‘Pushed to suicide’: Government House aide tells all
A HIGH-RANKING assistant to Queensland's Governor claims she was driven to the brink of suicide after allegedly suffering relentless bullying and abuse while working for the Crown.
Donna Rideout, 58, has lifted the lid on the year of mistreatment she claims she suffered while working in the office of Her Majesty's Queensland representative, Governor Paul de Jersey.
Mrs Rideout says Mr de Jersey and his wife Kaye were unaware of the toxic environment she says their staff worked in.
Neither the Governor nor his wife is accused of any wrongdoing in relation to Mrs Rideout's claims.
For 18 years until 2019 Mrs Rideout worked at Government House - the sprawling estate perched high on the hill at Paddington overlooking Brisbane's CBD.
From 2014 she worked as an executive officer, organising diaries, phone calls and constitutional paperwork.
In 2018 her dream job turned into a nightmare when Mrs Rideout says some other staffers allegedly undermined, bullied and abused her.
Mrs Rideout said she and her colleagues were regularly put down and sworn at, claiming the frequent "narcissistic and manipulative" behaviour of staff members saw her repeatedly break down in tears at work.
"It was so insidious - giving you work at the last minute then criticising when it wasn't done in time," Mrs Rideout said.
After years of containing her anger, Mrs Rideout this month decided enough was enough.
Inspired in-part by the tens of thousands of women across the nation who have rallied for respect, Mrs Rideout laid out her grievance in a heartbreaking dossier sent directly to Mr de Jersey on March 12.
"I myself, due to the treatment … seriously contemplated suicide and my self-confidence in my work was destroyed," she wrote.
"I have personally seen otherwise confident people turned into shells of their former selves."
Government House did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The allegations have rocked Mr de Jersey as he approaches the end of his tenure as Queensland Governor after seven years.
An insider told The Courier-Mail that Mr de Jersey was shocked by Mrs Rideout's claims and is preparing to call for an investigation by the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
There are half-a-dozen people with a similar story to Mrs Rideout, prompting them to form a "Government House survivors' group" to share experiences and offer support.
The mother of two, who suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, said the office offered little support as she says she was pressured to return to work after her brother suddenly died on Christmas Day 2018.
"When I went back to work I was still grieving - my colleagues went on leave and so my workload increased," she said.
"I was going through a crisis myself."
Shockingly, as she battled with severe mental health problems Mrs Rideout claims she was told by a laughing female staffer to "grow a dick".
"I was so shocked that a female member of staff could actually say that," she wrote to Mr de Jersey.
Another former Government House employee, who is speaking anonymously due to their current employment, said a high staff turnover was evidence of the toxic workplace culture.
"The issues were very deliberately kept from the Governor so I understand the machinations about how it could happen," he said.
"Should it happen, absolutely not."
"I saw grown men reduced to tears and on my first day I saw a woman in tears, making me think shit what have I gotten myself into here?"
Staff resignations have recently racked Government House, with 24 employees leaving the 45-person office since mid-2017.
The culture within the house was first exposed by The Courier-Mail in February last year, which Mrs Rideout referenced in her email to Mr de Jersey.
"I can concur that they are not only true but the tip of the iceberg," she wrote.
Government House introduced an "anti-bullying program" in the wake of the news story, however, frustrated staff have slammed it as "toothless".
The Office of the Governor has previously said it remains a "safe and stable work environment", with long-term data revealing the average length of service was 7.4 years with six staff serving for more than two decades.
Mrs Rideout has called for Mr de Jersey to commence an independent review of the workplace, and allow staff to "speak freely" about their experience.
"Sir, this is a long story and one that I am loath to share given that two years on, it still has the ability to genuinely upset me and hinders my recovery from what happened," she said.
"It's not that all of the staff that have left in the last few years are unfit for purpose - many of those staff have left because of the way they have been treated."
Originally published as 'Pushed to suicide': Government House aide tells all