Story 12: Bullying & Harassment – Representing Quaden and Yarraka Bayles

2020-2021: Queensland

Quaden Bayles with the Indigenous All-Stars

The joint pro bono representation of Quaden and Yarraka Bayles by law firm K&L Gates and public relations and strategic communications firm Sefiani (with lead counsel National Justice Project) was an exemplar to both industries of the synergistic excellence to be achieved and leveraged on clients’ behalf, particularly in areas lacking strong regulation and enforcement.

Quaden is a young Indigenous Australian who suffers from a rare case of dwarfism and other health issues. At 9, Quaden’s story went viral and global following the release of a video filmed by his mother and anti-bullying advocate, Yarraka, of a distressed Quaden following extensive bullying and harassment. Support came from all angles, including from the National Rugby League, who invited Quaden to lead out the Indigenous All-Stars team in the annual All-Stars Game. A GoFundMe page was started by US comedian Brad Williams raising over $460,000 USD in funds to support Quaden. However, this outpouring of support also led to a deluge of threatening, racist and/or defamatory photos, comments and accounts on various social media platforms endeavouring to undermine the family’s intent.

Client Quaden Bayles

K&L Gates proceeded with in-app reporting of the threatening, racist and defamatory content on social media platforms while engaging with direct contacts in safety, legal and public policy roles, resulting in the:

  • removal of over 50 fake or imposter accounts from Instagram alone;
  • establishment of protocols with Facebook and Instagram to prevent recidivism;
  • removal of 106 YouTube videos on basis of copyright infringement and community guidelines; and
  • permanent suspension of nine Twitter accounts and removal of ten individual Tweet URLs.

The engagement of K&L Gates with the social media platforms was greatly assisted by the work of Sefiani and the resulting media attention to the issue.  Sefiani advised the family to cease social media engagement and secured the production of the wonderful half-hour documentary “About a Boy” on the ABC’s Australian Story to get the true story told about Quaden and further prevent recidivism.

K&L Gates also advised the family on the funds raised via GoFundMe, a significant portion of which was donated to six charities. K&L Gates advised on the different trust structures to receive the funds in a tax efficient manner, prepared the trust deed and arranged for it to be stamped, and coordinated the disbursement of the funds from the US to the family and the Australian based charities.

Eric Boone (K&L Gates) & Robyn Sefiani (Sefiani) at Mumbrella Awards

This story was submitted by K&L Gates.