In 2011, after a night of drinking, it’s alleged that MP Jeremy Buckingham walked up behind a female Greens staffer in the street outside his inner-city Sydney home, put his hands between her legs, grabbed her aggressively on the vagina and then kissed her neck.
The following morning, he phoned the woman – Ella Buckland, aged 30 at the time – and threatened her employment with Greens NSW. Mr Buckingham denies these allegations.
Seven years later, investigators probing the incident were told Ms Buckland was an intravenous drug user and had fabricated the story, which was now being used against Mr Buckingham as part of a factional war within the Greens NSW.
In fact, the woman – Ella Buckland, now aged 38 – quit the Greens two years before the complaint against Mr Buckingham surfaced. She was never factionally aligned during her time in the party, nor according to Ms Buckland has she ever used intravenous drugs.
THOSE are the claims and counter-claims contained in a series of leaked documents obtained by New Matilda, which were compiled as part of a Greens NSW workplace investigation by Sydney-based consultancy Workdynamic into the allegations against Mr Buckingham.
Ms Buckland is a university educated social scientist, and currently enrolled in a double degree in arts and education.
Around the time of the alleged assault, not only had she landed her dream job as a staffer in NSW Parliament House, but she had just finished a lengthy stint as a volunteer for multiple not-for-profit organisations around the Byron Bay-Lismore area.
The documents include a detailed seven-page statement by Ms Buckland written in April 2018, almost seven years after the alleged incident occurred. It reveals that after the reported assault, Ms Buckland suffered from severe weight loss and depression, feelings of failure and inadequacy.
The statement also formed the basis of an ABC 7:30 story broadcast on August 2, which alleged that Mr Buckingham faced accusations of “sexual misconduct” after he “grabbed [Ms Buckland] inappropriately and kissed her neck”.
The full details of the alleged assault – and how Ms Buckland’s character was assassinated in the investigation process – have never, until now, been revealed.
The night in question
According to her statement, there was nothing remarkable about the evening of August 26, a Friday night. Ms Buckland met some colleagues at the NSW Parliamentary bar – staffers occasionally met for a few drinks after a long working week. They were joined later by Jeremy Buckingham, and a second young woman, who New Matilda has not named for legal and ethical reasons.
The group left the bar around 7:30pm, and by Ms Buckland’s reckoning, none of them were intoxicated at that time. On the train on the way home, Ms Buckland, Mr Buckingham and the young woman decided to go for more drinks in Newtown. Mr Buckingham asked them to first come to his nearby home, so he could get changed.
Ms Buckland’s statement suggests that once inside Mr Buckingham’s house, the tone of the evening – and the pace – changed dramatically.
“I had a couple of drinks at Mr Buckingham’s house but did not drink heavily as I was starting to feel uncomfortable about the situation. I observed that Mr Buckingham and [the young woman]had [begun]drinking heavily and were visibly intoxicated,” Ms Buckland’s statement to investigators reads.
“For example, I observed that Mr Buckingham’s movements were slowed and his speech was slurred. I also noticed a change in tone of communication between Mr Buckingham and [the young woman]. I believed the nature of the communication had become flirtatious and they were touching each other unnecessarily. I was concerned about the situation but did not want to leave [the young woman]on her own with Mr Buckingham as I thought she was intoxicated and may need assistance or protection. I was aware that Mr Buckingham was… married with children.
“During the course of the evening, I took two videos at Mr Buckingham’s house at 8:55 pm and at 10:15 pm. It is not my usual habit to take videos at social occasions but I felt this was a passive and gentle way to remind Mr Buckingham mind (sic) his own conduct. I was open about filming the videos.”
In those videos, Jeremy Buckingham appears heavily intoxicated.
Shortly after taking the second video, Ms Buckland says the evening became even more flirtatious, and she became the centre of unwanted attention from Mr Buckingham and the young woman.
“[They] started to give me a hard time and tease me about not acting in the same manner as them implying that I was prudish. I was not comfortable in the situation but felt an obligation to stay for [the young woman’s]sake. Mr Buckingham and [the young woman]started to question my sexuality, by way of example, they both said words to the effect of ‘you’re gay aren’t you’, ‘you’re gay’ and then laughed.
