10:16 pm, Monday 2 December, 2013
A 16-year-old teenager began his train building apprenticeship in March 2008 and by October the same year he had taken his own life reportedly because of relentless bullying within the workplace.
According to reports, the 16-year-old had been on the receiving end of such relentless and violent bullying by his supervisor and workmates that his behaviour changed. He went from happy and bubbly to ”a sad, round-shouldered boy” within three months of starting his apprenticeship.
A coronial inquest this week at Glebe Coroner’s Court is examining the role that the alleged bullying played in his death.
The inquest that opened on Monday heard that within three days of him commencing his apprenticeship, he was regularly being abused and sworn at. In the weeks that followed he was allegedly burnt with a welding torch, sprayed with adhesive and set on fire.
His workmates also allegedly threatened to subject him to anal rape.
His father told the inquest that, ”He said the first day was fantastic, second day fantastic and then the abuse started.”
He said that the direct supervisor of his son was the main perpetrator.
His parents noticed that he was becoming agitated and withdrawn. Initially he didn’t talk about the issues at work but he eventually opened up and spoke to them about the issues with bullying.
He was allegedly bullied till May 2008 when he left the workplace.
The bullying allegedly continued for three months, until May 2008 when Alec left the company.
Not long after, he was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression, and later, an adjustment disorder. He spent a short period of time in the mental health wing of the Bathurst Hospital. He seemed to improve after his stay in hospital but soon after his release he attempted suicide in the family home.
He returned to New Zealand to stay with family and have more treatment but on October 30, 2008 he took his life.
The inquest also heard via an internal investigation that as an apprentice he was given little or no supervision, instruction or training, and allocated work above his level.
The report said that, “He had been subjected to sarcasm, verbal abuse and put downs as well as the bullying incidents he reported.”
A WorkCover investigation found that even though the company did have an anti-bullying policy, the alleged bullying behaviour was allowed to continue during the apprenticeship.
The inquest is continuing.