Liberal Party Administrative Committee member Sean Armistead is the subject of multiple sexual harassment complaints. The comprehensive allegations were made by two young woman following the Melbourne University Club’s 2016 Annual Dinner. The complaints were submitted to university and party officials following the event, and until now neither organisation has responded. 

Both young women since submitting the complaints have confirmed they attended the event. One of whom at the time was 17-years old and admits to entering the dinner without proof of age. 

As the Liberal Party struggles containing the fallout from the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins, woman are coming forward to share their experiences in an effort to change culture. Our decision to publish these allegations is to expose the predatory behaviour that exists within political parties. It is our hope that this will lead to change, so that in future complaints such as these receive the scrutiny they deserve. 

Sean Armistead Melbourne candidate

Sean Armistead is a 45-year-old business consultant and former State Candidate for the seat of Frankston. Sean joined the Liberal Party in 2007 and was active in the Melbourne University Liberal Club (MULC). Sean has maintained a close association with the club and according to former club members remains a donor and regular event attendee. 

Sean Armistead, The Hon. Denis Napthine and local Mayor Darryl Taylor in 2014

A former Melbourne University Club executive member recalls Sean’s influence within the club. “When I first joined I was told Sean was influential within the Liberals, and if I wanted a job in an office (Parliamentary Office) I needed his support.” 

When asked about Sean’s interactions with club the former member said, “He (Sean) came to club BBQs. He always said hello, but didn’t talk much to new guys. He mostly gravitated to the first year girls.”

When we asked how other members reacted. “Most of the senior guys thought it was funny, but I know a few (first year female students) didn’t come again.”

Sean regularly brought guests to club events. One of his guests was dating coach and self-professed “player” Nigel Gohl. The 46-year-old former Liberal Party member was most noted for his published sex diary “Around the World in 80 Babes”. Then Party Leader Matthew Guy viewed his behaviour as “demeaning to woman”.

Nigel Gohl self-described player with inset of his book cover

On Friday night 14 October 2016 the Melbourne University Liberal Club hosted economist Paul Coughlin and The Hon. Tony Smith at Aerial Reception Centre, South Wharf. Sean Armistead hosted a table which included his guest, Nigel Gohl. 

According to another guest seated on Sean’s table, Nigel boasted that the two men were staying at a hotel that night. When the guest enquired whether Nigel’s wife Emma would be joining, he declined, responding with words to the effect of “a night off”.

Sean Armistead and Nigel Gohl at Aerial Reception Centre, South Wharf, 14 October 2016

In the days following the event Sean Armistead and Nigel Gohl’s behaviour was the subject of multiple allegations of sexual harassment. Two written complaints were submitted to university and Party officials. Neither complaint was responded to. 

Due to the wishes of the woman their names will not be published alongside the allegations. The extracts below detail instances of repeated sexual harassment over the course of the night. We have contacted several former university club members who attended the event and who have separately corroborated incidents. We have withheld the names of several attendees at their request.

Sean Armistead at Aerial Reception Centre, South Wharf, 14 October 2016

The first complaint regarding Sean Armistead relates to his introduction of one of the women to a member of Parliament at the beginning of the evening.  

“He (Sean) introduced me to a politician who shook my hand and while doing so winked at Sean. The politician asked me what I was studying. (Name of friend withheld) said my name and I turned around. As I turned away from the two men, I heard the politician make a comment which included the words ‘ass’ and ‘dress’. I heard Sean laugh. I was embarrassed and didn’t turn back to join the conversation.”

Sean Armistead at Aerial Reception Centre, South Wharf, 14 October 2016

Soon after Sean approached the woman. 

“(Name of friend withheld) and (Name of friend withheld) were taking photos. While looking at the camera I could sense someone behind me, I felt a hand brush past my dress and touch the back of my thigh. I turned around and Sean was smiling. I stepped back and he asked me how my night was. I said something about enjoying the event. (Name of friend withheld) and (Name of friend withheld) were looking at the photos, I was trying to do the same but Sean continued asking questions. I wanted to be polite, but I didn’t want to give him the wrong impression.”

