Corruption Report into Former VC Richard Higgott Released

Former Murdoch University Vice-Chancellor Richard Higgott viewed adult material on his work laptop and had complaints made against him just six months into the job, according to a recently released report.

The Corruption and Crime Commission have been looking into alleged misconduct by the former Vice-Chancellor and his closest members of staff since October 2014.

“This account is how Professor Higgott, when Vice-Chancellor, did not live up to that trust. He seriously breached Murdoch’s policies,” the report said.

Other matters included in the report were Higgott alleged misuse of his corporate credit card and possible destruction of key documents relevant to the investigation.

The report called the University’s control of credit cards ‘lax’ and said Murdoch did not follow its documentation retention policy.

“It is not now possible to form an opinion whether the destruction of certain documents was deliberate to thwart an investigation or unintentional inadvertence,” the CCC said in the report.

The CCC also describe deceptive means Higgott used to employ Deputy Vice Chancellor Ann Capling, who also stood down immediately after the investigation began.

Professor Higgott is said to have not fully disclosed his close personal relationship with Ann Capling, saying that he had a ‘professional association at arm’s length’ and used ‘secret communications’ with Professor Capling.

The report noted that Higgott and Capling had collaborated on academic projects over the past 20 years.

During the investigation Higgott described their email contact as “friendly”, “facetious”, “gossipy and chatty.”

Capling left her job at the University of Melbourne to take up the position at Murdoch University.

Murdoch University issued a statement that while misconduct is rare, they take this situation extremely seriously.

“We do not tolerate poor behaviour by any employee of the University. We live by our values of integrity, respect and professional conduct.”

It is understood the CCC waited until Murdoch University had appointed a new Vice Chancellor due to the sensitivity of the results.

The full CCC report can be read here.

More to come.

The Word ‘Freedom’

The following is an extract from an interview with Murdoch student, Jamila Jafari, who fled Afghanistan when she was just five.  This piece was originally published on Behind The Wire.  Behind the Wire is an oral history project documenting the stories of men, women and children who have experienced Australian mandatory detention over the past 23 years. It seeks to bring a new perspective on mandatory detention by sharing the reality of the people who have lived it. If you want to tell your story, or volunteer with Behind the Wire, please contact them and get involved. Go ahead and check out their website to read the full story.

We had the initial interview, and it was in a lovely, clean, air-conditioned building – really different from the donga [demountable buildings]. There was a desk, an interviewer, an interpreter, and a chair. Mum sat on the chair as she was being interviewed, and my brother and I had to sit on the floor. I think they gave us a piece of paper and a few coloured pencils to occupy us with. And, I mean, it should have been something enjoyable to do but what was I supposed to draw? Razor wire all around me? That’s all I’d seen ever since I’d arrived here.

So, once you’ve been initially interviewed, they transfer you over, make room for the other new arrivals. The other donga we were moved to was much bigger and it had a small living area, a corridor and three bedrooms on each side. Each bedroom had two bunk beds. So we took one of the rooms there, there were other Hazara families in the other rooms. And these other Hazara families, they were, I think, the epitome of what detention does to children. The psychological effects detention has. The lady, she had quite a few children. She had two older boys: one was 14 and the other was 12. She had lots of girls as well. When I think of detention, what I saw with them are a big part of the memories I have.

“They were, I think, the epitome of what detention does to children”

Woomera was the most notorious detention centre in Australia. There were lots of protests and riots and that sort of thing while we were in Woomera. I saw adults and children with their lips sewn, bruised and all this stuff. The 14-year-old and the 12-year-old, they both had their lips sewn. The mother too.

During one of the riots on January 26, I was standing there and there was arguing going on. There was screaming, people screaming out, “Freedom! Freedom!” It was the middle of the desert during the really hot season and the conditions were just unbearable. I remember the 14-year-old, he had some kind of blade. He’d written out the word ‘freedom’, he cut that into his skin, his left forearm – I’m sorry this is so graphic – his skin’s ripped open, his blood’s dripping, and he’s screaming out, “We want freedom!”

I could never remove that image from my head. It’s so vivid. And his voice is… it’s shaking, there’s so much pain in his voice. Like, a 14-year-old! Doing that to himself! And all the other adults, older children, protesting and screaming out, “Freedom, freedom, freedom.” When I think of my childhood, that is one of the main words that I remember, like it’s been engraved in me, and I have never… I wish I could, I wish I could remove those images from my head. But, I can’t. It’s impossible.

“His skin’s ripped open, his blood’s dripping, and he’s screaming out, “We want freedom!”

