As Australia’s music industry digests the findings of a major investigation into Sony Music Australia’s toxic workplace culture, calls are intensifying for Denis Handlin to be stripped of his many medals.
The investigation was based on interviews with more than 100 current and former Sony Music employees, some of whom spoke to the camera about how Handlin ruled the company with fear and intimidation, and how the business was rife with bullying, discrimination and misconduct.
Handlin abruptly left Sony Music in June after 51 years’ service, with Sony Music’s global head office announcing it was investigating the “workplace culture,” but saying only that the outgoing chief was departing because it was “time for a change of leadership”.
Now, music industry insiders and observers are demanding change, starting with Handlin’s personal awards.
Over time, Handlin has been recognised on multiple occasions at the highest levels, including the ARIA Icon award, the Ted Albert Award, and the QMusic Honorary Award, and he has twice been honoured by the Queen, as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2005 and the Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2017.
At the inaugural The Industry Observer Awards in 2018, Handlin was named Executive of the Year.
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Former artist manager and Nightlife Music co-owner Leanne de Souza is leading the charge, calling on those organisations to strip Handlin of his “lifetime achievement” honours.
So, @APRAAMCOS @ARIA_Official @QMusicNetwork … time to revoke those lifetime “achievement” awards you gifted a serial bully, abuser and facilitator of harm to 100+ people ? #timesup @4corners @btgcmvmt— Leanne de Souza (@rebelbuzz) October 11, 2021
Order of Australia Awards can be reviewed by the Council, and concerned parties can also write to the governor general, The Guardian reports, who can then refer the award to be reviewed by the council.
Awards can be revoked when a person “has behaved or acted in a manner that has brought disrepute on the Order”.
In February 2020, awards handed to controversial sex therapist Bettina Arndt and former journalist Mike Carlton were referred for review, though neither was stripped of their honours.
The list of those who have resigned their Officership (AO) in the Order of Australia or had it terminated is a small one, and it includes several businessmen and the disgraced artist Rolf Harris, who was convicted of multiple sexual assaults through Operation Yewtree, a British police investigation.
Harris was also stripped of his membership into the ARIA Hall of Fame and his name is scrubbed from the Hall.