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John Setka investigated over alleged domestic violence assault

Union leader John Setka has been accused of assaulting his wife, Emma Walters, in an alleged incident this week which has left Ms Walters saying she has fears for her safety.

In a sworn statement to police, Ms Walters – a high-profile lawyer and mother of two – says that after an argument on Wednesday night Mr Setka, the Victorian secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining & Energy Union (CFMEU), became violent and repeatedly hit her head against a table leaving her with a bruised forehead.

An image of the bruise to Emma Walters head after the alleged assault

In 2019, Mr Setka was convicted of harassing Ms Walters and breaching court orders after more than 25 calls and 45 text messages in which he called her a “weak f—en piece of shit” and a “treacherous Aussie f—en c—” and a “f—en dog.

At the time he resisted pressure from many in Labor and the union movement to resign from his CFMEU role.

In her statement to police about this week’s alleged assault – which has been seen by The Age – Ms Walters says that she and Mr Setka had “started having a verbal argument and it was getting very heated and aggressive. We were arguing about issues with our relationship”.

Ms Walters said the couple were outside near a small table when Mr Setka grabbed the back of her head.

CFMEU construction secretary John Setka at Melbourne Magistrates Court in June 2019 with his wife, Emma Walters.Credit:Jason South

“John was out of control. He hit my head against the table about five times,” the statement said. “It was very painful. John is a lot bigger and stronger than me and he can totally physically control me. When he loses his temper there isn’t anything I can do but submit to him.”

Mr Setka, who has not been charged over the alleged incident, said in a brief emailed statement to The Age: “I have no knowledge of a Victorian Police report or any allegations of an assault.”

Emma Walters, wife of union leader John Setka, says she was assaulted by him. These are the images of her head injury

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said: “Police are investigating following a report a woman was assaulted at an address in Footscray West on Wednesday night. As the investigation remains ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”

In her statement to police, Ms Walters said the main injury from the alleged attack was to “the upper-right area of my forehead and there is a red bruise there now.”

Ms Walters said in her statement that she was “worried about what John might do. He is violent and controlling. He is a well-connected person and he knows a lot of people”.

“I have grave concerns for my physical safety and that of my children and the police are aware of this,” her statement said.

Ms Walters alleged that Mr Setka had boasted about his connections. “He said ‘don’t ever think the police are going to help you. They aren’t going to help you and I have contacts everywhere’,” the statement said.

“‘I have contacts outside of the police and they will help me and will hurt you’,” she alleged Mr Setka said.

In 2019, Mr Setka was sentenced to a 12-month good behaviour bond over the conviction for harassment, ordered to complete a men’s behaviour change program, and pay $1000 to an Indigenous family violence group. A charge of recklessly causing injury was withdrawn after Ms Walters was no longer a co-operative witness.

Magistrate Belinda Wallington said during his sentencing that Mr Setka’s behaviour had been “nasty” and “misogynistic” – but in audio leaked from a union meeting, he called it a “few bad text messages” between husband and wife.

In a sworn statement from late 2018, former Fair Work commissioner Anne Gooley, a friend of Ms Walters, described witnessing the abuse at that time.

”He became aggressive with his language when he was talking to [Emma],” Ms Gooley’s statement said. “John is very tall, very big and he raises his voice and talks very harshly.”

Support is available from the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service at 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).

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