This chapter examines whether Eman Sharobeem falsely claimed to be a qualified psychologist holding two PhDs and a masters degree and whether she treated clients of the Immigrant Women’s Health Service (IWHS) as a psychologist.
Ms Sharobeem’s educational qualifications
Ms Sharobeem told the Commission that, in 1984 or 1985, she obtained a degree in commerce/accounting and business administration from Ain Shams University, in Cairo, Egypt. The Commission made enquiries with Ain Shams University and was advised that its records indicated that Ms Sharobeem had been awarded a bachelor of arts in business.
Ms Sharobeem told the Commission that she did not complete any tertiary education in Australia, except for a TAFE office management course. She never obtained a masters or a doctorate degree by undertaking a course of studies at any educational institution. She said that, in about 2002, however, she received an honorary PhD from the American University in Cairo (“the American University”) for her work and research relating to “women and girls, microfinance and management”.
Ms Sharobeem said that came about when she was working as a general manager for the External Relations Department at the National Council for Women (NCW) in Egypt. She was informed by a professor from the American University, that it was “planning” to award her an honorary PhD. She was not told whether it was a PhD in psychology or another discipline. One of the staff in the NCW human resources department called her sometime later to congratulate her on receiving an honorary degree, and issued her with a business card showing her as having a PhD. From that point on, she was addressed and known as “Dr Eman Sharobeem”. She said the Arab League had also issued her with a card describing her as a doctor.
Ms Sharobeem told the Commission that she did not receive a degree certificate or any other documentation evidencing the awarding of an honorary degree by the American University. She said that there was a document that proved the honorary degree was conferred on her, but it must have been burnt during the Arab Spring in 2011 when the NCW building was set on fire. All her attempts to locate a copy had been unsuccessful.
The Commission made enquiries with the American University in Egypt. It advised that there was no record of any degree, honorary or otherwise, ever having been awarded to Ms Sharobeem by that institution. The Commission accepts that evidence. In doing so, the Commission takes into account that it is extremely unlikely that the recipient of an honorary degree from a university would not be given any documentation such as a degree certificate or at least an official letter of confirmation, evidencing that the degree had been conferred on that individual.
The Commission is satisfied that Ms Sharobeem was never awarded an honorary degree from the American University.
Ms Sharobeem’s representation of academic qualifications
Ms Sharobeem denied falsely identifying herself as Dr Sharobeem or misrepresenting herself as having a PhD in psychology. She maintained that she was entitled to call herself a doctor by virtue of her honorary doctorate, and denied having provided IWHS with a curriculum vitae (CV) containing false academic qualifications.
There was no reference to Ms Sharobeem having an honorary doctorate in the letter and CV she submitted in 2004 as part of her application for a job at IWHS. If she really believed, at that time, that she had an honorary degree it is most likely that she would have included it in her CV in order to enhance her prospects of gaining employment with IWHS. However, her IWHS staff file did contain another CV, dated 4 December 2006. The 2006 CV identified her as “Dr Eman Sharobeem” and stated that she obtained a PhD with a thesis major in psychology and minor in community management, and a masters in community management, both from the American University. The 2006 CV also stated that she also held a diploma in management of community organisations from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). Ms Sharobeem admitted to the Commission she did not hold any of the qualifications identified in the 2006 CV. Although she had commenced a UTS diploma course in community organisation, she never completed the course. She also conceded that she never wrote a thesis on psychology. She claimed to have written a thesis on community management at UTS, but said that she no longer had a copy.
Ms Sharobeem told the Commission that the 2006 CV was created by her on her home computer and was “wishful play”, “wishful thinking”, and an attempt to “understand how to phrase the honorary degree in simple terms”. Although she accepted that the information in the 2006 CV concerning her academic qualifications was incorrect, she denied that the 2006 CV was a false document. That denial reflects her lack of credibility as a witness.
Ms Sharobeem told the Commission that she did not submit the 2006 CV to IWHS, and therefore its location in her IWHS personnel file must have been the result of someone “fabricating” it to be used against her. It is inherently implausible that anyone could have obtained the 2006 CV that Ms Sharobeem herself created on her home computer, then arrange for it to be included in her IWHS personnel file for the purpose of it potentially being used against her one day. The Commission rejects Ms Sharobeem’s explanation, and is satisfied that she was responsible for placing the 2006 CV on her IWHS staff file knowing that it contained false information concerning her qualifications.
