Allegations of a long-standing culture of misogyny and bullying at prisons near Ballarat by Corrections Victoria officers have been made by former staff, who have spoken exclusively to The Courier.
These are their stories.
Hannah O'Brien's story is in two parts; the first was published on Monday.
A five-month investigation followed Hannah O'Brien's complaints about the harassment she alleged she was subjected to while working at HM Prison Langi Kal Kal. It was conducted initially by the Department of Justice; a second WorkCover investigation used Bendigo-based private investigation firm A Matter of Fact.
The man who approached O'Brien at the social functions was suspended on full pay for the five months of the investigation.
The subsequent reports run to hundreds of pages and have been read by The Courier.
In it, understandably, there are extensive and often conflicting details as to what took place at both incidents outside of the workplace and other matters.
There is much discussion and conjecture about whether the social functions constituted a workplace-related event, how much alcohol was consumed and by whom, and the nature of conversations.
The reports also reveal a startling disconnect between uniformed and non-uniformed management. In one statement, one manager says an officer was 'arrogant' and 'known for being a prick'; that another was 'a womaniser'.
I didn't know what to do... that in itself terrifed me.Hannah O'Brien
Also revealed is the fact a series of complaints of harassment were made to senior management by other women employees at Langi Kal Kal. O'Brien says this reporting gave her some reassurance she might be able to speak freely about what had taken place.
"I'm not over-reacting and I'm not alone," was the feeling she says she had.
The process soon consumed her, however.
"I'd never written a report before; I didn't know what to do, so I just wrote a report to the general manager in my own words. That in itself terrified me."
O'Brien says she and the other women were told 'not to discuss (their complaints) with anyone; that the investigation was being conducted out of Melbourne head office by People and Culture.'
"I wasn't given any legal advice. I had to fight to be allowed to have a support person with me; I didn't know that a 'support person' existed," she says.
It was other staff at the prison who told her she was entitled to support. She says they told her, 'Don't go in alone; don't you bloody dare.'"
The investigation was conducted by two female representatives of the Department of Justice at Langi Kal Kal prison. O'Brien attended with a union support person, and says she found the process confrontational from the outset.
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"Whenever I said anything, or they asked me a question and I'd answer it, they'd say, 'Well (he) says you were drunk.' I was gobsmacked."
O'Brien was again told not to discuss the investigation with anyone; there would be consequences if she did so. She was told she would not hear an outcome, as it would breach the confidentiality of the man she had accused.
I wasn't given any legal advice. I had to fight to be allowed to have a support person with me; I didn't know that a 'support person' existedHannah O'Brien
At the same time, O'Brien says, another senior worker at Langi Kal Kal was making inappropriate sexual comments comments in front of staff, male and female.
O'Brien says the nature of the comments included remarks like, 'Remember girls, if it's in your mouth, you can't get pregnant.'
When other senior staff found the comment amusing and laughed, they were advised by a junior member that the statement was not acceptable. The offending staff member was later counselled and apologised.
"These managers are mostly men, they look out for each other," O'Brien says.
"There is a culture of drinking, and it was not uncommon for male staff to turn up for work still affected by alcohol."
Corrections Victoria staff are told they could be drug and alcohol-tested at any time on the premises of the prison, and there is zero tolerance of the presence of substances.
No person that The Courier has spoken with in the course of these investigations has any recollection of a test taking place which they were involved in.
"You are told the whole time that you are there, as a non-uniformed person, that the uniformed people are there to protect you, that they will be available in an instant if you need to call them," O'Brien says.
"And I was sitting in reception watching these people come through that smell like a bloody brewery. I thought, 'If a prisoner comes in here and has a go, they won't arrive.'"
O'Brien was diagnosed with anxiety and depression following her investigation.
'Overall it appears that for a young person such as Ms O'Brien this experience has been quite distressing as she felt she was subjected to unwelcome sexual attention by someone who is quite senior and 'high up in the workforce' wrote a consulting psychiatrist.
O'Brien says she's lost three years of her life. She no longer works in the prison system.
The Courier acknowledges that the majority of staff working in our prisons, male and female, do an outstanding job in some of the most fraught situations imaginable. They are confronted daily with the extremes of human behaviour, and with offenders who have committed atrocious crimes. The staff of our prisons deserve a workplace that supports them fully and makes no allowance for bullying, harassment, or any form of sexual abuse.
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