The allegations of harassment and assault at Sovereign Hill, revealed exclusively by Fairfax Media earlier this year, have moved closer to resolution with an upcoming court appearance.
A 42-year-old man will appear in Ballarat Magistrates Court in October, charged with one count of sexual assault, Victoria Police have confirmed.
Mark William Burnett will appear in court on October 4.
Fairfax Media understands Burnett is an employee of Sovereign Hill, and the charge relates to the matters first reported by Fairfax Media in February of this year.
Sources have told Fairfax Media he is still on the books at the popular tourist venue, but has been on paid leave.
It comes as a report into sexual harassment allegations at Sovereign Hill is delivered to the CEO and board.
The report, by YMCA Redress Panel member and former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Susan Halliday, was commissioned by the outgoing CEO Jeremy Johnson after Fairfax Media revealed the allegations earlier this year.
In February 2018, after months of investigation, female Sovereign Hill staff gave Fairfax Media extensive and detailed descriptions of assaults and harassment they allege they had been subjected to, including being groped, manhandled and having a male staff member expose himself to them on repeated occasions.
A staff member told Fairfax Media she had made reports about the harassing behaviour at the multi-million dollar tourist attraction for over two years, but no action was taken.
Sovereign Hill issued a comprehensive statement to staff on Thursday afternoon. A press release was issued shortly after.
In it, Sovereign Hill board president Adrian Doyle said ‘work will begin immediately actioning the initiatives and commitments’ which Susan Halliday had proposed.
The statement made reference to the allegations involving Burnett without naming him, saying in part:
‘Whilst we cannot comment on the specific allegations that have been reported in the media, those allegations have highlighted to Sovereign Hill the importance of having robust workplace behaviour policies, procedures and training and ensuring that these are clearly understood and applied.
‘We also acknowledge the importance of a culture that facilitates respectful and unbiased behaviours to all. This includes not only behaviour of our employees, volunteers and contractors towards each other, but also monitoring visitor behavior to ensure that it does not negatively impact on the health and well-being of our staff.
‘To ensure this, we acknowledge the ongoing need to review our policies and procedures and closely monitor compliance with them and we commit to this occurring on a regular basis.
‘Sovereign Hill also acknowledges that mental health is an increasingly critical component of Occupational Health and Safety in any workplace. We commit to continue to enhance the provision of information, instruction and training to all our staff on this important issue.’
Sovereign Hill staff will be briefed on the statement issued by the board president at a meeting on Friday morning.
The report comes in at the same time as Fairfax Media understands seats on the board of Sovereign Hill will be contested for the first time in 32 years.
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