Representation as a qualified psychologist at IWHS
Ms Sharobeem admitted to the Commission that she was not a trained psychologist and had never been registered as a psychologist. She denied she falsely held herself out as a qualified practising psychologist to the IWHS board, staff, clients and the community in general.
A number of witnesses told the Commission that they were led by Ms Sharobeem to believe she was a qualified psychologist.
Watfa El-Baf, an administrative officer at IWHS, gave evidence that Ms Sharobeem told IWHS staff that she was a psychologist. Another IWHS administrative officer, Marie Abboud, told the Commission that, in about 2004, when Ms Sharobeem first started working as the IWHS manager, she called herself “Mrs Eman Sharobeem”. However, from about 2008 or 2009, she started calling herself a doctor and signed documents as “Dr Sharobeem”. Ms Abboud recalled that, in about 2009, Ms Sharobeem told her that she had studied psychology.
Sok Luong Chan, who was the project coordinator of IWHS’s Cabramatta office, told the Commission that, at some point in time, Ms Sharobeem told her she had obtained a PhD and subsequently became a psychologist.
Audrey Lai, an IWHS board member, gave evidence that Ms Sharobeem had told her that she was a qualified psychologist; although, she “did not renew her registration with the Psychology Board as she was not charging people”.
Svetlana Maric, who became a board member for IWHS in 2005 and later became a caseworker at NESH, also gave evidence that Ms Sharobeem told her she was a psychologist.
Julie Watton, who was a board member of IWHS and Non-English Speaking Housing Women’s Scheme Inc (NESH), gave evidence that Ms Sharobeem had talked to her about finishing a degree, which she may have said was in psychology, and sometime later she started calling herself “Dr Sharobeem”. Ms Watton told the Commission that her recollection of her previous conversation with Ms Sharobeem, and Ms Sharobeem’s change of title, led her to believe that Ms Sharobeem had obtained a degree and become a doctor of psychology.
There were a number of documents in evidence before the Commission that Ms Sharobeem had signed as “Dr Sharobeem”.
Despite this evidence, Ms Sharobeem maintained that she did not represent herself to IWHS staff or board members as a qualified psychologist. She claimed that, at one point, she corrected Ms El-Baf ’s misunderstanding that she was a psychologist. She also suggested that NESH project coordinator Nevine Ghaly had planned to frame and defame her, and had, for that purpose, influenced Ms El-Baf and Ms Abboud to believe what Ms Ghaly wanted them to believe.
The Commission rejects Ms Sharobeem’s evidence and accepts the evidence of the other witnesses on this issue. The consistent and corroborative testimony of the six witnesses is more persuasive than Ms Sharobeem’s unsupported denial. It is inherently unlikely that all six witnesses were lying or mistaken when they gave their evidence to the Commission. In accepting their evidence, the Commission also takes into account the objective evidence that Ms Sharobeem signed IWHS documents as Dr Sharobeem and the other evidence, set out below, that she misrepresented herself to others as being a psychologist.
The Commission is satisfied that Ms Sharobeem intentionally made false representations to IWHS staff and board members that she was a qualified psychologist.
Representation as a qualified psychologist at other agencies
Ms Sharobeem denied that she falsely represented to various agencies that she was a qualified psychologist with a PhD in psychology.
There was documentary evidence before the Commission showing that Ms Sharobeem falsely represented herself as a psychologist with a doctorate in psychology to various agencies. The following are some examples of those documents and Ms Sharobeem’s explanations. Ms Sharobeem sent emails as follows:
- 30 May 2005 to a TAFE officer
- 14 December 2006 to officers at the NSW Department of Education, TAFE and Sydney South West Area Health Service
- 30 January 2007 to an officer at the NSW Department of Education and Training
- 30 January 2007 to the Smith Family
- 10 August 2007 to the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils.
All of these emails attached her CV, which stated that she held degrees, including a PhD in psychology, a masters in community management, and a diploma in management or community management. There were slight variations in detail in each CV.
