Heard:  25 March 1994
Delivered:  31 March 1994

No 1994 of 1993
(Unreported Judgement  940164)


In this matter I am required to assess damages for defamation.  The 
plaintiff issued an endorsed writ claiming:

(i) Damages for libel published by the Defendant and contained on an 
entry on the DIALx science anthropology computer bulletin board on 26 
June 1993.
(ii) Damages for libel published by the Defendant and contained in a 
letter to the Secretary of the Anthropological Association of Western 
Australia on or about 9 September 1993.
(iii) Interest on damages pursuant to Section 32 of the Supreme Court Act 
at the rate of 8% per annum or such other rate as the Court thinks fit 
from the 26 June 1993 and 9 September 1993 respectively until judgment or 
payment of damages

The defendant did not enter an appearance to defend and judgement by 
default was granted to the plaintiff.  Thereafter, an order was made that 
the damages payable by the defendant to the plaintiff pursuant to that 
judgment be assessed and that evidence be introduced by affidavit.  Leave 
to serve the necessary documents on the defendant by way of substituted 
service was granted and service was effected as required.  It appears 
that the defendant does not wish to defend the action.  In a letter dated 
9 September 1993 to the plaintiff's solicitor he stated:

"Let this matter be expedited and done with ... If you wish to ... have 
your client allowed his day in court to air his grievances against 
Western Australians, then let it be.  I can do nothing to prevent it 
lacking any resources whatsoever to defend myself from whatever charges 
anyone for that matter might wish to bring against me at (sic) time they 
see fit."

The plaintiff is an anthropologist.  He obtained a doctorate from Cornell 
University in the United States of America in August 1981 and worked for 
several years at universities in the USA as assistant professor and in 
other capacities as an anthropologist.  In about 1988 he emigrated to 
Australia.  In June 1989 he commenced employment as a senior lecturer in 
the Department of Archaeology at the University of Western Australia.  In 
November 1989 he was appointed temporary acting head of the Department of 
Archaeology and in February 1990 he became the acting head of the 
Department.  From March 1991 until June 1993 he was attached to the 
Geography Department of the University of Western Australia as senior 
lecturer in archaeology.  He ceased being engaged at the University after 
June 1993

Numerous publications of the plaintiff's works have appeared throughout 
the world, including translations into languages other than English. He 
has given papers at numerous national and international conferences and 
has given lectures at different universities around the world.  His work 
has been cited regularly in papers by other academics.  He is well known 
internationally in the areas of anthropology and archaeology.  

While the plaintiff was employed at the University of Western Australia, 
a review took place as to whether he should be granted tenure.  In early 
March 1993 the Tenure Review Committee recommended that he be denied 
tenure on the ground of insufficient productivity.  This was made formal 
in June 1993 and the plaintiff was dismissed by the Vice Chancellor of 
the University with effect from 13 June 1993. 

There was a large amount of interest, internationally, about the actions 
of the University of Western Australia in denying the plaintiff tenure 
and in dismissing him.

On 23 June 1993 a message appeared on a worldwide computer network 
bulletin board, inserted by one Hugh Jarvis, an anthropologist in the 
United States of America.  The message criticised the University of 
Western Australia for refusing to grant tenure to the plaintiff and for 
dismissing him. 

The computer bulletin board on which the message appeared is devoted to 
"science anthropology".  It is part of an international computer news 
service to which persons can have access through computers and by which 
users of computers can communicate with each other.  Subscribers to or 
participants in the network utilise their computers to communicate and 
receive items of interest concerning anthropology.  Most major 
universities throughout the world are participants in the network, which 
is also used by other persons.  The main users are academics and 
students.  There are approximately 23 000 persons worldwide whose 
computers have access to the bulletin board in question:  The bulletin 
board has a wide international readership. 

The messages that appear on the bulletin board can remain on the computer 
of a subscriber or participant for a number of days or weeks, depending 
on the storage capacity of the computer in question. The types of 
messages vary.  Examples include information on anthropological issues 
and personalities, debates on anthropological topics and personal 
messages between anthropologists.  The messages come from persons all 
round the world, but particularly from the United States of America, the 
United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.  Most of the persons who send 
messages and who view the bulletin board on a regular basis are persons 
who are working or studying in the general field of anthropology.  

Items of interest on the bulletin board can be printed on hard copy.  
Such print outs can be and at times, no doubt, are circulated.  Persons 
who read the contents of the bulletin board and cause messages to be 
printed include not only the owner of the particular computer, but any 
person who has access to it, such as academics and university students. 

