ANUSA Disabilities Officer Resigns, Citing “Not Safe” Workplace

Image of the SRC meeting

By Adelle Millhouse

ANUSA Disabilities Co-Officer Clare Bricknell resigned from her position at Tuesday’s SRC meeting, stating that her workplace “is not safe or healthy”. She claims she has experienced “incompetence” and “organisational bullying” from the ANUSA Executive, in addition to policy and confidentiality breaches.

Bricknell announced her resignation when she and fellow Disabilities Officer Madhumitha Janagaraja were delivering their report. She said she was resigning effective midnight that night, as her “workplace is not healthy”. Bricknell claimed that the ANUSA Executive “repeatedly failed to adhere to their own policies”, and that she received “no action or support” from them when she experienced an issue. She stated that her emails were ignored until she involved the Deputy Dean of Students, and that ANUSA labelled her attempts to get in contact with them as “harassment”.

Bricknell also highlighted what she perceives as a “major problem” regarding the accountability and transparency of the Executive. She suggested their secrecy surrounding the consultation on Kambri’s booking fees was indicative of a larger problem within the Association.

Speaking to Observer after the meeting, Bricknell declined to give specifics on the issue that had sparked these problems, saying she did not want to risk being found to be in violation of ANUSA’s policies. However, she did give Observer the full statement she had written to present at SRC 3. In it, Bricknell alleges that “extremely sensitive personal information was shared without consent”. She also alleges that the ANUSA Executive “attacked” her, and engaged in “organisational bullying”, blaming their own errors on her. Bricknell also states that her stipend is being unconstitutionally withheld.

In a statement, ANUSA President Eden Lim said she “rejects claims of lack of action, support and transparency”, and Bricknell’s claims of “organisational bullying”. Lim also said she rejected the accusation that ANUSA has not been adhering to its own policies and regulations, and claimed that ANUSA “has been and remains responsive to queries it receives”. Lim stated that “considerable resources” have been devoted to addressing Bricknell’s concerns.

Lim said she understands that the withholding of Bricknell’s stipend is a matter for the DSA, rather than ANUSA or its Executive.

The announcement came at SRC 3 on Tuesday night, a five-hour meeting described by Environment Officer Nick Blood as “incredibly tense” and “worryingly toxic”. Bricknell’s impassioned resignation speech was interrupted twice. The first attempt was  by Lim, who motioned for a five minute break “to ensure … that it remains a safe and respectful place for everyone”. Blood said this was “worth noting”, given that Lim was “a member of the executive [Bricknell] was trying to voice grievances about”. “My fear, at times, is that one day that will be me,” Blood said.

Bricknell ultimately cut off her speech after an interjection by General Secretary Lachy Day.  He said that the matter was “a live complaint in front of the [ANUSA] Disputes Committee”, and that he had received messages that “a student [was] in severe distress” because of Bricknell’s speech. Day later clarified that the matter was in front of ANUSA, and not the Disputes Committee.

Bricknell had been serving the duties of Disabilities Officer in partnership with Janagaraja. Janagaraja will remain in her role, and is not seeking a new Co-Officer.

The Disabilities Student Association has issued the following statement:

The DSA thanks Clare Bricknell for all the work that she has done this year, and appreciates her contributions to advocacy and the advancement of accessibility at the ANU – these efforts were highly valued. As an organisation, we would also like to clarify that the opinions and experiences listed are those of her speaking as an individual, as opposed to doing so in her capacity as officer and are not representative of the DSA or its other members. The DSA maintains the same relationship with ANUSA as it always has, and looks forward to continue working together in the future – due to errors in communication, we did not approve the use of our logo on this post or the implications around our position on this statement. We ask that student media and fellow students respect that our department is suffering from the loss of an officer while being bound by confidentiality, and is focusing on rebuilding and bouncing back.

Jessica Whiting was not involved in any aspect of preparing this story

 

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