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By Josh Massoud

February 20, 2009 12:00am

BARBARA Scott’s terror didn’t truly arrive when she discovered the passenger door was locked. It came moments later, when the bald man in the driver’s seat uttered the chilling words: “I’ll only let you out if you say ‘Ivan Milat’.”

They tumbled from the mouth of fellow harness steward Kevin Adams, who had been harassing her for sex and touching her on and off for the past year.

Alone and helpless on the outskirts of Bankstown trotting track, Australia’s first-ever female harness racing steward suddenly feared for her life. She became hysterical, yelling at Adams to unlock the doors.

“Let me out of the f…ing car,” she screamed, over and over again.

Adams gazed at her and smiled. “Oh, you’re no fun,” he said, unlocking the doors.

For Scott, the shocking incident, which took place on August 6, 2007, was the horrifying culmination of an 18-month campaign of bullying and sexual harassment she endured from her peers.

But the most disturbing thing was not the fact Adams repeated the extraordinary request of Scott two months later while vaccinating horses in Pheasants Nest, south-west of Sydney. The most disturbing thing was that their employer, the Greyhound and Harness Racing Regulatory Authority (GHRRA), did so little to stop it.

Bravely breaking her silence to The Daily Telegraph since winning a landmark unfair dismissal case against the GHRRA last week, Scott has exposed a “culture of sexual harassment festering” inside the sport.

Aside from Adams’ sexual harassment between August 2006 and January 2008, proceedings in the Industrial relations Commission (IRC) reveal that chief steward Michael Beattie bullied Scott to the point where she suffered from “depression and post traumatic stress disorder”.

In her judgment, handed down last week, Commissioner Tabbaa slammed the response of then-GHRRA boss John Coughlan to Scott’s ordeal as “deplorable”.

Coughlan is no longer working at the GHRRA, pending a review of his employment from the NSW Government’s Department of Liquor, Gaming and Racing.

“Mr Coughlan’s response to the situation was entirely inappropriate and very telling,” Commissioner Tabbaa wrote in her judgment. “Mr Coughlan’s response … was deplorable. He tried to lay blame at (Scott’s) feet.

“Unfortunately, that attitude led to a culture of sexual harassment festering, it led to the perpetrator (Adams) walking away completely unscathed despite at least two sexual harassment complaints being lodged against him by two different stewards.”

The IRC also heard that an independent GHRRA investigation found Adams guilty of sexually harassing 21-year-old male steward, Matthew Bentley.

Scott claimed that Bentley was also locked in a car with Adams and ordered to say “Ivan Milat” and that the older steward had grabbed his leg. Adams is still employed as a fulltime steward and officiated at Menangle Park on Tuesday.

Bentley and Scott both made formal complaints last January. But while Bentley was hired as a permanent fulltime steward four months later, Scott was made a casual employee and received limited work.

Scott successfully argued that her demotion was “entirely due to the complaints” she had made against Adams and Beattie.

“(Scott’s) dismissal was harsh, unreasonable and unjust and the situation needs to be remedied,” Commissioner Tabbaa wrote.

The matter is due to be finalised before the IRC on Tuesday, when Commissioner Tabbaa will decide whether Scott returns to fulltime work or receives compensation.

Ahead of the hearing, the 48-year-old this week spoke exclusively to The Daily Telegraph about her entire ordeal. “I’ve been to hell and back,” Scott, a mother-of-two, said. “They (the GHRRA) think I’m a troublemaker. Instead of being the victim, I’m a troublemaker in their eyes. They would rather get rid of me than deal with the complaint.

“The sexual harassment and bullying was horrible. I know it was a direct result of the complaints I was making. It was the most distressing and humiliating thing I’ve ever experienced.”

Scott was first employed as a casual steward in March 2006. Just six months later the harassment began.

After transferring from Queensland in June 2006, Adams began badgering Scott for dates in September despite being married.

“He was constantly asking me out for dinner and making inappropriate comments about my appearance,” Scott said. “He asked if I’d shaved my legs, and suggested that a dinner at KFC in Muswellbrook was our first date.