“We were sitting on the couch in the front room, [the young woman]sat next to me and put her arm around me. I said ‘I don’t want you to do that’ then they were laughing at me. ‘Come on Ella, you know you are a lesbian’ and used suggestive language to imply that I was attracted to and/or should have sex with [the young woman]. I cannot recall the specific words used.
“At this point in the evening, I decided I could not stand to be there any longer and decided to leave. I tried to arrange for [the young woman]to come with me so I could put her in a taxi. I was worried that if I left her alone with Mr Buckingham that they would have sexual intercourse and that she being intoxicated at the time may not have been able to consent.Ella Buckland Redacted Final
An edited version of the statement Ella Buckland provided investigators. Sections of it have been redacted for legal, ethical and privacy reasons.
“When I left Mr Buckingham’s house, both [the young woman]and Mr Buckingham came with me and we started walking towards the main road. I was assisting [the young woman]to walk as she was too intoxicated to walk unaided.
“Whilst on a back street in transit to the main road with Mr Buckingham’s house still within sight, [the young woman]suddenly ran back towards Mr Buckingham’s house and hid, I think behind a car.
“I stopped and turned towards the way [the young woman]had run. I didn’t know what to do because I did not want to chase after [the young woman]as I found the situation ridiculous but I also did not want to leave her unattended in a situation where she was very intoxicated and may not be in a position to make rational decisions.
“Abruptly, Mr Buckingham came up behind me and put his hands between my legs from behind and grabbed me roughly on my vagina and kissed my neck.
“I immediately said ‘no’ and flung my hands up and started walking quickly to the main road to get away. I got in a taxi and went home.”
The day after
THE following day, Ms Buckland alleges that she received a phone call from Mr Buckingham. “I had never previously spoken to Mr Buckingham on my personal number and I cannot recall giving to (sic) him. During the call we had a conversation to the following effect:
Mr Buckingham said: “How are you?”
I said: “I am fine”.
“At the time of the above exchange, I didn’t know what to say and wanted to keep the conversation as brief as possible. It felt like Mr Buckingham was trying to ascertain whether I would be making a complaint about him but he did not raise the previous night’s events directly.
“During the call Mr Buckingham made several remarks about my job and implied that I should ‘be careful’ working with [Jan] Barham [another Greens MP].
“The conversation ended within a few minutes, I was furious that he had called and felt that my job was being threatened. At this stage, I had not decided whether I would make a complaint or not about Mr Buckingham’s conduct the previous night.”
As it transpired, Ms Buckland didn’t make a formal complaint, at least not at the time. “I was worried about my job at Parliament House. I had worked for three years to get there and it had been my career dream; and I was worried about the impact of my allegation on the Greens as a party.
“By way of context, Mr Buckingham was fronting an anti-coal seam gas campaign which was popular in my home area and I believed it would impact negatively on me if I made an allegation against Mr Buckingham.”
Ms Buckland says that after the alleged assault and phone call, her work life quickly deteriorated.
“I was reluctant to enter Mr Buckingham’s office when he was in attendance. I observed that Mr Buckingham’s attitude towards me and my work appeared to have changed and he was more prone to criticise my work. My working relationship with Ms Barham deteriorated and I was concerned this was due to Mr Buckingham potentially saying negative things about me to encourage Ms Barham to cease to employ me.”
By April 2012, Ms Buckland quit.
New Matilda sought to contact Ms Barham for this story. She did not respond to requests for comment.
Shortly after her employment with the Greens ended, Ms Buckland let her membership of the party lapse, and packed up and left Sydney, moving back briefly to the North Coast, before heading overseas to work and live.
“While in the UK I was living with relatives and performing volunteer work across Eastern Europe. For example, I worked on sustainable communities in whatever capacity was needed, which included building toilets from sustainable materials and gardening. I also volunteered to work for the local UK Greens designing brochures and working on a passive solar energy campaign.
“After returning to Australia, I lived with my brother in Sydney and took a job picking and packing in a warehouse to earn money for my day-to-day necessities. This was not my ideal choice of profession but I felt I had limited options with the Greens in NSW and I just didn’t feel confident anymore to work in a political environment and I didn’t feel safe at Parliament.
