Former Channel Nine star Kerri-Anne Kennerley has called out a “boy’s club” culture at the network that protected the likes of Don Burke, who has been accused of being a serial harasser and abuser of women.
Kennerley’s revelations come after a string of women have come forward to allege abuse at the hands of Burke when he was one of Nine’s stars in the 90s and early 2000s. Read more about that here.
The problem has become such a problematic one for Nine that its CEO, Hugh Marks, yesterday sent a company-wide email to staff (sent to B&T and published in full at the bottom of this article) that said network management would take steps to ensure former employees “perhaps with old grievances” are supported, while counselling and a phone line would be created to allow staff to report bad behaviour.
“As much as we might like to, sometimes we, unfortunately, cannot rewrite history,” Marks said in the email.
Yesterday, Kennerley – who is promoting her new autobiography – told Triple M Adelaide’s Roo and Ditts show that she knew Burke well during her time with Nine and he was part of a “boy’s club” culture at the network.
“There wasn’t any question his (Burke’s) language was appalling. I’m not a shrinking violet … but to me he always was just that little bit worse,” Kennerly revealed.
“It was the language school of Kerry Packer and it went downhill from that. All of his executives spoke the same way and they were all colourful. But Don, sometimes, was just a little bit more.
“A lot of us knew but in those days there were a lot of men who did push the envelope. Boys will be boys. But many of us in that era drew a line in the sand and said: ‘Watch my lips. Do that again and I will hit you!’
“The simple answer was, that was an era. It was all going on for young and old. There are a whole bunch of people involved, but that said, it was part of an era.
“I’m not trying to justify it,” Kennerley said. “It has to be dragged out now because no young woman should ever have to put up with that.”
The problem for Nine is that two former CEOs of the business, David Leckie and Sam Chisolm, and even Kerry Packer himself, were aware of Burke’s predatory behaviour but did nothing to stop it. There have been reports that staff that fell victim to Burke’s abuse could sue the network for failing to provide a safe workplace.
Yesterday, Nine announced the establishment a phone line to provide an independent counselling service (to staff past and present) to report instances of past behaviour they would like addressed.
Here is Hugh Marks ’email to staff in full:
In light of the appalling allegations this week of sexual assault, harassment and misconduct by Don Burke I wanted to write to all staff to reaffirm Nine’s commitment to maintaining a culture that is inclusive, supportive and respectful.
In part, we do this through our Nine Learning training programs. Thanks to all those that have participated. To those who haven’t please ensure you complete the assigned modules.
But importantly it is fundamental that as a team we all share some simple expectations. And it is in this context that we all accept our role in ensuring we have and maintain a culture that has zero tolerance of inappropriate workplace behaviour. Everyone is entitled to come to work at Nine confident that our workplace is safe and that inappropriate behaviour will be dealt with effectively.
Nine has a number of policies and procedures in place to ensure expectations in relation to behaviour in the workplace are clear. We also have clear guidelines on how we manage grievances, misconduct and support staff if any such concerns arise. Your team leaders and Nine’s HR team have the resources and tools needed to respond effectively and follow clear guidelines when dealing with misconduct, harassment, discrimination and bullying issues. There are also clear procedures to be followed if someone has a grievance to report.
As you are aware, on top of these internal systems Nine partners with Converge International to provide you with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to help you deal with any challenges, concerns or issues that may be affecting you at work or at home. You can contact this confidential service directly on 1300 687 327 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The service is available from 8.00am – 6.00pm Monday to Friday.
All of these policies and guidelines apply to everyone associated with Nine. That includes our staff, contractors, sub-contractors, agents, consultants and temporary staff. Copies of these policies and procedures are available on the intranet under the Human Resources tab.
As much as we might like to, sometimes we unfortunately cannot rewrite history. But we can and will take steps to ensure that former employees, perhaps with old grievances, are supported. So we have set up a unique phone line for them to call 1300 554 818 and will provide an independent counselling service to report instances of past behaviour they would like addressed. Former Nine employees with complaints simply provide their personal contact details and HR will follow up directly on a strictly confidential basis. The counselling will be provided at no cost to them and Nine will support the person to work through any issues that relate to their time at Nine.
It’s my job as CEO, and that of your senior leaders, to ensure that people who have been treated poorly will be heard, and that they will get appropriate support if they need it. Any matters which are raised and require further action will be addressed appropriately either internally or, if required, externally of Nine.
This is an important issue for all Australian workplaces. I believe Nine can take a strong leadership role in our industry to make sure we do the right thing by our people, now, and into the future.