5. Unacceptable behaviour

5.1. Bullying

The University is committed to providing an environment for work and study that is free from bullying.

Bullying is characterised by repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed at an employee or student, or group of employees or students, that creates a risk to health and safety. Bullying behaviour is that which a reasonable person in the circumstances would expect to victimise, humiliate, undermine, threaten, degrade, offend or intimidate a person. The behaviour can include actions of an individual or a group, and may involve the bully using a system of work or inappropriately asserting power.

Whilst generally characterised by repeated behaviours, one-off instances can amount to bullying.

Adverse action or reprisal should not be taken against a person who raises a bullying issue or concern. Bullying, and adverse action or reprisal in response to a bullying complaint or concern, are unacceptable and may lead to disciplinary action.

Responsible staff have a duty of care that includes taking all reasonable steps to prevent bullying and appropriately managing bullying complaints.

It is important to understand that:

  • reasonable management decisions, discussions or actions, including performance counselling and managing underperformance
  • instructions, directions and requirements that are made fairly and appropriately
  • differences of opinion, conflicts and working relationship issues

are part of the challenges of working life and do not constitute bullying.

5.2. Violence

The University is committed to providing an environment for work and study that is free from violence.

Violence is a physical assault or attack by direct or indirect application of force that creates a risk to health and safety. The attacker’s intent is not determinative.

The University does not accept violence, threats or abuse under any circumstances and encourages the early reporting of any such incidents, with offenders subject to disciplinary action and criminal proceedings.

5.3. Sexual harassment

The University is committed to providing an environment for work and study that is free from sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is defined by legislation in Victoria. It is when a person:

  • makes an unwelcome sexual advance, or an unwelcome request for sexual favours to another person
  • engages in any other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to another person

where a reasonable person in the circumstances would anticipate the other person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.

Conduct of a sexual nature can include physical intimacy, remarks with sexual connotations and sexual gestures, actions or comments. The intention of the offender is irrelevant.

Sexual harassment is unlawful and will not be tolerated by the University in workplace and study environments.

The ‘workplace’ can extend beyond the University campus. For example, sexual harassment in employment can also occur outside working hours where employees are in proximity to each other as a result of a connection with work, such as a conference or work sponsored event.

Likewise sexual harassment can occur in any study related location including the classroom, at conferences, field trips and excursions. It can occur remotely, for example through emails, texts and social media.

Anyone who believes that they are being or have been sexually harassed is encouraged to come forward. Responsible staff should take all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment and appropriately manage concerns and complaints. Adverse action or reprisal should not be taken against a person who raises a sexual harassment issue or concern.

It is important to recognise that forms of behaviour that may initially appear mild or trivial can constitute sexual harassment, particularly in relationships of differing power or status such as a staff member and a student or a manager and an employee.

Offences such as stalking, sexual assault and rape are serious criminal offences which should be reported to the police.

At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that relationships and interactions that are based on mutual attraction or friendship and are consensual or reciprocated do not constitute sexual harassment.

5.4. Discrimination

The University is committed to providing an environment for work and study that is free from discrimination.

Discrimination is unlawful in education and employment and the provision of goods, services and accommodation.

Discrimination is defined by legislation in Victoria. It includes both direct and indirect discrimination. Direct discrimination occurs if a person treats, or proposes to treat, a person with an "attribute" unfavourably because of that attribute. Indirect discrimination occurs if a person imposes, or proposes to impose, a requirement, condition or practice that will disadvantage a person with an attribute and is not reasonable.

For the purposes of determining discrimination, the offender's awareness and motive are irrelevant.

Attributes protected under Federal and Victorian laws include:

  • Age
  • Breastfeeding
  • Carer status
  • Disability or impairment (including disease or illness)
  • Employment activity
  • Gender identity
  • Industrial activity
  • Irrelevant criminal record
  • Lawful sexual activity
  • Marital status
  • Parental status
  • Physical features
  • Political belief or activity
  • Pregnancy or potential pregnancy
  • Race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
  • Religious belief or activity
  • Same sex relationships
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Social origin.

Anyone who believes that they are being or have been discriminated against is encouraged to come forward. Responsible staff should take all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and appropriately manage concerns and complaints. Adverse action or reprisal should not be taken against a person who raises a discrimination issue or concern.

5.5. Harassment and vilification

The University is committed to the development of a learning and working environment that is as far as practicable free from all forms of harassment and vilification.

Harassment is any form of behaviour that is not wanted, is not asked for and that a reasonable person would consider likely to create a hostile or uncomfortable workplace by humiliating, intimidating or offending another person because of an attribute protected by the law. (See 4. Discrimination above for an explanation of “attributes” protected by discrimination laws.)

Racial and religious vilification is behaviour that incites or encourages hatred, serious contempt, revulsion or severe ridicule against another person or group of people, because of their race or religion. Acts of racial and religious vilification are unlawful in any public place.

