skip to Main Content
University Academic Accused Of Sexually Harassing Junior Colleague Resigns

University academic accused of sexually harassing junior colleague resigns

A New Zealand university academic accused of sexually harassing a junior Australian colleague has resigned.

The woman, from the Australian National University, accused Dr Max Abbott of harassing her over a number of years.

Doctor Marisa Paterson accused Dr Max Abbott of harassing her over a number of years.

University academic accused of sexually harassing colleague

Abbott is a senior New Zealand academic from the Auckland University of Technology.

The 68 year-old had previously been in charge of New Zealand’s National Institute for Public Health in addition to Mental Health research at AUT.

He is a world-renowned expert in gambling addiction.

In 2009, Dr Marisa Paterson, the director of ANU’s Centre for Gambling Research, made a formal complaint against Abbott.

She alleged he continually sexually harassed her by text message, starting in December 2017.

She also alleged Abbott threatened her with retaliation when she asked him to stop.

Paterson claims she now suffers post traumatic disorder as a result of the harassment.

Paterson complained to ANU’s human resources department with hundreds of pages of text messages and emails.

UNU unhappy with AUT response

Paterson eventually complained to ANU’s human resources department with hundreds of pages of text messages and emails.

ANU subsequently sent a complaint to Abbott’s employer – AUT.

In response, AUT told ANU that Abbott had given an undertaking not to contact Paterson anymore, and also promised not interfere with her career prospects.

It also sent a letter of apology from Abbott. 

However, this did not satisfy Paterson, who demanded an investigation.

“I want an investigation, reassurance he is not doing this to others, and also an apology from AUT.”

ANU also expressed disappointment with the AUT response, with a spokesperson saying:

“We have provided AUT with comprehensive information on this matter and requested for them to investigate as is appropriate.

“Sexual harassment is never OK and the Australian National University takes allegations of this unacceptable behaviour seriously.

“Such behaviour does not align with our values or our culture.

“Our priority is always the wellbeing and welfare of our community, and if anyone brings such allegations to us, they are heard, they are believed and they are supported.”

Lifeline  13 11 14

1800RESPECT  1800 737 732

QLife  1800 184 527

Beyond Blue  1300 223 636

MensLine Australia  1300 789 978

Kids Helpline  1800 551 800

Academic resigns 

As a result of the controversy, AUT confirmed last week that Dr Abbott had resigned.

Meanwhile, Abbott said the allegations against him had “received extensive, generally unbalanced, media coverage”.

In a statement to Guardian Australia, he said:

“The reactions of some people to this coverage within and also external to the university made my academic and other positions untenable.

“AUT investigated the harassment allegations and did not find a basis for disciplinary action.

“The procedures and outcome were assessed and deemed appropriate by independent employment lawyers.”


“University vice-chancellor sexually harassed younger colleagues”

To contact our team at Human Rights Claims, please call

1800 437 825

To connect with us, please follow us on


Back To Top