In November 2009, Luke Webster was summarily dismissed from his position as a teacher (of adult students whose first language was not english) at Mercury Colleges Pty Ltd in Sydney.

The basis for the dismissal was gross misconduct arising after the Director of Studies: “…discovered a worksheet [he] had designed in [his] own hand writing, with several copies made, that had been taught to students this week in the Upper Intermediate class. It contained usage in every sentence, of the word fuck and requested students discuss its different meanings and whether it was being used as a verb or a noun etc“. This was apparently outside the curriculum and highly offensive.

As Mr Webster was a UK national, the end of his employment led to the cancellation of his 457 visa and his return to England, from where he conducted his unfair dismissal case.

In his submissions to Fair Work Australia, Mr Webster said: “Also, as a teacher in Australia, I believed it was important to give students the skills and knowledge to adapt to Australian culture, and to take advantage of living in an English speaking country and improve their English by talking to the locals, and by practising their English outside the classroom. I have taught my students how to order beer in a pub, how to order pizza on the telephone at Domino’s, etc, none of which are in the curriculum, but are, I consider survival skills in the country they have chosen to study in. Many students complained that they couldn’t understand Australian English, so I taught them Australian words and how to interpret Australian accents.” [fair enough! ….and all that with an English accent].

After due consideration, Fair Work did find that the termination of Mr Webster’s employment was harsh, unjust or unreasonable (see Webster v Mercury Colleges [2011] FWA 1807).

Creative commons acknowledgment for the photograph.

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