Don Burke, the star of long-running gardening show Burke’s Backyard, is the latest entertainer to be accused of multiple instances of sexual harassment and assault.
Numerous women and men have come forward to say they have experienced or witnessed the gardening expert’s impropriety, including lewd comments, groping, bullying and predatory behaviour.
The allegations, which Burke has denied, were published as part of an exclusive Fairfax and ABC investigation that detailed decades of sexual misconduct.
One former researcher said the TV presenter grabbed her breast while she was having a cigarette on the rooftop of Burke’s production company, CTC Productions.
Another ex-colleague, Louise Langdon, claimed he tried to remove her top, stroked her buttocks with his foot and once encouraged her to watch a video of a woman and a donkey having sex.
“Dealing with Don Burke was an endurance test in terms of his persistence in commentary about anything sexual,” she stated.
Male employees were also quick to corroborate Burke’s misdeeds. A former Channel Nine producer said he was asked to escort a woman back to her hotel after she had drunk too much at a Burke’s Backyard season launch.
Unable to find the woman’s room key, they obtained another from reception, only to discover Burke sitting alone in the dark once they entered. According to the producer, he argued with the network star for an hour before the latter agreed to leave.
“This was predatory behaviour … Any normal person would have left straight away, but Don was determined to stay there and do God-knows-what to this girl,” he explained.
Burke denied the incident happened and believes many of the claims are from a “small number” of former employees who “still bear a strong grudge” because of his perfectionism on set.
“No one, male or female, ever complained about anything – whether it’s bullying, any sexual issues, nothing – in all the time, there was not one. I’m sort of thinking why now?” he told A Current Affair’s host Tracy Grimshaw earlier this week.
Burke’s former bosses have also weighed in on the news, and some were quick to distance themselves from the 70-year-old.
David Leckie, former chief executive of Nine Network, described him as a “Harvey Weinstein type” and a “horrible, horrible man”. Leckie’s predecessor at the network, Sam Chisholm, had similar sentiments, calling Burke a “terrible grub”.
Nevertheless, the Nine Network has also come under fire for sweeping complaints under the carpet in the chase for ratings. The Network refused to accept responsibility, arguing that CTC Productions produced Burke’s Backyard.
However, Fairfax Media reported that some of Burke’s worst alleged behaviour occurred while the show was produced at Nine.
“There was an institutionalised acceptance of his behaviour and it was actually not just an acceptance, it was an institutionalised enabling,” Ms Langdon said.
Victims of institutional sexual harassment and assault may be entitled to compensation in Australia. Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers to find out more.