Nine launches staff helpline in wake of 'appalling' Don Burke scandal

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 30 November 2017
Don Burke

Nine Network has set up a counselling service for current and former staff to privately raise any instances of sexual assault, harassment and misconduct in the wake of “appalling allegations” made against former TV personality Don Burke.

In the past week, several women who either worked with Burke or were featured on his TV show Burke's Backyard have made shocking allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment and bullying against the celebrity gardener.

Nine chief executive Hugh Marks sent an email to Nine staff encouraging employees to contact a confidential helpline to disclose any cases of sexual harassment, bullying and misconduct in the workplace.

“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,” Marks wrote.

Hugh Marks 2017 UpfrontsCEO Hugh Marks

“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.

“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 week, an ABC/Sydney Morning Herald investigation, which interviewed more than 50 people, labelled Burke a “psychotic bully, misogynist and sexual predator who indecently assaulted, sexually harassed and bullied a string of female employees.”

Former Nine Boss David Leckie described Burke as Australia's “Harvey-Weinstein”, in reference to the disgraced US production mogul, while another former Nine CEO, Sam Chisolm, labelled him a “grub”.

Burke initially denied the allegations, with his lawyers calling them “false and defamatory”.

However, on Monday's episode of A Current Affair (ACA), Burke admitted that he had cheated on his wife and bullied staff, but denied he was a “Harvey Weinstein figure”.

“In part, I think I deserve this, but not for all of that sleazy sexual stuff,” he told ACA host Tracy Grimshaw.

He partly blamed his past behaviour on Asperger's syndrome, which he has never had professionally diagnosed.

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