“I found it extremely uncomfortable. Kevin was married and I was in a relationship at the time. After a while I became ultra-conscious when he was around. I started trying to avoid being left alone with him. I didn’t feel comfortable working with him.

“Rumours had started that we were having an affair, which was certainly not true. I was conscious of not doing anything to inflame those rumours.”

A fellow steward, Chris Paul, witnessed Adams’ behaviour and reported it to GHRRA human resources manager Kay Johnson in September 2006. Scott was advised to tell Adams to cease harassing her, which she did.

But a short time after she was made a fulltime steward, in July 2007, Adams’ unwanted advances recommenced with greater intensity.

In September 2007 he touched her four times – twice on the hand, once around the body and once on her shoulder. There were also incessant emails and demands for a relationship.

“When he touched my hand on the table, I tried to pull away but he held me there,” Scott said. “When he stroked my shoulder he lingered. I felt uncomfortable … something more than uncomfortable.”

But the most terrifying encounter came at a restricted meeting at Bankstown during the midst of the EI outbreak. Scott claimed that Adams had driven her to a viewing tower before a race when the doors of the car locked and he refused to let her out.

“He told me to say ‘Ivan Milat’ before he unlocked the doors,” she said. “I feared for my life and he just said, ‘Oh, you’re no fun’. But there was nothing funny about it. It was sick and disturbed. It was like he had this power over me. I felt like he was trying to control me with intimidation.

“The next time I went to work at Bankstown I burst into tears. I couldn’t figure out why, and then my daughter reminded me that that was where Kevin had scared me. I was breaking down emotionally and getting no support from management. I was jittery and depressed.”

Scott said Adams repeated the stunt a short time later, and she also claimed Bentley told her he had been subjected to the same bizarre treatment.

The pair tendered official complaints in January 2008 to their employer, which hired Christine Breakspear, a private investigator, to review the matters. Breakspear concluded that Scott had been subjected to three counts of sexual harassment and one of bullying. Adams was ordered to apologise to both stewards, but Scott refused to accept his written statement.

“His apology was not sincere. It inferred that I had taken everything the wrong way. He said he was sorry, but I didn’t feel he meant it,” she said. Around the same time, her relationship with chief steward Beattie had also deteriorated.

In August 2007, Beattie had said “I’m going to kill you” after he accused Scott of not advising him correctly on vaccination supplies. Then, at a stewards’ meeting in January 2008, he screamed at her.

The IRC found Beattie’s bullying tactics were a “direct consequence” of Scott’s complaints against Adams. “It is clear from the evidence that Mr Beattie … had resented the fact that she had filed those complaints against one of their own,” Commissioner Tabbaa wrote.

The GHRRA engaged a professional counsellor to help Scott cope. But despite Scott being diagnosed as suffering from depression and post traumatic stress disorder, Coughlan suggested that she had “led Adams on”.

“Instead of being provided with the support she was expecting … John Coughlan (accused) her of leading Mr Adams on,” Commissioner Tabbaa found.

After unsuccessfully applying for permanent status in May last year, Scott was informed of her demotion. She has only worked a handful of shifts since, the latest at Penrith last Thursday night.

Notwithstanding everything that has happened, Scott remains desperate to get her old job back.

“I don’t want compensation,” she said. “This has cost me $46,000 in legal expenses, but it will be worth every cent if I can return to work as a fulltime steward. I know speaking out isn’t going to please certain people, but I feel it has to be done for the sake of other women who want to follow in my footsteps.

“I’m the first-ever female harness racing steward in Australia. I have a responsibility to ensure I’m not the last. If I don’t get my job back I won’t have won anything, even though the IRC ruled in my favour.

“They (Adams and Beattie) still have their jobs, and I won’t have mine. How is that fair?”

The GHRRA declined to comment on its own behalf – and that of any individual stewards – when approached by The Daily Telegraph for a response. Acting director Peter Baldwin said legal advice prevented the organisation from commenting.

http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,25079732-5001021,00.html

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