After the boy cuts himself, next thing I hear are people screaming and crying out because a man has climbed right to the top of the fence and then he just jumps off the fence. He lands on a coil of razor wire and people are shrieking, they’re crying out. Everyone is so surprised. As he lands, his weight causes the coil to bounce, so he bounces a few times like a heartbeat. His arms are all cut up because of the razor and he’s bleeding. There’s a documentary about him, called ‘The Man Who Jumped’. He didn’t die, but the conditions in the detention centre drove him off the edge, literally. You wouldn’t do that if you were completely sane, you know?

And those boys, they were so damaged, honestly. They did a lot of hectic things but I just admired them so much for their fearlessness, their boldness and their bravery. It’s not an easy task to sew your lips together, to go on a hunger strike, to then resort to cutting into your own flesh. You couldn’t help but admire them for having those personality traits in the face of such hopeless times. I think there were other people who felt the same way about them, even people older than them.

Uni in freedom spat

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Fremantle Herald Interactive

A MURDOCH UNIVERSITY academic has complained to her union that she was told to remove a tweet supporting refugees because it doesn’t align with the university’s “brand”.

Murdoch is strongly denying the claim, stating through an anonymous spokesperson it has a “long and proud history of academic freedom of expression”.

But the spokesperson adds the university also expects its academics to “make it clear they are posting in a personal capacity when participating on any public platform”.

On Tuesday, Dr Kate Fitch tweeted to her private Twitter account a photo of the university’s Students for Refugees group, in front of a banner saying #LetThemStay. There was no commentary in the tweet.

05. 9NEWS

She later complained to the National Tertiary Education Union she’d been ordered to remove the tweet, an order she refused to comply with. NTEU WA secretary Gabe Gooding was “frankly appalled” by the order, which had allegedly come from…

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Searching for Mike

As far as we knew nobody had seen Mike Macduff for decades. I’d heard wild stories about him in my childhood because he went to school with my dad. Nobody knew if he was alive or dead, (but it wouldn’t surprise anybody if he was.) I decided to track him down.

Mike was apparently very clever. His classmates were a bit wary of him because they knew he could make the people around him do what he wanted like a skilled chess player.

Mike was the type of kid who’s so clever they get bored by school. By All accounts Mike’s school did not cater for smart people; rather it was intended to train young men to take over the British Empire. It has been described as a place designed to make a young man capable of going out to east Africa and taking over a patch of land from the last guy. The graduate would then keep watch over her majesty’s interests and make sure the natives behaved until the next guy came along.

Legend had it that Mike had been on an international school trip. He had a packet of cigarettes he knew would be found at airport customs- where they’d be confiscated as he was a minor. Mike’s plan had been to get caught smoking in front of the teacher on purpose. The teacher confiscated the cigarettes, put them in his pocket and walked them through customs. All Mike had to do was lift the cigarettes out of the teacher’s pocket once they were through security.

Supposedly there was a teacher at Mike’s school who would walk up to boys in class and touch their legs while they sat working in silence. Mike’s solution was to position a ping pong ball in his shorts. When they teacher came in for a feel, the ping pong ball was dislodged. It fell to the floor with a clatter, breaking the silence of the classroom. The other students turned in their seats to investigate the noise only to find the teacher in a compromising position.

How was I going to find this guy? His friends hadn’t seen him, but they did know his family came from an area of Scotland called Black Isle. (Black Isle is extremely remote and its local dialect died out in 2012.) The nearest civilisation to Mike’s family home is a village called Munlochy. I did some digging. Munlochy has a village Facebook page. I posted an ad on the Facebook page asking, “Do the MacDuff family still live in these parts? Has anybody kept in touch with them?” 

Some time later I got an email from a local who’d seen my ad. No, the Macduff’s had moved out years ago, but there was a lady who had lived in the area for decades. She might know something.

The lady had kept in touch with Mike’s brother who me in touch with Mike. As it turned out he was in France “working with fruit” (whatever the hell means.)

All aboard: A trip on the Leeuwin

I just spent a week on the Leeuwin, a three-masted sailing ship that travels up and down the WA coast, building character in young people by teaching them about sailing, leadership, and teamwork.

I was on board with about 38 other university kids. We were divided into four groups of about 8-10 people. Each group was led by an experienced volunteer in about their early 20s. The volunteers showed an amazing level of leadership tragically lacking in many politicians and teachers. Each group would take turns doing watch, which could involve sitting on the deck for four hours at night, steering the ship or watching the horizon for danger.