Ms Sharobeem admitted that the educational qualifications set out in the CVs were wrong, but claimed they were unintentional mistakes. She denied that she sent out the CVs knowing they contained false information about her academic qualifications, in order to give the recipients the false impression that she was a trained psychologist.
The Commission rejects her denial. It is implausible that over a period of more than two years, she would mistakenly send emails to various recipients attaching various CVs, all with false academic qualifications.
On 7 June 2006, Ms Sharobeem sent an email to the Coptic Orthodox Church attaching minutes of a meeting dated 16 May 2006. She told the Commission that she had proofread the minutes, which she said were an English translation of what was discussed at the meeting in Arabic. The minutes recorded that she introduced herself as Dr Sharobeem with a PhD in psychology. Ms Sharobeem told the Commission that she was suggesting at the meeting that she was a person who had a PhD, and not that she was a trained psychologist.
On 27 May 2015, Ms Sharobeem received a text message in which the sender asked her: “To put the correct credits and names at the end of the DVD, we need to confirm that you have a (PhD) in psychology”. Ms Sharobeem responded with a text message on the same day saying, “Yes I do”. Those three words constituted the entire text of her message. When giving evidence to the Commission, Ms Sharobeem disagreed that her response was confirmation that she had a doctorate in psychology. She claimed her response was meant to refer to the honorary degree she claimed to have received from the American University.
There is no merit to Ms Sharobeem’s claim that it was not her intention to portray herself as a psychologist, rather than someone with an honorary degree in psychology. The Commission has found that Ms Sharobeem did not have an honorary PhD. In any event, she conceded that she never clarified to anyone, either in her official capacity as IWHS manager or outside work, that her status as a doctor was based on an honorary degree and not on completion of postgraduate university studies in psychology.
The Commission is satisfied that Ms Sharobeem knowingly made false representations to government and other agencies that she was a qualified psychologist with a PhD in psychology.
Representations to the media
The Commission also investigated whether Ms Sharobeem held herself out as a qualified psychologist to the public through the media. She denied having done so and claimed she only made herself known in the general community as the holder of an honorary doctorate.
In evidence before the Commission were two radio interviews conducted with Ms Sharobeem. One was an interview on 29 July 2012 on ABC Radio National with Rachel Kohn. The other was an interview on 7 December 2014 on the Sunday Profile program with Richard Aedy. In both interviews, Ms Sharobeem talked about her studies in psychology, obtaining two degrees, a graduation ceremony at the completion of her studies and being a doctor in psychology. During the Sunday Profile interview, the following conversation took place:
[Mr Aedy]: You are a psychologist yourself?
[Ms Sharobeem]: I am.
[Mr Aedy]: Do you see clients?
[Ms Sharobeem]: I do. That’s the best time of my day when I interact with the client one-on-one and see the client growing with me to a better and safe place.
A number of witnesses gave evidence that Ms Sharobeem saw patients in the capacity of a psychologist.
Ms Abboud told the Commission that she gave out Ms Sharobeem’s business cards, in which she was described as “Dr Eman Sharobeem”, to people asking to see a psychologist, and made appointments for them to see Ms Sharobeem as a psychologist. Ms Abboud said that a number of people on IWHS client lists saw Ms Sharobeem as a psychologist; some on a regular basis.
Ms El-Baf told the Commission that people from Centrelink, church, police and counsellors, called for or were referred to Ms Sharobeem as a psychologist.
Ms Chan recalled receiving telephone calls at IWHS’s Cabramatta office from people asking for an appointment to see a psychologist or a counsellor. She contacted IWHS’s Fairfield office to find out if such an appointment could be made and, if so, the identity of the psychologist or counsellor. She was told such appointments could be made and that Ms Sharobeem was the psychologist/ counsellor. Although no distinction appears to have been made in this instance, between a psychologist and a counsellor, Ms Chan’s evidence is consistent with the evidence of Ms Abboud and Ms El-Baf, that there was an understanding within IWHS that Ms Sharobeem was a psychologist.
Jihan Hana, an IWHS facilitator, told the Commission that she always knew Ms Sharobeem as Dr Sharobeem, believed her to be a doctor in psychology, and even received counselling from her herself for a brief period. In the counselling sessions, Ms Sharobeem referred to herself as a psychologist.
