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Adelaide man turned to pornography, suffered stroke due to stress at work

1 month ago 8

An Adelaide man’s work at a conservative Christian organisation became so stressful he turned to the “sin” of pornography and, after just four months in the job, had a stroke.

Michael Bowker was working as national office manager at Family Voice Australia – a group that has lobbied against pornography in the past – when he collapsed at work in April 2016.

The SA Employment Tribunal has awarded him two years of weekly compensation payments and after it found that Mr Bowker’s stress levels “significantly contributed” to a brain haemorrhage.

A judgment published online reveals he began experiencing stress and anxiety shortly after starting the job because of issues including poor staff morale, long hours, workload and technological issues.

He also took issue with the management of Dr David Phillips, who was the national director of the organisation at the time.

Mr Bowker felt his management style “demoralised the staff” to the point that ”tensions in the office were palpable when Dr Phillips arrived”.

Tribunal Deputy President Stephen Lieschke found that Mr Bowker’s increased use of pornography in the weeks leading up to his stroke were a response to his heightened stress levels.

The judgment says Mr Bowker was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and grew up in a “seriously religious family”.

He first “used” pornography after he witnessed a fatal drive-by shooting in 1993 and has, since then, used it intermittently and “struggled with it for many years”.

“He felt this was in conflict with his religious beliefs and his moral standards,” Deputy President Lieschke said in his judgment.

“He believed that looking at pornography was a sin.

“He said that when he felt under pressure or stress he used pornography.”

In submissions, Family Voice Australia and Return to Work SA argued there were other, more significant factors contributing to Mr Bowker’s stress.

In particular, they said evidence of “increasing concern” over viewing pornography in the weeks leading up to the stroke was “highly significant for a person of such a strongly held religious belief system”.

But Deputy President Lieschke ruled the reason for the stress, and the increased pornography use, was Mr Bowker’s anxiety about work issues.

After the stroke, the 43-year-old suffered “various complications” and spent three months in hospital.

Mr Bowker has since then made improvements but remains “significantly impaired”, the judgment said.

Family Voice Australia was founded in the mid-1970s as the Festival of Light, and has its headquarters in Adelaide.

It has opposed same-sex marriage, adoption of children by same-sex couples, and decriminalisation of cannabis and sex work.

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