On that second day, we sailed about 80 miles out past Rottnest. The island had been sheltering us from rougher waters and the effects were noticeable as we got further into the ocean. Sea sickness hit well over half of us. To get from the front of the ship to the back, you’d have to step over horizontal bodies lined up on the deck. It looked like that scene in Gone with the Wind where Vivien Leigh walks through a sea of wounded soldiers.

A typical day on the Leeuwin would start with morning exercises at 6.30. That might involve yoga or calisthenics. After that, we’d have breakfast and start ship chores: Deck scrubbing, bathroom cleaning etc.

In the afternoon, our groups would rotate to take lessons in knot tying, ropes, navigation and such.

On about the third day, lessons went out the window when the crew caught a Wahoo off the back of the boat. Everyone crowded around to get a look. The beast was over a meter weighed over 20 kilograms. Eventually, it was bled, hacked into slabs about the size of a man’s forearm and taken to the galley. It was made into a curry type thing. I think we had it for lunch the next day. It tasted pretty good.

The day after that we dropped anchor off Rottnest and spent the afternoon on pinkies.

On the last night, we had a talent show. I saw a girl reciting pi to four hundred while her friend juggled rope balls and a third man danced around their heels with his legs crossed.

I had one of the best weeks of my life on the Leeuwin and I seriously recommend everybody applying for it. My highlight was climbing the main mast. At the top is a small plaque with a message. The only people who know what it says are the people who’ve climbed up and read it.

The Great Perth Bush Doof

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By Conrad Charles Maclean

Deep in the wilderness outside of Perth, far from any telephone reception or loathsome routine, adults rave beneath the stars wearing animal onesies and tutus. A Bush Doof is in progress.

A Doof is a public outdoor dance party. They’re common in Europe and they can be commercially run or operated at a financial loss for the love of a good party.

Tonight’s Doof is in a clearing surrounded by dense bushland. Dream catchers and tight rope wires hang between the trees. This Doof has several techno dance floors and an acoustic area.

Essentially adults come to these Doofs to play with each other like children, which is tremendously healthy. Alongside the dance floor Doofers twirl Devil sticks and Poi balls. They hula-hoop and spin fire-staffs for hours on end. Most stay up all night by camp fire light doing LSD, MDMA and bud. Doofing is nothing if not modern Bohemianism.

Beside the dance area somebody’s hung a huge net between several trees; like a hammock. It’s big enough for people to jump around in, but somebody’s lighter falls through the net onto the ground below. His mates have to crawl over to his end of the net so that the whole thing can sag low enough for him to reach out and pick it up. There’s also a cabbage being tossed around the net like a volley ball.

How to get fucked up while consuming your daily dose of vitamins. Photo by: Conrad Maclean

How to get fucked up while consuming your daily dose of vitamins.
Photo by: Conrad Maclean

Back packers have flavoured this melting pot and many of the Doofers don’t speak English as a first language. French boys run around with Bubble wrap cones on their heads. A Dutchman shimmies over to me on the dance floor. He paints the Dutch flag on my face with what looks like eye liner. Mostly the Doofers are Germans, Italians and Scandinavians, but there are a few Gaelic speakers.

Most non-commercial Doofs are run on public land for liability reasons. There have been Doofs held on private property. Word is one was crashed by Bikies. It didn’t end well and the land owner was liable.

There’s a general consensus that a level of anonymity preserves a healthy non-commercial Doof culture. Thus the location of a non-commercial Doof is not announced until the day it’s held, and you only get invited by somebody who you know is going.

This means people only invite friends they trust, people who they know won’t start trouble. Also because it’s not publicly advertised it doesn’t get mobbed with people. There are only about 400 at tonight’s Doof, anything bigger would cause trouble.

One Doofer describes it to me like this “Five out of ten, or six out of ten people are dickheads. The more people rock up, the more dick heads.”

Editor’s Note: This piece is non-fiction, because Conrad’s life is generally more exciting than the average person’s.

The Demons of Barry’s practice

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By Conrad Charles MacLean

An abridged version of my interview with local exorcist Barry May.

Father Barry May is a local Perth exorcist. He held Anglican ministry for 45 years, retiring in 2007. He worked as an army chaplain for 14 years and spent another 14 in the police force. I sat down with Barry to talk to him about his exorcism work.

“They all think the only church that can do this is the Catholic Church” Barry laughs “Well I’ve got news for them. It’s not that way, and honestly I deal with 98% Roman Catholics…Muslims do it…I’ve had Hindus. There are in various faiths exorcists, because in the major faiths there are evil.”