Reda Shehata, a volunteer at NESH and a friend of Ms Sharobeem, told the Commission that she knew Ms Sharobeem as Dr Sharobeem, and believed her to be a practising psychologist from IWHS. She also said there was someone known to her who saw Ms Sharobeem as a psychologist for a couple of months.
Ms Maric gave evidence that IWHS provided psychological counselling to people. During her time at NESH in 2013 and 2014, she was aware of some clients being referred by NESH to IWHS for psychological counselling. She understood that Ms Sharobeem was the only psychologist employed at IWHS.
In her evidence to the Commission, Ms Lai said that she referred clients from Centrelink to Ms Sharobeem in the belief that she was a trained psychologist.
There was documentary evidence that showed that Ms Sharobeem saw a significant number of IWHS clients as patients, including those referred to her by medical practitioners. She also provided official letters to government and community organisations about individuals she saw, in which she made diagnoses of mental health conditions of the kind that would normally be made by a qualified psychologist. One of the documents was titled “Dr. Eman Sharobeem Client Details”. It listed numerous names of persons, their contact details and appointment dates and times. Ms Sharobeem agreed that it was a list of clients she saw. Although she claimed she only saw them in the capacity of a caseworker or IWHS manager, not as a psychologist, the document title is indicative of her holding herself out as a qualified doctor.
During the public inquiry, Ms Sharobeem was shown a number of mobile telephone text messages of various dates she sent or received, which related to requests from people to see a psychologist and arrangements made for her to see them. One example was a text message to her dated 5 February 2015. The sender commenced the message with “Hi doctor, my name is ...”, reflecting the sender’s belief that Ms Sharobeem was a doctor. A text message dated 12 October 2015 said, “Hi dr. Eman ... I have a marital separation issue. R u working as a psychologist regarding this issues ??”. Ms Sharobeem replied to that text message on the same day, “Yes, but have very long waiting list”. It is particularly clear from that response that she was holding herself out as a psychologist who was able to provide advice. During the public inquiry, Ms Sharobeem was also referred to a Viber text message, dated 9 April 2015, in which she said, “My apologies, I had patients with me. Will call soon”.
Ms Sharobeem denied that what she said at the interviews about being a qualified psychologist was a lie. She said her comments were a “misrepresentation of what I wanted to say”. She initially sought to justify her false statements by claiming to have completed certificates in psychology after doing short courses, although not from a university and despite not being able to recall the first subject she studied. She eventually admitted that the representations she made in the interviews were “absolutely wrong” and misleading, however claimed she did not mean to mislead anyone.
During the public inquiry the Commission also played a video recording of SBS’s Insight program, episode 15 from 2012, which was on the topic of polygamy. Ms Sharobeem appeared in that program and told the host of the show and the audience in the studio that she was a psychologist. At the Commission, she admitted “that was [the] wrong interpretation of who I was”.
The Commission is satisfied that Ms Sharobeem publicly promoted herself during media appearances on radio and television as a trained psychologist, who had completed studies and obtained degrees in psychology.
Did Ms Sharobeem treat IWHS clients?
The Commission also examined whether Ms Sharobeem pretended to be a psychologist when treating IWHS clients.
Ms Sharobeem told the Commission that she told IWHS clients that “I’m a doctor in psychology” but that was a “brief ” way of really telling them she had an honorary degree. She claimed that she mostly communicated with clients in Arabic and that saying in Arabic that she was a doctor in psychology “gives more meaning than the word in English”.
Ms Sharobeem admitted that she was not qualified to treat patients as a psychologist and was never registered as one. She denied ever treating anyone as a psychologist. She told the Commission that she only provided clients with counselling when needed, and referred them on to qualified psychologists where required.
The Commission is satisfied that the consistent and corroborative testimony of the witnesses referred to above, the documentary evidence and evidence of the text messages shows that she did hold herself out to IWHS clients as a psychologist and that she saw patients in that capacity.
Did Ms Sharobeem receive referrals as a psychologist?
In her evidence to the Commission, Ms Sharobeem accepted that doctors may have believed she was a qualified psychologist but maintained that she did not psychologically treat any patients referred to her by doctors or make psychological diagnoses. She claimed that she only conducted assessments of those people, and then referred all the cases to a psychologist.
