recommend going down that road, it’s far too painful.

Another woman, who had the guts to make a written complaint, told me that by coffee time, the entire office – including the bully knew. The bullying then intensified.

The ACT Government was lauded on the introduction of a whistleblowing policy which loosely allowed a public servant to go outside (to media) with their bullying and allied issues, if they were dissatisfied with the “usual procedure”. The problem is “usual procedure” usually means their card is marked.

This “innovative” whistleblower policy failed a public servant with whom I’d been speaking earlier this year. After returning from six weeks off air,  I texted her to reconnect. She told me it was “too late”, she was “on the roof”, which I took for a euphemism for getting to the end of her rope.

But she was, in fact, on the roof and ready to jump.

She came down and was admitted to psychiatric ward. Three days later, she took a call from her superior wanting to know why she’d missed work!

Another time, I received a letter from five staff of an ACT Department confirming that what I was saying was one hundred per cent correct. One quote – “So much suffering. So much stress. We wait for suicides, because that is what will happen” – was frightening.

I once tweeted the word “suicide” to shame the Government on bullying. Chief Minister Katy Gallagher tweeted it wasn’t the forum for such a serious issue. What then my Chief Minister is the forum? Or do we wait until after the suicides to formulate another policy?

Mike Welsh was, until this month, the Drive Time announcer on 2CC

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