“In the period since April 2012 to mid-2017, I did not perform any work of a political nature.”
But by October 2017, the #metoo movement exploded onto the international stage.
“On 31 January 2018, I saw a Facebook post from [MP] David Shoebridge which was supportive of a Greens staffer speaking out on an issue of sexual harassment. Based on this post I was motivated to contact Mr Shoebridge as I felt he would be receptive to my concerns about Mr Buckingham which had remained unaddressed since 2011.
“Mr Shoebridge assisted me to contact legal representatives.”
Within a few months, Ms Buckland had filed a formal complaint with Greens NSW. A Sydney-based consultancy experienced in the area of workplace investigations – Workdynamic – was appointed in April to investigate the complaint.
What followed shocked Ms Buckland, and those close to her.
He said, she said
Ella Buckland’s allegations against Jeremy Buckingham are, essentially, a case of ‘he said, she said’. Mr Buckingham continues to strongly deny any inappropriate conduct towards Ms Buckland, let alone sexually assaulting her.
The final report completed by Workdynamic ultimately did not reach a conclusion about the truth of the allegations against Mr Buckingham, as noted in a statement by Greens NSW:
“Workdynamic Australia’s findings are that, although the factual context of a social gathering on 26 August 2011 did take place, Workdynamic was ‘not satisfied that there is sufficient evidence on the balance of probabilities that an incident of sexual harassment as defined by the legislation occurred’.
Mr Buckingham’s take on that was to publicly assert the report had exonerated him. He has since backed away from that language, including in a leaked email to local members circulated earlier this week, in which he acknowledges that the report simply did not recommend any adverse findings against him.
The claims by Mr Buckingham that the complaint was part of a factional war, were not supported by the report, and were subsequently dismissed in a telling swipe in the statement by Greens NSW.
“The report does not make any finding that the complaint was false or vexatious, nor does it support Jeremy’s assertion that the complaint was made for political reasons. Any claims to the contrary are inaccurate.”
During the investigation, Mr Buckingham wasn’t the only person to face allegations about their conduct.
Documents obtained by New Matilda reveal that Ms Buckland’s mother, Nathalie Buckland was interviewed about her daughter supposedly developing a ‘heroin habit’.
It’s not clear from the documents who levels the allegations against Ms Buckland. Mr Buckingham ignored questions from New Matilda about whether or not they came from him. But whoever they did come from, they shocked Ella Buckland’s mother.
In an interview with New Matilda, Nathalie Buckland said: “It sounds quite bizarre to speak about substance abuse and Ella. This is absolutely not true…. I am very close to my daughter and have never known of her using drugs. I can be quite positive about that. I am horrified and disgusted by the substance abuse allegation.”
Disclosures about the alleged assault
Two men are named in Ms Buckland’s statement as having received disclosures from her about the alleged assault, more than two years before a formal complaint was made. Both those men are in senior leadership positions within the Greens.
“On 21 March 2015, a former colleague [NAME REDACTED] visited the Nimbin region and we caught up. I had a conversation with [NAME REDACTED] in which I disclosed to him the details of the incident. [NAME REDACTED] said words to the effect of “I am really sorry that has happened to you” but didn’t say anything else and no further action was taken.”
New Matilda made several attempts to interview this person for this story, and sent him a list of questions. He did not respond.
Ms Buckland says she also raised the issue with a friend who was also seeking elected office.
“In 2014, I met [NAME REDACTED]…. We frequently spoke throughout his campaign. In or around October 2015, I disclosed to him the details of the incident. [NAME REDACTED] expressed sympathy but did not take any action.”
New Matilda made several attempts to interview the person for this story, and sent him a list of questions. He did not respond.
Ms Buckland also states that she disclosed the assault to her mother, Nathalie Buckland, the morning after it allegedly occurred. Documents from the investigation record Nathalie Buckland’s testimony as provided to Workdynamic. The document is a record from Workdynamic and their interpretation of what Mrs Buckland told them in the course of a verbal interview.
“I have been asked about my daughter Ella speaking with me on about 27 August 2011 about an incident involving a Greens MP,” the documents read.
