One of three women sexually harassed by former High Court Justice Dyson Heydon has hit out at the PM, urging him to intervene.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been accused of “prolonging the trauma” of three women who were sexually harassed by former High Court Justice Dyson Heydon by delaying a multi-million dollar compensation bid.
An independent investigation commissioned by the High Court has previously found six former court staff members were harassed by Justice Heydon, claims which have been categorically denied by the former justice.
The High Court Chief Justice Susan Kiefel has also formally apologised to the women telling the women that their accounts of the events “were believed”.
But attempts to finalise a legal compensation payout for the trauma have stalled, despite the Commonwealth not disputing the allegations.
For the first time, Justice Heydon’s former associate Alex Eggerking has now spoken publicly about her experiences in an attempt to urge the Prime Minister to end the delays to a legal settlement.
“Since the High Court’s own investigation found that Dyson Heydon sexually harassed me and other women while we were his associates, I have gone above and beyond to provide the Commonwealth with evidence of the harm I’ve suffered because of the harassment,” she said.
“Every week this matter continues is an extra week I have to manage life with debilitating anxiety caused by post-traumatic stress disorder, where every step, every communication in this compensation process triggers my illness.
“Every week is an extra week (that) I have no income as the precariousness of my mental health makes it too difficult for me to work.
“Every week is a week I am not able to direct my energies towards improving my mental health and moving beyond this chapter of my life.
“And what message does the Commonwealth’s delay send to the community? To women? To victims of workplace sexual harassment?
“Is this what accountability looks like for wrongdoing by one of the country’s most powerful men — wrongdoing that was found to have occurred by the High Court’s own investigation, wrongdoing that the Commonwealth is not disputing?”
Workplace law firm Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said the Morrison Government has repeatedly delayed settlement talks since March, “citing a range of different reasons”.
The latest settlement conference, scheduled for Wednesday, was cancelled by the government because it said that those required to approve any compensation package were unavailable.
Two women have previously identified themselves as subject to Justice Heydon’s behaviour which he maintains was “inadvertent and unintended”.
One former legal assistant, Chelsea Tabart, previously told the Sydney Morning Herald that on her first day working for Justice Heydon nearly a decade ago, he suggested they stop for a drink after an office dinner.
He took her to a private room at a prestigious club, she said, and put his hand on her thigh. She was 22.
Another former associate, Rachael Patterson Collins said Justice Heydon made repeated advances toward her — on one occasion asking if he could kiss her.
When she asked him why she said he replied, “Because you’re beautiful”.
Lawyer for the three women — Ms Tabart, Ms Patterson Collins and Ms Eggerking — Maurice Blackburn national employment team leader Josh Bornstein, said Mr Morrison must take responsibility for prolonging the women’s trauma.
“From the outset, I warned the federal government that delaying the process of resolving this matter would engender further harm to three women who all lost their legal careers as a result of the conduct of Dyson Heydon,” Mr Bornstein said.
“We have provided the federal government with detailed medical and actuarial reports. Each of the women was required to undergo an independent medical examination as part of this process.
“They have each been confronted with the enormity of the damage that Heydon’s conduct inflicted on their careers and wellbeing.
“When it comes to addressing the scourge of sexual harassment and gender discrimination, we see time and time again that the Morrison Government favours performative gestures over decisive action.
“Senator (Michaelia) Cash could, with a phone call, draw a line under the darkest chapter in the High Court’s recent history,” Mr Bornstein said.
“We have attempted to meet with the Commonwealth on numerous occasions over the last 18 months; in good faith and at their own expense our clients have provided the Commonwealth with every detail imaginable in support of their claims.”
Last year, Justice Heydon issued a statement through his lawyers denying “emphatically any allegation of sexual harassment or any offence”.
“In respect of the confidential inquiry and its subsequent confidential report, any allegation of predatory behaviour or breaches of the law is categorically denied by our client,” the statement said.
“Our client says that if any conduct of his has caused offence, that result was inadvertent and unintended, and he apologises for any offence caused.
“We have asked the High Court to convey that directly to the associate complainants.
“The inquiry was an internal administrative inquiry and was conducted by a public servant and not by a lawyer, judge or a tribunal member. It was conducted without having statutory powers of investigation and of administering affirmations or oaths.”
The High Court inquiry was prompted by two of the judge’s former associates making a claim to Chief Justice Susan Kiefel in March 2019 that they had been sexually harassed by Justice Heydon.
A review by Vivienne Thom found the women were harassed. In a statement, Chief Justice Kiefel said “their accounts of their experiences at the time have been believed”.
“We are ashamed that this could have happened at the High Court of Australia,” said Chief Justice Kiefel in a statement at the time.
“The findings are of extreme concern to me, my fellow justices, our chief executive and the staff of the court.”.
Mr Morrison described the allegations against Mr Heydon at the time as “incredibly serious”.
“Allegations of this sort are obviously very disturbing and very concerning,” he said.
The Prime Minister said the question of stripping the former judge of his AC would be considered at a later juncture.
“People’s awards and honours, if those processes end in a place where people have, where those allegations have been upheld, then there’s a normal process for honours to be dealt with at that time,” he said.
“There should be a proper process to deal with this. There will be.”
News.com.au has contacted the Prime Minister’s office and the Attorney-General, Michaelia Cash, for comment.