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