14 December 2022

'My life has been forever altered': Ex-union secretary details impact of unsupported allegations

| Albert McKnight
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Glenn Fowler.

After a government investigation, the ex-secretary of the Australian Education Union ACT Branch Glenn Fowler has been cleared of several allegations. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The former secretary of the Australian Education Union (AEU) ACT Branch has been cleared of several allegations levelled against him, but he says the ordeal has had a lasting impact.

“My life has been forever altered by the sheer nastiness of this attack,” Glenn Fowler said.

“My reputation and career have been seriously damaged, my health has suffered, and my financial position has been diminished in numerous ways. I personally paid $104,000 in legal fees.”

The Australian Government’s Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) had been investigating the conduct of Mr Fowler, examining allegations he failed to comply with his duties as an officer and whether he contravened rules around the engagement of employees.

Earlier this month, a spokesperson for the ROC said the investigation found “no contraventions occurred” in relation to financial duties under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 or the branch rules.

“No further action is proposed to be taken in respect to the matters in the scope of this investigation,” the spokesperson said.

“During the investigation, the branch and relevant officers cooperated with the ROC, and that cooperation has assisted to conclude the investigation without undue delay.”

Mr Fowler said the allegations had questioned his integrity as an elected official, irrespective of his “impeccable record as such over a decade”, and had been made six months after he was stood down.

The ROC had “unsurprisingly” found they were not supported by evidence, he said.

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When approached for comment, AEU ACT Branch president Angela Burroughs said her branch’s actions in the matter had been “entirely appropriate and responsible”, and it had always acted in accordance with its rules and legislative responsibilities.

She said the branch accepted the outcome of the investigation and thanked the ROC for conducting it.

“The ROC investigation related to whether the former branch secretary complied with statutory financial management and disclosure obligations in accordance with the Registered Organisations Act,” she said.

“This process was separate from other internal processes which occurred in 2021.

“The branch had to terminate its internal processes after Mr Fowler resigned his membership. The branch rules do not provide for investigations into non-members.”

Glenn Fowler

Glenn Fowler says his life has changed due to the allegations. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

When Mr Fowler was asked if he would work with unions again, he said this experience had shaken his faith in unionism.

“Yet I have seen the very best in solidarity by dozens of rank-and-file union members,” he said.

“It is too early to say what the future holds.

“I acknowledge the large numbers of rank-and-file members of the AEU who continue to offer me support.”

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Mr Fowler said while other allegations against him had been publicly raised in 2021, “the falsity of these allegations will also be shown”.

“In the new year, I am determined to repair more of the damage to my reputation,” he said.

“I already know it can never be fully repaired, as mud always sticks.”

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Former Employee3:14 pm 31 Jan 24

Does anyone have a good idea of what allegations were refuted by the ROC? I’ve never seen someone create such a cult of personality for themselves as at the old AEU ACT. Maybe that’s why they had so much staff turnover for so long? Former exec members have spoken of outright aggression being used to intimidate a weak executive body. I’ve personally seen members funds be misallocated despite concerns raised by staff, and the guy seemed allergic to the office — can’t believe how many conversations we had where he was on the road or at home while we all worked! At least there’s a bit of karma for the AEU exec to have their attempted redress stonewalled by another body — they’ve done the same for complaints brought to them. I guess they just got sick of all the BS. Amazing the guy has had his faith shaken in unionism — he’s never tried it. Pete Evans level grifting of the union movement. Well done mate.

Michael Cuddihy11:10 am 15 Dec 22

There sometimes seems to be an imbalance between the very public and serious financial impact on the person who has the allegations made about them compared to the less obvious impact on the people who have made the allegations. (I realise that this balance varies from case to case, and I have no insight into this matter other than reading the odd media article.)

I have had very, very limited contact with Glenn Fowler, but as a matter of public record it seems pretty clear to me that he has been a passionate advocate for public education and the union movement. I reckon society needs people who are prepared to stand-up, and argue their point with maybe less ability for others to bring them down.

I wonder how many people who read about Glenn’s experience are likely to become less engaged and participate in the important institutions and organisations that our community need?

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