Tasmanian Times


‘Museum Director sacked over Asperger’s’

Systemic, ingrained discrimination at Launceston City Council has seen the Director of the world famous Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery sacked for protecting the rights of an employee with Asperger’s Syndrome. Asperger’s is a high functioning form of autism, characterised by impaired ability to read non-verbal communication.

The affected employee, Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin, an internationally renowned jellyfish specialist, who has discovered over 160 new species, joined the QVMAG in January 2009. In July 2010, she was stood down and banned from Council premises, facing 13 allegations generated from a secret report. These allegations included unwashed coffee cups and having a tattoo. Her pay has been stopped and Council has made several attempts to induce her to resign.It is common for people with Asperger’s to be victimised by those who are offended by their lack of social literacy. This irritation lay behind the bullying of, and the vexatious charges against, Dr Gershwin.

Having investigated these and other similar complaints for over six months, the Director of the Museum, Mr Patrick Filmer-Sankey, concluded they were groundless. Mr Filmer-Sankey who has extensive museum management experience was a previous Deputy Director of the Australian Museum in Sydney and Director of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

On the strength of the allegations against Dr Gershwin, however, Mr Filmer-Sankey was summarily sacked in August. Interviews to replace him (took) place today (22 October 2010).

Systemic prejudice within the Launceston City Council has resulted in withholding of natural justice, abuse of the industrial agreement and processes, the harassment of Dr Gershwin, the sacking of the Director, and blatant discrimination.

It is unclear whether Council will proceed with disciplinary action against Dr Gershwin. The Launceston Council has endorsed the actions.

Ironically, Launceston City Council was voted Employer of Choice in 2009.

Patrick Filmer-Sankey’s blog: HERE

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. shnail

    October 31, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    You are right on 3 counts:
    1. You don’t know much about the matter.
    2. Almost everyone in a position of authority was remiss, hence the sacking.
    3. Natural Justice is for everyone, not just those at the top.

  2. Question Authority

    October 31, 2010 at 3:38 am

    Don’t know much about this matter but your comment seems a most unusual statement.
    A big call (esp. if you are the decision maker).

    If you are acting on behalf of the Australian Services Union and aggrieved ASU members at the Museum, shouldn’t you say so? Or maybe I missed something?

    Just because someone can mouth the phrases doesn’t mean they have an understanding of the meanings of the principles of Natural Justice, application and practice.

    They are also not a tap to be turned off and on when an employer feels like it. They are universal and ongoing protections for conditions of employment.

    Who is the legal employer, the Council or the Office of the State Service Commissioner? Are the staff State Service employees? If so, one would hope the OSSC is providing administrative assistance. Specialist guidance ethics and integrity don’t go astray either.

    This issue of (delegated?) statutory authority, responsibility and obligation can be treacherous when ill defined.

    I don’t believe the matters you raise have been overlooked, unless everybody was remiss.

    Is this matter still in arbitration or appeal or something? Hope I haven’t prejudiced anything.

  3. shnail

    October 30, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    Well said Michael. There is a large piece of the story missing here as you well know. Patrick is very selective in what he remembers and presents to a gullible public. The workplace was unsafe and a person with a documented longstanding disability suffered and continues to suffer from the impact of that. This campaign of relentless victimisation and public vilification of those involved in the investigation is also illegal and immoral. I believe the investigation has quite a bit to say about the denial of natural justice. If only people knew…

  4. michael swanton

    October 30, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    The main, overlooked issue in this matter, has been the fundamental of a ‘safe workplace’ for all employees. Duty of care, and the basics of natural justice and procedural fairness, do not seem to be a factor in Patrick’s intereptation of his responsibility as a Director in relation to this matter.
    Michael Swanton. Industrial Advocate.

  5. james Christy

    October 28, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Absolutely disgusting, just stopped over in Hobart on my way back to the U.K. and saw that even here in the southern hemisphere there are such bigots. Glad I am not staying round here too long my son has Aspergers and is an extremely talented singer, but sometimes I have to remind him to brush his teeth. I wouldn’t want him to come into contact with some officers on Launceston City Council

  6. Dave

    October 25, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    Why would anyone be surprised, it’s Launceston after all. For my sins, of which there were no doubt many, I lived in Lonny for almost eight years looking back those years were the longest decades of my life.

    In my time in ‘Lonny’ I came across deep ingrained political, racial, and homophobic prejudice. This prejudice was mixed with an and all too frequently based upon even deeper religious intolerance.

    For my part being young and no doubt insensitive to my surroundings I wore my left of center politics openly and never denied that I was not a believer in their personal God. All of which caused me no end of bother mostly at work. Worse yet I became active in the union movement a deadly trilogy in Tasmania’s Conservative capital.

    My activism as light as it was, apparently upset the powers at be where I worked. And so began a slow but unrelenting series of attacks on me which began with a campaign of whispering lies, next came fabricated evidence and ended with an attempt at public humiliation.

    The behaviour was orchestrated by a prominent couple, one of whom I had challenged at a public meeting, this couple had their political supporters and church behind them. Church and right of center politics are deeply entwined and their tentacles ran very deep indeed as I later found out. My boss at the time did nothing to help she later told me she had lived in Lonny long enough to know better than to take ‘them’ on.

    So was this story a surprise, hardly it simply highlights yet again that nothing has changed in Lonny you take ‘them’ on at your peril, clearly ‘their’ tentacles still run deep.

  7. Karl Stevens

    October 24, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    It seems Dr Gershwin has discovered yet more new species of jelly fish. The ‘blubber-mothered municipalis-launcestonous’ is one of the newly discovered species. It inhabits the bureaucratic inter-tidal zone between Monday and Friday and is either commencing or completing a ‘full investigation’ or a ‘comprehensive review’.

  8. William Boeder

    October 24, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    The diligent Launceston council hiring process must be a real doozie?
    EG:Can you walk and talk?
    :Do you seek long term employment?
    :Do you think you might get a tattoo?

    So it goes on, Advance Tasmania!

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