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Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Federal Attorney-General: Stop the Bullying of Mothers in the Workplace!

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I am starting this petition to highlight the plight of a mother who was bullied at work after having a child and the devastating consequences she has had to endure for years.

Ms. Eliezer was harassed and bullied upon her return to work from maternity leave leading to a breakdown in her mental health. Her child was under six month at that time! Ms. Eliezer lost her job and also her Ph.D. and needed fulltime care and assistance from her spouse for years!

In November 2007, Ms. Eliezer was informed that she could not suspend her Ph.D. even though her child was only two months old, and at the same time, she was made tutor-in-charge of the largest undergraduate course in the Discipline, the most demanding administrative role possible!

Ms. Eliezer was put under extreme, continual work pressure from the moment she returned to work, was constantly ridiculed, belittled and demeaned by her supervisor and others, was repeatedly subjected to exaggerated criticism and unreasonable disparagement of her work by her supervisor, was subjected to unreasonable monitoring and undue scrutiny. Her supervisor yelled and shouted at her and made her feel that her job was on the line.

Like so many victims of workplace bullying, Ms. Eliezer’s physical and mental health began to deteriorate sharply. Within four months, she had reached breaking point and a particular outburst at that time by her supervisor left her devastated. She was embarrassed and ashamed of the situation she found herself in and felt she could not return home that day.

Ms. Eliezer still remembers that final, long walk from the University, the suicidal feelings that began to take control and wonders what went wrong. Mental health professionals can identify this as a typical reaction in victims of bullying: because of the loss of face, they feel they cannot go anywhere and have no option but to take their own lives.

Sadly, so many try to do so, but Ms. Eliezer was saved by a complete stranger that day. Seeing Ms. Eliezer’s distressed state, the woman sat down and comforted her, encouraging her to go home to her husband and child and to see a doctor.

Ms. Eliezer did see a doctor and was put on leave. For the remainder of the contract period, she was not allowed to go back to work. Ms. Eliezer then made a workers compensation claim, but the process was traumatic, complex and the outcomes uncertain.

Depression and anxiety were not seen as a genuine illness requiring support and understanding by the insurer and the employer. After a while on insurance handouts that were a fraction of her weekly salary, Ms. Eliezer let it go as there was no chance of rehabilitation or recovery under the scheme.

At that point, all the odds were against her. She had a debilitating mental illness, an infant child to raise, no income and required 24/7 support from her spouse. Compounding the problem was the fact that, deprived of economic empowerment and status, Ms. Eliezer had become an easy target. A desperate battle for survival ensued!

Ms. Eliezer has now made the brave decision to speak out about her experience and to stand against the oppression of vulnerable people in society. Ms. Eliezer deserves your support.

Dear Vice-Chancellor,

We say no to the bullying of mothers in the workplace. In keeping with domestic and international human rights laws, we request to take steps to stop the bullying of mothers returning to work from maternity leave.

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