A former police officer, who had changed sex from a man to a woman, was assaulted and had her property vandalised because she was a witch, a tribunal was told yesterday.
Olivia Watts was a Victorian police officer for 18 years, earning the nickname “Iceman” because of an ability to deal with stressful and emotionally draining situations, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal was told.
But Ms Watts, who left the force in 1995 to become a naturopath and a council candidate for the City of Casey, in Melbourne’s south-east, claimed that the city’s Mayor, Rob Wilson, had incited hatred against her after the issuing of a news release in June last year, entitled “Satanic cult out to take over Casey”.
The tribunal heard that Ms Watts stood as a council candidate in the city’s Balla Balla Ward, angered at a perceived “old boys’ ” network who had been “treating us like fools for too long”.
She was unsuccessful and was violently assaulted in front of her Junction Village home on August 16, 2003. On other occasions a brick was thrown through a window, her garden was vandalised and her car was damaged. She suffered hatred, contempt and revulsion, the tribunal heard.
The news release, followed up by various media outlets, said Cr Wilson was “concerned that a Satanic cult was trying to attack or take over Casey Council”.
“The public revelation that one of the recent candidates for the City of Casey elections, Olivia Watts… has declared herself as a witch, is a matter of concern for all Casey residents,” it said.
Ms Watts told the hearing that she put off telling police about the assault because she was embarrassed, having worked with some of the officers involved. She claimed they had treated her improperly because of the gender transition.
Ms Watts claimed her home-based naturopathy business had suffered as a result of the attack.
Ms Watts’ barrister, Richard Niall, said the case was not about broomsticks or cats, but a deliberate and cruel attack on his client by encouraging others to hate her. “It is premised on Ms Watts being evil,” he said. “She has suffered dearly.”
The release said that because Ms Watts was a witch, it was “a matter of concern for all Casey residents”. “It was false in many respects,” Mr Niall said of the statement. “It picked on Ms Watts because of her religion.”
Ms Watts said that witchcraft, which has an estimated 20,000 followers in Australia, was misunderstood and was sometimes confused with Satanism. “I have never in my life done any offensive piece of magic, a curse, a hex,” she said. “It would be inconsistent with my beliefs.”
Michael Thompson, for Cr Wilson, said Ms Watts’ complaint was misconceived and his client denied religiously vilifying Ms Watts.
The hearing, before VCAT deputy president Cate McKenzie, continues.
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