Attempts at change being made, but a long way to go yet, say staff

Men speak: support for women making accusations of chauvinism at Sovereign Hill.
Men speak: support for women making accusations of chauvinism at Sovereign Hill.

Former and current male employees of beleaguered tourist attraction Sovereign Hill have stepped forward to support the testimonies of their female colleagues about allegations of sexual harassment.

Despite a warning from CEO Jeremy Johnson at an all staff meeting held on Thursday morning that speaking to media was a breach of Sovereign Hill’s code of conduct, The Courier conducted interviews with several employees past and present who corroborated accusations made by female staff, and spoke of a culture of sexism and misogyny among some of the male employees.

The Courier understands an employee present at the meeting asked Mr Johnson, “How can I walk down the street in my uniform now? People will think I could be the guy,” referring to Employee X.

One former employee said management at the museum was a ‘boys’ club’, where dealing with actual cultural change at Sovereign Hill was ignored in preference to ‘statements that portrayed Sovereign Hill in a good public light,’ such as photo opportunities for White Ribbon Day, where commitment to change was not measurable.

You gotta watch that guy

Sovereign Hill employee on Employee X

He said the museum had a habit of targeting victims, who were seen as a nuisance, called into disciplinary hearings and blamed for the situations they found themselves in.

“It was purely about stopping the truth getting out; it happened on many occasions,” he said.

Another employee said the culture was ‘certainly misogynistic’, and had a hierarchy that was based not on merit but on, “who was there first, and for how long.” 

The staff member said he first heard about Employee X about two years ago, when he was at Sovereign Hill with another colleague who told him, “You gotta watch that guy.”

He was later present at a Sovereign Hill Christmas party where Employee X harassed the sister of a colleague. The colleague reported the incident, and was then allegedly disciplined for naming Employee X, and given a formal warning.

The staff member said in recent times efforts were being made to address the worser aspects of the culture at Sovereign Hill.

“Look - there are some genuine attempts being made by HR to break the culture: training in bullying and harassment and people being encouraged to report issues; some people are speaking up when unacceptable things are said,” he said.

“There’s a way to go. The smutty jokes, the unwanted attention, asking women to go out – that’s still there. But at least women will know now they can tell a man to back off.”