Barry tells me about some of his adventures. “Oh, one of my very first actually, girl was about 25, 30 years of age. She had at least a dozen nasties in her, and it took me hours and hours and hours to deliver her, and I was wearing a crucifix and all of a sudden this hand came out and grabbed it…she was a big kid, fairly heavy girl, and she just grabbed at this and tried to rip it off my throat.”

“I said “you leave that alone!”

… “And she said “Jesus is my brother.””

(Barry says those last four words in a harsh gravelly voice.)

“That’s what she said, that’s what she sounded like. I said “Jesus is no brother of yours, go get the hell out of here.”

Barry has Hindu customers as well. Photo by: Madura McCormack// Ubud, Bali

Barry has Hindu customers as well.
Photo by: Madura McCormack// Ubud, Bali

“So that was that, after 10-12 (demons)-I’m guessing it was 12-she was free.” He explains.”

“I don’t charge anything” he informs me “I’ve never charged a thing…it’s not ethical, not for me. I know some do. The Catholics want to pay because they always pay their priests. I’ve never done that, never accepted that. I want them to know that this is a ministry that we don’t charge for.”

“We always have a very long interview session” he explains “because it would be arrogant to say to somebody “I can fix you up, give us ten minutes…it might take several hours to find out where their coming from, what is their faith value, what’s been happening to them, what have they been playing around with? Because once you start delving you will find almost without doubt that they have had some occult involvement, whether it be recent or whether they were perhaps teenagers…boys who play around on a full moon with a Ouija board.”

Barry told me he believes practicing witchcraft can cause a person to be possessed by demons.

“There are witches covens in Perth” he tells me “there are people who on outward appearance are respectable, might be a doctor, or a lawyer or your next door neighbour, or teacher. And they practice witch craft by night time, at a full moon and dance around in the nuddy, and (in) the next day they put on their clothes and go to work and become your GP.

It’s not common but it does happen unfortunately, and to say “oh, look, I’m really a white witch, and their OK.” Crap. Their not. White or black witches, they still pray to Satan to give them guidance. I mean, a white witch will say “I belong to Satan, for good things to happen, so I can prosper.””

Barry had this warning for amateurs thinking of taking up exorcism.

“I’d be very, very careful. I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t do it (exorcism) but do a lot of study on it. And if you had for the right reasons, not for your own reasons, I don’t do it for my reasons.

“In fact it scares the pants off you because it’s pretty hairy stuff, by the time I’ve finished, and I’ve done an exorcism, I’m absolutely walloped. Honestly walloped, and people say “god you’re sweaty.”

“And I am sweaty because it just takes so much out of you. So it depends how much you’re prepared to give…if you do it for the good of the person, and for their salvation and their enlightenment and all that sort of stuff, fine, go for it.”

Psychological Warfare

By Conrad MacLean

You are taking a car ride with your sister and your Uncle. Your sister has really been getting on your nerves because she’s a pathological suck up. If somebody who she perceives to be powerful makes a statement like ‘what a lovely day’, she’ll jump in with something like ‘Oh my god! Yeah! I was just thinking that!’

Let’s play.

You know the local farmers in the area are supporting a cull on badgers. Badgers are a pest or something. Your sister is planning to protest the cull with her friends. You know your Uncle is in full support of the cull.

“Uncle,” you ask. “What did you say your thoughts were on this badger cull?”

“Oh it’s something that needs to be done; they dig holes and make it hard to plant crops.”

Your sister looks uncomfortable. She will never argue with Uncle but she will sit silently and listen. She’ll squirm.

“I hear people play loud music outside the badger burrows,” you say. “And when the badgers climb to the surface to investigate the noise, they wack them with shovels. Is that still a widely used killing method?”

“Wouldn’t surprise me,” says Uncle.

“Tell me more about why we need to cull them.”

If your sister does try to change the subject you gently bring the conversation back to your Uncle’s rant. You stoke the fire gently to keep him talking.

“Oh and you were saying the farm animals break their legs in the badger holes, Uncle.”

You watch your sister out of the corner of your eye.

“They break their legs in the badger holes, yeah, it’s a massive problem; of course these hippies protesting the whole thing don’t know what the hell their talking about.”

“Fascinating, tell me more!”

Your sister gives you a death stare and murmurs “why are you doing this?”

Uncle is oblivious to the full situation and continues talking.

Doing a Tony Clifton

You’ve pissed off your peers. Perhaps you’re about to be fired, or your co-workers are building a work place complaint case against you. Maybe your housemates are going to call an intervention and ask you to find somewhere else to live because you never do your dishes or pay your share of the rent.