Anyone who believes that they are being or have been harassed or vilified is encouraged to come forward. Responsible staff should take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment and vilification and appropriately manage concerns and complaints. Adverse action or reprisal should not be taken against a person who raises a harassment or vilification issue or concern.

5.6. Corruption and fraud

5.6.1. General principles

The University’s stance on corruption and fraud is guided by the principles of:

  • Upholding the highest standards of legal, ethical and moral behaviour
  • Ensuring that the organisational culture and embedded controls effectively prevent corruption and fraud
  • Ensuring compliance with “protected disclosure” (or “whistleblower”) legislation
  • Natural justice.

Swinburne operates in an environment in which ethical conduct is expected, encouraged and supported with no tolerance for corrupt conduct, fraudulent activities and maladministration.

Corrupt conduct is defined by legislation in Victoria. It includes conduct:

  • that adversely affects the honest performance of functions by a public officer or public body
  • of a public officer or public body that constitutes or involves the dishonest performance of functions
  • of a public officer or public body that constitutes or involves knowingly or recklessly breaching public trust
  • of a public officer or a public body that involves the misuse of information or material acquired in the course of the performance of functions.

Fraud involves dishonestly, unfairly or wrongfully obtaining or attempting to obtain a benefit or advantage for any person; or dishonestly, unfairly or wrongfully causing or attempting to cause a detriment to the University or its controlled entities.

Maladministration is administrative action that is unlawful, arbitrary, unjust, oppressive, improperly discriminatory or taken for an improper purpose and which substantially and adversely affects someone’s interest.

There are established processes under the University’s Anti-Corruption and Fraud Prevention Guidelines, and Victorian legislation, for reporting and investigating allegations of improper conduct such as corruption and fraud. Disclosures can also be made about “detrimental action” taken, or suspected may be taken, in reprisal or in connection with a disclosure made about improper conduct.

5.6.2. Protected disclosures

A “protected disclosure” is a statutorily protected disclosure or allegation of improper conduct made under the Victorian Protected Disclosure Act. A person (for example a “whistleblower”) may wish to make a protected disclosure to receive statutory protection from reprisal, to ensure anonymity and to have the matter investigated by an external agency.

Protected disclosures should be made to the Victorian Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC), which has published "Guidelines for making and handling Protected Disclosures".

The University cannot receive and handle protected disclosures.

Maintaining confidentiality in relation to protected disclosure matters is crucial, among other things, to ensure reprisals are not made against a discloser. It is a criminal offence to disclose information connected with a protected disclosure, including the identity of the discloser.

5.6.3. Non-protected disclosures

A person wishing to report suspected corruption or fraud who does not wish to use the protected disclosure regime can disclose the matter to the University rather than to IBAC.

Strict integrity processes for the reporting and investigation of alleged corrupt conduct and fraud apply under the University’s Anti-Corruption and Fraud Prevention Guidelines.

5.6.3. Support to disclosers

The University does not tolerate the taking of reprisals against those who come forward to disclose matters.

The University recognises the value of transparency and accountability in its administrative and management practices, and supports the making of disclosures that reveal fraud or corrupt conduct.

The University will take reasonable steps to protect people who make such disclosures, in good faith, from any detrimental action or reprisal for reporting the conduct.

A welfare manager will be appointed by the University where required for disclosers who have made a protected disclosure under the Protected Disclosure Act to IBAC or a disclosure under this policy to the University.

5.6.5. Matters already disclosed to the University

If a matter has already been disclosed to the University and handled under a separate process (such as a staff grievance or student complaint or an earlier disclosure), then unless further evidence is identified or disclosed that has not already been taken into account in that separate process that indicates corrupt or fraudulent activity, the matter will not subsequently be dealt with under this policy or the University’s Anti-Corruption and Fraud Prevention Guidelines.

Roles and Responsibilities (VC delegation)

Role/Decision/ActionResponsibility*Conditions and limitations
Identifying risk exposures to corrupt and fraudulent activities. 
Establishing controls to prevent and detect such activities
Senior management
  • Must be in accordance with the University’s Risk management Framework.
Reporting of any suspected instances of fraud, corrupt conduct or maladministration to IBAC (in the case of protected disclosures) or the appropriate University authority. All staff
  • Disclosures should be made to the University’s Fraud Prevention Coordinator or through the Swinburne Disclosure Hotline service.
Receipt and handling of disclosures to the University Fraud Prevention Coordinator  
Fraud Prevention Coordinator University Secretary and General Counsel  
Determination of whether the University’s Anti-Corruption and Fraud Prevention Guidelines apply to a disclosure Fraud Prevention Coordinator  
Appointment of welfare manager to support discloser Director or HR
  • Appointment should be made on advice of Fraud Prevention Coordinator
Insurance cover for improper conduct and decisions on whether it is in the interests of the University to recover money/assets lost through improper conduct VC
CFO
  • Insurance cover is approved by the Council’s Finance Committee.

*(Staff holding, acting in or performing the responsible position or office)