On 26 June 1993, in reply to the message published by Hugh Jarvis, the 
defendant caused a message to be published on the bulletin board.  
According to the material supplied by the defendant to the computer, it 
was transmitted by him from a computer in Derby, Western Australia.  The 
distribution was to "the world", which means that the message was 
visible, and would have been able to have been read, on every computer 
around the world able to receive the science anthropology news bulletin. 

The relevant passages in the message that the defendant so sent, are as 

"Well, here we have my old mate Hugh Jarvis, the guy responsible for the 
first anthropologist (myself) being denied access to ANTHRO-L, now crying 
over one of his fellow Americans being the first to be denied tenure at 
an Australian University. 

"Sorry, UWA is my own turf, Hugh.  I know very well that problems there 
are associated with the Anthropology Department there (now including the 
Archaeology Department) but I am also well aware of the wider social and 
political issues associated with our discipline here in Western Australia 
centrally focussed around Aboriginal Affairs.  

"The first matter I would raise in comment here, is the very public 
difference between myself and Dr Rhindos (sic) on the matter of 
categories in Aboriginal culture, played out on this very news group.  In 
that case Dr Rhindos (sic) quite openly attempted to discredit my own 
lifetime's experience with Aboriginal people on the basis of his one 
phone call apparently to an outstation!

"I have met the man myself, and my impression is that his entire career 
has been built not on field research at all, but on his ability to berate 
and bully all and sundry on the logic of his own evolutionary theories.  
In the local pub, drinking and chain smoking all the while for that 

"Secondly, and this is rumours passed to me by several reputable and 
long-standing Western Australian anthropologists as to Dr Rhindos' (sic) 
'Puppy Parties' focussed I am told on a local boy they called 'Puppy'.  
Hmm, strange dicey behaviour indeed, especially here in an environment 
dominated by conservative fundamentalists.  

"Thirdly, and far more substantially, there are extremely serious 
questions arising here concerning an ongoing political campaign here 
against the Anthropology Department, most notably targetting (sic) the 
department's long-standing support for Aboriginal Land Rights against 
powerful international mining lobbies.  This particular episode comes of 
great interest right in the midst of our national debate over the effects 
of the High Court's finding last year in favour of Eddie Mabo. 

"I am sorry Hugh, but if someone for whom I might have a little more 
respect than yourself had posted what you did, I would have hesitated to 
post my own reply to your scurrilous attack on the University of Western 
Australia, I can only imagine prompted by the powerful vested interests 
lacking the guts and integrity to come out and speak honestly on 
important issues deeply affecting Western Australia.  If you are on their 
payroll, I detest your involvement in this matter; if you are not on 
their payroll I can only assume you are a complete fool. 

"As has been Dr Rhindos (sic), apparently believing that since he is an 
American he is somehow immune from the criticism of his non-American 
colleagues in *their* country.

"In the meantime your hysteria, in my case earlier when you decided 
unilaterally to deny me access to ANTHRO-L, and in this present case now, 
does not in any way bring you credibility.  

"The rest of you professors, lecturers, staff, students, professionals 
and sundry lurkers and lookers-on, I do ask that you think critically 
about what is going on here.  Please be a little more intelligent than to 
be swayed by grossly exaggerated and one-sided campaigns by a media to 
which only one party has ready access.  Please think about which powerful 
politicians and vested interests might be behind this whole business. 

"Please think that the real victims are the Aboriginal people here. 

Thank you. 

Gil Hardwick"

It was submitted that the publication of 26 June 1993 contained five 
defamatory imputations, namely: 

(a) The plaintiff engaged in sexual misconduct, in particular paedophilia 
with a "local boy" called "Puppy".
(b) The plaintiff has no genuine academic ability in his field and has 
not based his theories on appropriate research but has simply depended 
upon berating and bullying others. 
(c) The plaintiff "is against Aboriginal land rights and Aboriginal 
people" and is a racist person. 
(d) The plaintiff is not a genuine anthropologist but a tool of mining 
(e) The plaintiff drinks to excess and spends most of his time "in the 
local pub"

I accept that words in the message published by the defendant give rise 
to an imputation that the plaintiff engaged in sexual misconduct with a 
"local boy". 

I also accept that the message contains the imputation that the 
plaintiff's professional career and reputation has not been based on 
appropriate academic research "but on his ability to berate and bully all 
and sundry".  This seriously denigrates his academic competence. 