Sean asked a series of personal questions. 

“Sean asked me where I went out with friends, and if I was seeing anyone at the dinner. It felt unconformable being questioned by him, so I told him I had a boyfriend. The conversation finished when people started to sit down.”

While seated at her table the woman raised the comment made by the member of parliament with another guest.

“(Name of friend withheld) left the table and the chair next to me was empty. (Name of friend withheld) joked that I should take my bag off the back of my chair and put it on the seat next to me. I told (Name of friend withheld) about the Member of Parliament’s comment earlier in the night. (Name of friend withheld) said it happens all the time and just to ignore it.”

Sean changed tables to sit next to the woman. 

“I was talking to (Name of friend withheld) when Sean sat down next to me. I felt his hand under the table touch the top of my thigh. I quickly crossed my legs under the table. I was shocked and didn’t know what to do. He asked me several times where I was going after.”

Sean Armistead with guests

The young woman recalls the response from other guests.

“Some of (Name of friend withheld) university friends started laughing behind us, one of them said something about Sean being in a relationship. It felt awkward. I tried to get up from the table, but a man was leaning on the back of my chair. Sean introduced me to him as Nigel. Nigel complimented me several times which made the whole thing even more awkward. I told the two men I wanted to go to the toilet, at first Nigel didn’t move until Sean stood up. I walked as fast as I could to the toilet and called (Name of friend withheld), I then texted (Name of friend withheld) to ask her to leave with me.”

Sean approached the young woman as she was leaving. 

“(Name of friend withheld) and I said goodbye to (Name of friend withheld) who organised the table. While saying goodbye Sean tried to join the conversation. At this point (Name of friend withheld) tried to block Sean joining the group. Sean pushed through and asked me where I was going. I told him home. Sean put his hand on my hip and I could feel his thumb squeezing tightly. I told him I was going home. He lent forward to kiss me. I turned my head toward (Name of friend withheld) and pull away. He continued to kiss my cheek.”

The young woman’s feeling after the event. 

“(Name of friend withheld) called me on Saturday to see what I thought of the night. I told him about Sean touching me and how uncomfortable he made me feel, (Name of friend withheld) said he would speak to the club and encouraged me to send a complaint.”

The young woman confirmed that she submitted the complaint and did not receive a response. The young woman did not attend another university club event and has had nothing to do with the Liberal Party since the night. 

The second complaint was written by a guest of a club member, who was invited on the morning of the event with a free ticket. The young woman was 17 years old at the time and admits to “kind of sneaking into the dinner” without showing her ID when arriving.  

The complaint details several interactions with Sean Armistead and Nigel Gohl. There is no evidence that Sean or Nigel were aware that the woman was under 18 years of age. Due to the nature of the allegations we have chosen at this time not to reproduce them. The young woman has confirmed she attended the event and wrote the complaint.

Sean Armistead at Aerial Reception Centre, South Wharf, 14 October 2016

We raised the two complaints with a former MULC executive member. He requested not to be named in the article but provided his view as to why the complaints were ignored.  The now former club member suggested that they were not responded to because they contained “material that could damage the club”. He thought that the attendance of a guest under 18 years of age would cause problems for the venue, and potentially make it hard for the club to book again. 

When questioned about Sean Armistead, he believed investigating Sean at the time would have been “difficult” and “unpopular” amongst the club’s senior members. He recognised that this was the wrong decision and felt the club had become too male orientated in recent years.

Sean Armistead, Nigel Gohl and the Liberal Party were contacted to provide a comment prior to publication. None responded by the time of publishing.

According to several well-placed members in the Liberal Party senior members of the organisation are aware of Sean Armistead’s behaviour. Despite this Sean maintains his position on the Party’s Administrative Committee. The questions Liberals must ask themselves is how can a party change its culture, if those who are responsible for it remain at the highest levels of power?  

Time will tell.

MULC campaigning for Sean Armistead at the 2014 State Election

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