Former employee alleges she was summarily dismissed for an incident at an off-site function

Summarily dismissed: a former employee claims she was the victim of a gossip-driven effort to finish her career at Sovereign Hill. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric
Summarily dismissed: a former employee claims she was the victim of a gossip-driven effort to finish her career at Sovereign Hill. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

A female employee was dismissed from Sovereign Hill for pushing a male staff member away from her at a function in 2012, The Courier has learned.

The employee has spoken at length on the record to The Courier, but we have chosen not to identify her at this time. We will identify her as Ms 3.

The Courier can confirm the male staff member she allegedly pushed away is the same one at the centre of a Victoria Police investigation.

Ms 3 began work with the not-for-profit organisation in 2010 and left in 2012 after an incident at a Sovereign Hill function held outside the premises.

She says she was in her early 20s when she began at Sovereign Hill, and was struck immediately by the ‘cliquey’ nature of the workplace, where factions and groups formed close relationships.

She said it is not an uncommon practice for romantic and intimate relationships to form among staff at Sovereign Hill, a practice that led to clashes among staff on occasion.

“That happens a lot,” says Ms 3.”

Ms 3 said she was at a Sovereign Hill Christmas party speaking to a colleague when Employee X entered her personal space.

“He was in my face, all over me,” says Ms 3, “and I pushed him out of my private zone.”

She says she was called into the Sovereign Hill offices the next day without trained union representation and told she would be dismissed for harassing Employee X, based on a series of reports delivered by others at the party.

“It was basically gossip about me, about something that took place outside of work,” says Ms 3.

“I had no idea of what I was walking into.”

Ms 3 says she is aware of similar circumstances allegedly taking place, with other women being disciplined or dismissed after having complaints made about dealing with Employee X.

She said she tried to sue the organisation for unfair dismissal but was told by her lawyer, ‘Sovereign Hill are untouchable.’

She says she signed a document saying she was resigning, and agreeing not to go on Sovereign Hill premises for 12 months.

“That whole experience has taken me four years to deal with,” says Ms 3.

“I’ve had to see a psychologist, a psychiatrist. It’s very traumatic. It’s a horrible culture at Sovereign Hill.”

“It’s very toxic, and management are aware of it, I swear. They just choose to turn a blind eye,” she said.

Ms 3 says as a female employee working at Sovereign Hill, she was constantly sexualised by the male employees, with Employee X being the worst.

“He would grab me, touch my breasts,” says Ms 3.

“He would grab my waist and put his hands on my breasts; men would pick me up and carry me, because I’m a smaller woman.

“Being young, I wasn’t really aware; I was like, ‘Oh they’re joking around.’ Now I realise how absolutely unacceptable it was.”

Ms 3 said Employee X would allege to her that a work colleague had shared pictures of her with other male staff, and that he would say to her, ‘Jesus, I’d like to have sex with you.’

On other occasions Employee X and other male staff would wait for Ms 3 to enter the change rooms to dress for performance, then kick the door open.

She says a culture of drinking at Sovereign Hill at the time exacerbated the problems, which was later addressed to a degree by a drug-testing policy.

“It just seems that a lot of the women actors at Sovereign Hill have these issues, and while it’s led by Employee X, it’s supported by other men. But he’s untouchable.”

If this or other stories have raised issues of sexual assault or other behaviours for you, please contact your local Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) or other women’s support services. There is a 24-hour Crisis Care service available on 1800 806 292.