Australian Antarctic Division director Kim Ellis resigns from role after years of turmoil over workplace culture
The head of Australia’s Antarctic division has announced his resignation, four years into the role.
Key points: Kim Ellis was appointed to the role in 2019 and was due to finish in February next year. His resignation comes ahead of the release of an investigation into the culture of the Antarctic program. Mr. Ellis commissioned Professor Meredith Nash to lead a study into the allegations. become aware of cultural problems in 2019
In an internal email sent to staff on Monday afternoon and seen by the ABC, Kim Ellis said he had “decided to move on to the next phase” of his life and would leave next month, a year ahead of his contract end, retire.
Mr Ellis said the past four years had been “some of the most challenging” for the division, dealing with the pandemic, launching the new icebreaker Nuyina and implementing a cultural review.
“Despite all this turmoil, your achievements are significant and numerous,” he said.
Mr. Ellis’ resignation comes ahead of the release of findings from a subsequent investigation into the culture of the Antarctic program after a damning external review last year revealed allegations of sexual harassment and unwelcome requests for sex.
Mr Ellis commissioned Professor Meredith Nash to lead a study into the allegations after becoming aware of cultural issues in 2019, and the report revealed that women “experienced a range of harassment, including uninvited physical contact or gestures, unwelcome requests for sex, sexual comments, jokes or innuendos, intrusive questions, display of offensive or pornographic material and sex-based insults or taunts and unwanted invitations”.
When the findings of the Nash review were released, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said she was “overwhelmed” by the report and demanded cultural change, and Mr Ellis said its findings gave the department “real authority to change in the organization”.
When asked why he didn’t feel the department had real authority to make changes before the report was released, he said the culture was “self-reinforcing.”
There is no suggestion that the timing of Mr. Ellis’s resignation has no connection to the upcoming release of findings.
In his resignation email, Mr Ellis referred to the “significant cultural changes” the department had implemented as a result, saying none of them had been easy and “there is much more to do”.
“There is much more change ahead and I urge you to look out for each other, support your leaders and get involved in the process,” he wrote.
Mr Ellis was appointed to the role in 2019 and was due to finish in February next year.
The recruitment process for a new leader will begin soon, he said.
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