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Businesswoman appointed to review AFL culture

A Telstra businesswoman of the year who has fought for the rights of pregnant women in the workplace has been seconded by the AFL to review the culture at the game’s head office.

The AFL has appointed Rhonda Brighton-Hall to examine gender policies, diversity programs and the complaints-handling process at the game’s head office. The move comes in direct response to allegations of bullying and harassment and the suggestion the league silenced disgruntled employees with confidential settlements.

The AFL has appointed Rhonda Brighton-Hall.

The AFL has appointed Rhonda Brighton-Hall.Credit:Louie Douvis

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan told staff last week in a lengthy letter he was bringing about the cultural review as part of a move to improve the working environment at league headquarters. While again insisting non-disclosure agreements had never been used as part of staff terminations in his time he accepted that standard confidentiality clauses could be made clearer.

Brighton-Hall is understood to have been recommended by Sydney chairman Andrew Pridham and his fellow Swans director and former AFL commissioner Sam Mostyn. Brighton-Hall launched her Sydney-based consulting company Making Work Absolutely Human (MWAH) in 2016 after an extensive career both in Australia and abroad as a human resources manager or director at companies including BHP, Sara Lee and the Commonwealth Bank.

The AFL has been under fire from some quarters since the publication of Michael Warner’s The Boys’ Club and a report in The Australian that alleged disgruntled employees at the AFL as well as at club and state league level had been silenced by confidential settlements.

Last month chairman Richard Goyder wrote to the 18 club presidents saying the issue of “separation agreements needs to be addressed”. He told club bosses the game would improve its handling of bullying or harassment allegations and move to a more welfare-based model.

The Brighton-Hall review comes as psychologist Anna Box is already reviewing the game’s treatment of women and work practices through the lens of gender across the 18 clubs and at head office. Box, a former consulting psychologist with the AFL Players Association who has also worked at St Kilda, has been conducting interviews across the 18 clubs. Her review is being overseen by AFL executive Steve Hocking and Sarah Fair.

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