Appeal win for vulnerable first nations victim of vile workplace abuse

NT workers compensation appeal a big win for victim of racial abuse

Recently, Hall Payne Lawyers was privileged to represent a First Nations employee who was the victim of severe racial abuse in his role as an emergency switchboard operator at a major public hospital in the Northern Territory.

Our initial victory was reported in our article “Compensation win for vulnerable victim of workplace racial abuse”. However, since then, Hall Payne Lawyers weathered two appeals made by the Northern Territory Department of Health (“the Department”), first to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory and, second, to the Court of Appeal of the Northern Territory.


Our client, Mr Noaks, was a First Nations worker at Alice Springs Hospital. He was employed to operate the emergency telephone switchboard. During his employment, his colleagues racially abused him frequently. They also played a cruel prank on him in which they orchestrated an emergency telephone call and made him believe that he was responsible for the death of a woman and her unborn child.

Mr Noaks lodged a workers’ compensation claim for the significant psychological injury he suffered because of work. His claim was accepted, however, liability was subsequently ceased following a doctor's opinion that Mr Noaks’ psychological injury was pre-existing and was not a consequence of the distressing racial abuse and bullying in his workplace.

Mr Noaks appealed the decision to cease his workers’ compensation claim to the Work Health Court (NT). In addition to arguing that they were right to cease Mr Noaks’ claim, the Department went a step further, alleging that our client had provided false information about his medical history, leading to the initial approval of his claim.

After a four-day trial, the Court found in favour of Mr Noaks, firmly establishing that his psychological injury was a direct fallout from the racial abuse he endured at his workplace.

Additionally, the Court dismissed the Department’s allegations of fraud, and Mr Noaks was awarded compensation for his previously denied workers’ compensation benefits and a significant portion of his legal expenses. This ruling offered our client a lifeline, providing him with access to essential medical treatment and setting the stage for the rebuilding of his life.

Department appeals to the Northern Territory Supreme Court

The Department appealed the decision to reinstate the workers’ compensation benefits to the Supreme Court. That appeal centred around, what the Department argued were, errors of law, including that the Work Health Court:

  • failed to adequately consider relevant medical evidence about Mr Noaks’ mental health history;
  • erred in determining that it was impossible to ascertain if Mr Noaks suffered from a diagnosable mental illness before the events at Alice Springs Hospital;
  • was wrong to favour the opinion of one expert psychiatrist over another;
  • was wrong to find that Mr Noaks’ psychiatric injury prevented him from working for the whole period of time from the date of the Department’s decision to cease the claim up until the date of hearing.

Despite these arguments, the Supreme Court (Reeves J) dismissed the appeal, finding that there was no merit in the Department’s appeal.

Further appeal to the Court of Appeal of the Northern Territory

The Department appealed the Supreme Court’s decision to the Court of Appeal, arguing that Reeves J had erred in failing to accept the arguments made in the Supreme Court appeal.

The Court of Appeal (Blockland, Brownhill JJ and Riley AJ) dismissed the appeal, finding that Reeves J had not erred in dismissing the Supreme Court appeal.  

Worker’s compensation win delivers life-changing results

The favourable conclusion of these lengthy legal proceedings had a profound and positive impact on Mr Noaks’ life.

He is now eligible to access all the workers’ compensation benefits that were previously denied to him, with most of his legal expenses being covered because of his win.

At Hall Payne Lawyers, we are immensely proud to have successfully advocated for our client, with his victory and the secured compensation paving the way for his recovery and enabling him to move forward with his life.

Seek assistance from award-winning worker’s compensation lawyers

If you live or work in the Northern Territory and find yourself:

  • grappling with a workplace injury;
  • exposed to workplace bullying or abuse;
  • struggling with lodging a worker’s compensation or other personal injury claim;
  • dealing with an insurer;
  • appealing a rejected worker’s compensation or other personal injury claim; or
  • appealing a decision about a personal injury or worker’s compensation claim,

we invite you to consider reaching out to Hall Payne Lawyers.

Our experienced team of Northern Territory personal injury and compensation lawyers are ready to provide expert advice, guidance, and support.

Contacting Hall Payne Lawyers

You can contact us by phone or email to arrange your consultation; either face-to-face at one of our offices, by telephone or by videoconference consultation.

Phone: 1800 659 114

  This article relates to Australian law; either at a State or Federal level.

The information contained on this site is for general guidance only. No person should act or refrain from acting on the basis of such information. Appropriate professional advice should be sought based upon your particular circumstances. For further information, please do not hesitate to contact Hall Payne Lawyers.

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