Thursday, June 13, 2019

Bullying and other misconduct in Australian archaeology: The community begins to speak out.

(I have received this letter today from Lynley Wallis, one of Australia's leading archaeologists, on behalf of the National Executive Committee of the Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists Inc. It demonstrates that once the door is opened to rooting out abuse and misconduct, a lot of people will step through it. The letter details the results of a survey of an online, nationwide survey which found that some 87% of respondents answers "yes" when asked if they had experienced bullying in the course of their work as archaeologists. More people are in touch every day about these issues.)

Dear Michael

I am writing to you in my capacity as the current Membership Secretary, former Vice-President and former President of the Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists Inc. (AACAI – see In these roles I have held a position on the National Executive Committee (NEC) of AACAI for the past five years. I have discussed the content of this letter with the current AACAI President and Secretary (Andrew Costello and Robyn Jenkins, respectively). President Costello has approved my making contact with you and has granted me permission to relay the following information to you on behalf of the NEC.

AACAI is the peak professional body for archaeologists working in consulting-based archaeology in Australia. We have a membership of approximately 150 who work predominantly in consulting, although many of our members hold PhDs and retain close relationships with their former or other academic institutions where they often continue to give guest seminars/teach into topics/supervise students etc (note that it is not compulsory for consulting archaeologists to join AACAI to work professionally in Australia). As you might imagine given our smaller population, Australian archaeology is a far smaller field than is archaeology in the US, and thus we almost all know each other, at least indirectly if not directly.

We are aware that you have launched an investigation into bullying in Australian archaeology and as the peak body in Australian consulting archaeology we welcome this scrutiny. Many of our members have complained in recent years that bullying is a major concern to them and the AACAI NEC has been working to address this issue through various mechanisms. As part of our efforts, in 2018 AACAI ran an online, nation-wide survey to gather data regarding the prevalence of bullying in our industry. Of 126 respondents to our survey, 110 (87.3%) answered “yes” to the question “Have you experienced bullying in the course of your work?”. When asked “Do you think that there is a bullying issues [sic] in the archaeology industry in Australia?”, 108 of 125 respondents (representing 86.4%) answered “yes”. Our respondents were a mix of very junior consultants (ie recent graduates) through to extremely experienced consultants (including ~20% with more than 20 years’ experience), and were approximately two-thirds female and one-third male. These results are alarming and support your assertions that Australian archaeology has a very serious problem in regards to bullying.

We hope that the above information may be of some value to you and, if so, we approve your publishing it if you see value in doing so. If required, the appropriate source to be cited for the survey results is “AACAI NEC 2018 Unpublished data from National Survey into Bullying and Harassment”.

If we can be of further assistance to you please do not hesitate to get back in touch with us.

We wish you the best of luck in your investigations and in doing so helping address this serious issue facing our industry, peers and colleagues.

Kind regards
Dr Lynley Wallis

Update June 14: Since my original blog post about the situation in Australia, it has received close to 7000 page views. This seems a measure of the level of interest in that country and elsewhere.


Anonymous said...

Michael, please start using software that actually yields a readable blog! There are lots of simple packages out there for free. I can barely decipher the text in this post.

Michael Balter said...

Yes, I realize it is far from ideal. Awaiting a redesign of my Web page with my Web person so I can migrate over there.