ALP state president apologises for false and defamatory claims


The state president of the ALP has been forced to issue a grovelling apology to the head of the Victorian Women's Trust for falsely claiming she was a workplace bully who financially mismanaged the organisation.

In a writ filed in the Supreme Court in May, Women's Trust executive director Mary Crooks had accused senior Labor official Hutch Hussein of defaming her via an email that was sent to former Equal Opportunity Commissioner Moira Rayner.

The writ paved the way for what was expected to a bitter court stoush between the two high-profile women, who have spent years advocating for gender equality in their respective fields.

Three months later the matter has been settled, with Ms Hussein issuing a written apology and conceding her claims had no foundation.

"I am remorseful about authoring and publishing this document and for the damage it has caused," Ms Hussein wrote in a statement seen by Fairfax Media.

"I now provide an unqualified acceptance that the allegations aren't true.

"I regretfully acknowledge that in making them, I relied on sources which lack credibility...

"I apologise to Ms Crooks AO for causing harm to her personal and professional reputation.

"I apologise for also impugning the reputation of the past and present talented and collegial staff of the VWT and the VWT board."

The Victorian Women's Trust is a not-for-profit philanthropic organisation that provides community grants to advance the cause of women and gender equality.

Ms Hussein's email rocked the organisation for months, fuelling suggestions that Ms Crooks had driven down donations, misused funds on in-house projects of "questionable merit" and presided over a "toxic workplace culture" in which more than 15 staff, interns and volunteers had been repeatedly bullied.

One allegation centred on a suggestion that Ms Crooks had kicked the levers of an office chair in which a female staff member was seated, resulting in physical injury and psychological damage to the employee.

Ms Hussein, a former convenor of Emily's List, declined to comment on the matter when contacted on Wednesday.

Ms Crooks told Fairfax Media: "Accountability for things said and done is a central principle in the way we conduct our personal and professional lives.

"It was probably not easy to make this apology but I acknowledge that she's done so."

This story ALP state president apologises for false and defamatory claims first appeared on The Age.