A well-known amusement park in regional Victoria is at risk of closure after its owner was last week sentenced to seven months in jail for the sexual assault of a former teenage employee.
Fairfax reports County Court Judge Christopher Ryan said last week it is “questionable” whether Harvey’s Fun Park will “survive in its present form”, after he ruled owner Darren Harvey engaged in predatory behaviour towards the former employee, who was 18 and finishing high school at the time of the incident.
The amusement park, located close to the Murray River border between Wodonga and Albury, was previously operated as Harvey’s Fish Farm by Darren Harvey and his father Garry until 2008. After a deal to sell the business locally fell through, Harvey re-opened the park as a children’s fun park in 2012.
Harvey was originally sentenced to 15 months in prison, with a non-parole period of nine months, in the Wodonga Magistrates Court in October, but the case went to the County Court on appeal.
Judge Ryan reduced the non-parole period to seven months last week, noting Harvey has made a significant contribution to the local community and had good prospects of rehabilitation, but said Harvey’s “absolutely disgraceful” conduct deserved punishment.
“Young women like the complainant ought to be safe in the workplace,” said Ryan
The court heard the employee was the victim of a number of sexual approaches in October last year by Harvey, who touched her vagina while she was in a tank in a pump room at the fun park.
The employee left the room to get changed but Harvey later said to her: “Let’s go back to the pump room and get naked”.
The court heard Harvey grabbed her by the hand and took her back to the room, despite her efforts to get away. He then suggested to her again that they “get naked” and get in to the tank, before he removed her clothing and hugged and kissed her.
In a victim impact statement, the former employee said the incident adversely affected her VCE studies, which she was completing at the time. She said she is still suffering flashbacks from the incident and is undergoing counselling.
SmartCompany contacted Harvey’s Fun Park but did not receive a response prior to publication.
Enrico Burgio, associate at Maurice Blackburn, told SmartCompany the case is a “timely reminder to employers of their responsibilities”.
“This is an extreme case but we still do see many cases of unlawful sexual harassment in the workplace, it goes on, it is common but it is unlawful,” Burgio says.
“Everyone has the right to go to work and feel safe and to not be the victim of unlawful sexual harassment.”
Despite being sentenced to jail, Burgio says this may not be the end of legal action for Harvey as all workers have the right to make a sexual harassment claim under state and federal laws that prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace.
“Given the facts and what was heard during the court proceedings, it is likely this employee would be successful,” he says.
Burgio says if the former employee chose to make a civil claim, both Harvey and Harvey’s Fun Park could be liable for “significant damages and compensation”, both for the economic loss she may have suffered as a result of the conduct and any hurt, humiliation or distress.