Before the work place hearing or the share house intervention can be arranged you call a meeting of your own. Sit each member of the aggrieved party down together. Talk how much you value them and give each one a token of what they mean to you. (Like a small stuffed plush puppy doll or an acrostic poem you’ve written about each individual at the meeting.) Let’s see them get rid of you after that.

“why are you doing this?”

Plausible deniability

You are twelve years old. You’re in primary school and recess has just ended. On your way back to class you see that teacher you hate.

It’s fun to stare at this teacher during recess to freak him out.

The teacher has painted a line on the ground. He’s telling who ever will listen that this line signifies the school boundary. Anybody who steps over the line gets in trouble. It’s petty but it’s something the teacher seems to care about.

You put one foot over it, saying “oops.”

The teacher stares at you.

You step back and forth over the line saying in bored voice “Oh no! I’ve stepped over the line. Somebody stop me before I do it again.”

The teacher knows better than to react but you know from experience you can make him crack. “Oh stop me, dear teacher,” you drawl. “Mend my wicked ways before I step over the line again. I can’t help myself. I’m devoted to a life of sin.”

Finally the teacher goes for the bait and leads you off to the principal’s office.

The principle obviously thinks this is petty but humours your teacher.

“Do you know why you’re here?” the principle asks you.

“No! I have no idea; my teacher just led me here. I don’t know what for!”

The Principle tells you to wait outside his office. You hear him talking to your teacher inside.

“What can I do?” the principle asks “he’ll deny everything. You can’t prove anything and he’ll complain to his parent that we pick on him.”

“He always does this!” your teacher fumes.

The principle calls you back into his office and says “leave Mr Watson alone.”

Life-size teletubbies in the real world. Photo by: Madura McCormack

Life-size teletubbies in the real world. Photo by: Madura McCormack

Remembering the legend

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by Conrad Maclean

The man was nearly seven feet tall and skinny as a joint, with dark hair and a smile on his weather beaten face. His accent was the child of the many countries he’s lived in. He reminded me of Struwwelpeter, that boy you get told about as a kid who never washes or cuts his nails and hair.

If the local cricket team was playing near his house, he’d sit at home and shoot potatoes onto the playing field with his homemade cannon. It was his way of showing team support. He’d been known to sit on an aeroplane with a bag of fruit, and if the airhostess told him ‘you can’t take that through customs,’ he’d go from seat to seat offering his fellow passengers a piece of fruit so it didn’t go to waste.

Planet Earth never produced a nicer guy.

When we met him he had swum the darkest swamps of the human psyche, lost most his family and danced with some pretty awful demons. Though personal horrors had left scars, he had amazing positivity, wisdom and a never ending stream of bawdy jokes.

“Hey Conrad, why didn’t Snow white go to the ball?”

“I don’t know,” I’d say. “Why?”

“Because she’s fucking Dopey.”

**********************************************************************************

The year was nineteen eighty-something.

What had started as a protest over municipal housing had collapsed into street fighting between the police and protesters, whose demonstration had been hijacked by local anarchists.

The anarchists were brilliantly strategic. This was an era before mobile phones and the anarchists realised that the police were communicating with vans with satellite dishes attached to them. All the anarchists had to do was take out the vans and dozens of police officers would be immobilised.

My friend’s job was to walk up to one of these vans wearing a trench coat. He’s have a chain wrapped around his waist, under the coat. He’d clip one end of the chain to the door of the van, walk a lap around the vehicle and clip the other end of the chain to that same door. My friend would yell “NOW!” protesters would charge at the van and push it on to its side. The chain would stop anybody in the van escaping. Police communication was quickly crippled.

The battle raged for days. Rioters blockaded the areas of the city they controlled by stockading the streets with junk. They created walls with any crap they could find. By the light of bonfires they sat and guarded this fortress into the night, smoking reefer and playing music.

What happened next came out of nowhere. My friend would later say, ‘They must have been kept hidden under the city.’ His theory was that they had been hidden underground, after the Nazis had been pushed out at the end of World War 2; a secret weapon to defend the city in case of another invasion. Nobody really knows where they came from but it sure wasn’t from outside the city.

What were ‘they’?

Leopard Tanks. They smashed through the barricades as if they were butter, ending the protest for good.

My friend skipped his native country after that, he said they were onto him and his phone was being bugged. He needed to lay low.

Eventually he drifted into Australia.

I never met somebody who had so many adventures, so much joy and so much pain. It’s been nearly two years since he passed on. We’re sorry to have lost him but even luckier to have known such a great guy.

R.I.P mate