“I do not remember the exact date. Ella called me shortly after what she found to be an extremely distressing episode. She said that she was out at this man’s house and at some stage he had come up behind her and grabbed her between her legs, and wouldn’t take no for an answer. She had tried to extricate herself, and she had left shortly after. She referred to another woman also being there.
“She said it was Jeremy Buckingham. The name was not familiar to me at the time, however he later had some local political profile in my area and tried to friend me on Facebook.
“Given the prominence of Jeremy Buckingham’s name in political circles, this incident has occasionally come up in conversation with Ella and I since that time. I have a fairly clear understanding of what happened, and he is not someone I want contact with of any kind.”
Nathalie Buckland also directly addresses the issue of whether or not her daughter was used as a factional pawn against Mr Buckingham.
“I have been asked about whether Ella spoke about feeling pressure not to make a complaint about this incident. She absolutely felt quite strongly that it would go quite strongly against her if she made a complaint.”
In her phone interview, Nathalie Buckland reiterated her statement to New Matilda, and her disgust at her daughter being labelled a drug addict.
“I was asked if my daughter was an intravenous drug user. I was horrified. I remember saying, ‘That is the most bizarre statement and totally untrue’. So I was just taken aback and horrified at the time.
“She’s my youngest child by 10 years, and we have always been really close. She’s always come back home after being overseas or back from travelling or wherever she is. I feel I really know her very well. There is no question whatsoever in my mind that she has ever been an intravenous drug user.”
In a brief written statement to New Matilda, Ms Buckland said: “I have never been an intravenous drug user. I find that accusation shocking.”
In researching this story, New Matilda made multiple attempts to gain an interview with Mr Buckingham, and sent a detailed list of questions. Mr Buckingham did not respond.
As this story goes to press, Jeremy Buckingham is fighting for his political life. Over the weekend, one of the nation’s most effective anti-coal seam gas campaigners may be staring down a motion being debated by the Greens NSW that he should be stripped of his position on the party’s ballot, at the upcoming state election in March next year.
Overnight, rumours spread among Greens insiders that the motion was either going to be removed from discussion, or watered down. At the time of press, just hours before the meeting was scheduled to begin, it remained unclear to New Matilda what motions the meeting would discuss. Regardless, Mr Buckingham goes into the meeting later today having endured weeks – and arguably months – of damaging headlines.
Earlier this year, Mr Buckingham was caught pulling a lewd gesture simulating cunnilingus at a Greens party fundraiser. Mr Buckingham apologised over the incident, although he denied knowing what the gesture actually meant.
In the past few weeks, he’s endured more damaging headlines around an apparent propensity to sue his critics for defamation.
In 2014, Mr Buckingham and Sydney shock jock Alan Jones were sued by the former Deputy Premier of NSW, Andrew Stoner for public comments they made in relation to coal seam gas. Mr Stoner eventually dropped the suit, prompting Mr Buckingham to publicly call for a tightening of defamation legislation, to make it less accessible to politicians.
“Having been tangled up in defamation law, I am convinced that it needs serious reform.” Mr Buckingham said at the time. “It is skewed towards wealthy people who can risk large legal costs, and it infringes on free speech, particularly political communication, which ought to be provided the highest protections in Australia.
“Australia is a robust democracy and criticism of public representatives is an important part of our democratic system. There should be a much higher bar set for politicians to sue for defamation, such as what exists in the United States.”
Since those comments, it’s emerged that Mr Buckingham is suing – or has threatened to sue – multiple current and former Greens party members, including the pre-selected Greens candidate for the seat of Summer Hill, Tom Raue and former party member Albert Santos over their comments around the ABC’s reporting of Ms Buckland’s allegations.
In December 2016, Mr Buckingham also threatened to sue teenager Vanamali Hermans – a former member of the NSW Young Greens – after she described him as a “fucking hypocrite” in a closed Greens Facebook group with less than 600 members.
The last time Mr Buckingham made major national headlines was in October 2016, when he managed to have a motion passed in the NSW Parliament describing US president Donald Trump as unfit for public office, and a “revolting slug”.
Buckingham was referring specifically to the now infamous ‘Access Hollywood’ tape, in which Trump is heard boasting about grabbing women “by the pussy”.
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