I do not accept that the other paragraphs give rise to the imputations 
alleged.  In the course of argument these other imputations were not 

The imputation of sexual misconduct, and that relating to the plaintiff's 
career being based on the ability to "berate and bully" and lack of 
professional competence are, in my opinion, seriously defamatory of the 
plaintiff.  The inference is that these matters had some bearing on the 
failure of Dr Rindos to be awarded tenure and his dismissal from the 

These defamatory remarks were published in academic circles throughout 
the world.  I accept the submission made by counsel for the plaintiff 
that the nature of the remarks is such that they are likely to be 
repeated, and that any rumours of a like kind that had circulated 
previously were likely to gain strength from their publication. 

The other publication of which the plaintiff complains, is a letter dated 
9 September 1993 to the plaintiff's solicitor, copy of which was sent by 
the defendant to the secretary of the Anthropological Association of 
Western Australia.  This letter contained the following remarks: 

"My further understanding is that Dr Rindos had deliberately launched his 
now infamous campaign in his attempts to revive an already shattered 
academic career by constantly, openly and publicly seeking to discredit 
those against whom he had acted as head of the then Department of 
Archaeology, when he might well have approached them to discuss whatever 
irregularities he is alleged to have uncovered in the first instance.  He 
might very well have settled down to administer his department 
competently and professionally, and like the rest of us do some research, 
to present his papers and to seek the review of his peers. 

"His persist failure to do as I understand it is in fact the very reason 
for the University's decision to finally deny him his tenure."

The imputation from the above quoted remarks is that the plaintiff did 
not administer his Department competently and professionally, and is 
again a denigration of his professional competence. 

There has been no attempt by the defendant to justify these defamatory 
remarks or set up any other defence to them. 

I repeat that the plaintiff is well-known internationally in academic 
anthropological and archaeological circles and that he is a person of 
high standing in those circles.  The defamatory remarks published are 
likely to have a most harmful effect upon that standing. 

I am also satisfied that the plaintiff has endured serious personal 
suffering as a result of the defamation. There is evidence from a 
consultant psychiatrist that the publication was the cause of a marked 
exacerbation of symptoms of major depression and anxiety. 

While the two publications were different, there was a clear and close 
relationship between them.  Their effect was similar to that of the two 
defamatory publications considered in Carson v John Fairfax & Sons 
Limited (1992) 113 ALR 577 where Mason CJ, Deane, Dawson and Gaudron JJ 
said (at 584):

"The effect of the defamatory publications was cumulative.  The second 
compounded the harm to the appellant caused by the first: it renewed and 
expanded the hurt to his feelings; it exacerbated the damage to the 
reputation which he had hitherto enjoyed in legal, commercial and other 

In such circumstances, as their Honours remarked (at 585):

"... it is permissible and sensible in a case where claims for closely 
related defamatory publications have been heard together for a jury, in 
determining what is the appropriate compensation to be awarded to the 
plaintiff in respect of each publication, to take account of the 
aggregate 'harm' suffered by the plaintiff by reason of both of them."

In Coyne v Citizen Finance Limited (1991) 172 CLR 211 Mason CJ and Deane 
J approved the statement by Diplock LJ in McCarey v Associated Newspapers 
Limited (No 2) [1965] 2 QB 86 at 107 that the injuries sustained by the 
defamed person may b:

"classified under two heads:  (1)  the consequences of the attitude 
adopted towards him by other persons as a result of the diminution of the 
esteem in which they hold him because of the defamatory statement; and 
(2) the grief or annoyance caused by the defamatory statement to the 
plaintiff himself."

Also in Coyne v Citizen Finance Limited (at 235) Toohey J referred, with 
approval, to the following remarks of Windeyer J in Uren v John Fairfax & 
Sons Pty Ltd (1966) 117 CLR 118 at 150:

"It seems to me that, properly speaking, a man defamed does not get 
compensation for his damaged reputation.  He gets damages because he was 
injured in his reputation, that is simply because he operates in two ways 
- as a vindication of the plaintiff to the public and as consolation to 
him for a wrong done.  Compensation is here a solatium rather than a 
monetary recompense for harm measurable in money."

I accept that the defamation caused serious harm to the plaintiff's 
personal and professional reputation.  I am satisfied that the 
publication of these remarks will make it more difficult for him to 
obtain appropriate employment.  He suffered a great deal of personal 
hurt.  The damages awarded must compensate the plaintiff for all these 
matters and must vindicate his reputation to the public. 

In all the circumstances I consider that the plaintiff should be awarded 
the sum of $40 000 in respect of damages.  I also consider that the 
plaintiff should be awarded interest on that sum at the rate of 8% per 
annum from 9 September 1993.