At the public inquiry, Ms Sharobeem was shown referrals of patients by doctors dated 23 November 2009, 29 December 2009, 9 June 2010 and 3 February 2014, all of which thanked Ms Sharobeem for seeing the patients referred. Ms Sharobeem admitted she saw the patients, but insisted that she was never involved in treating them.
She claimed that she just “managed” their cases, by talking to them to determine whether they needed to see a psychologist or required another form of assistance. She also told the Commission that many Arabic-speaking people came to see her, because she was well-known within the Arabic community, as “a woman who is wise and know[s] how to deal with” people under pressure from issues relating to racism, bullying, education, family issues, cultural transition and religious conflict.
Ms Sharobeem was shown the following documents:
- An “Enhanced Primary Care Program Referral Form for Allied Health Services under Medicare” dated 7 May 2009 in which Ms Sharobeem was named as the “servicing allied health professional”. Ms Sharobeem said she did not remember the document.
- A letter dated 22 July 2009 to the University of Western Sydney in which the writer was identified as “Dr Eman Sharobeem, Psychologist, Service Manager”. The letter referred to the “psychological status” of the client as being “assessed” and also referred to “psychological analysis”, “counselling” and “treatment process” for the client. The letter outlined three months of ongoing psychological treatment. Ms Sharobeem said she did not know the client, and sought to cast doubt as to whether she was, in fact, the author of the letter.
- A letter dated 18 December 2009 to the NSW Department of Housing in which the writer was identified as “Dr Eman Sharobeem, Psychologist, Service Manager”. The letter referred to a psychological analysis of the client in question and treatment for depression and anxiety over six months. Ms Sharobeem said “psychologist” was “wrongly written” in the letter. She attempted to dissociate herself from the letter by claiming that she did not have a definite recollection of writing it, but if she did write it, she probably used the wording of the psychological diagnosis made by the psychologist involved in the case. There is, however, no reference to any other psychologist in the letter.
- A letter dated 29 January 2010 to the Parramatta office of the NSW Department of Immigration and Citizenship in support of an application for a protection visa, in which the writer was identified as “Dr Eman Sharobeem, Manager”. The letter concerned a female victim of domestic violence. The letter stated that the person’s “psychological status was assessed and certain levels of stress and anxiety were identified, as a result of suppressed personal issues and violence”. Ms Sharobeem agreed that she assessed the person and identified the person as suffering from stress and anxiety. She said that, although she was not a qualified psychologist, stress and anxiety were easy to detect.
- A letter dated 20 November 2010 to the Tribunal of the Catholic Church in which the writer was identified as “Dr Eman Sharobeem”. The letter stated that the person referred to in the letter presented with “stress, anxiety and depression symptoms”. Ms Sharobeem claimed the person came to see her after having been previously psychologically assessed as suffering from those symptoms, and she merely acknowledged in the letter what she was told by the person.
- A letter dated 17 September 2011 to a caseworker at the Australian Red Cross, in which the writer was identified as “Dr Eman Sharobeem, Service Manager, Psychologist”. The letter confirmed that the person in question had suffered from the effects of torture and trauma and was therefore unfit to work. Ms Sharobeem told the Commission the word “psychologist” should not have been used. She claimed that she expressed her opinion as a caseworker, not a psychologist.
- A GP Mental Health Treatment Plan dated 5 February 2014 by a referring general practitioner, which included a history of the patient’s mental health diagnoses, and identified Ms Sharobeem as a psychologist and a mental health professional involved in the patient’s care. Ms Sharobeem accepted that she had no experience in diagnosing psychotic disorders, but denied having done so. She said she may have talked with the client in this case, who was Egyptian, “briefly about the culture at home”, and claimed the client then saw a qualified psychologist.
Ms Sharobeem sought to distance herself from direct responsibility for the letters by raising the possibility that she had signed and sent letters out without checking their contents were correct. The Commission rejects that evidence.
All of the above documents were associated with issues relating to mental health. Ms Sharobeem frequently purported to be a doctor and a psychologist in her correspondence when she was neither, expressed views of a medical nature, and made diagnoses. Ms Sharobeem took no steps to correct documents in which she was incorrectly identified as a psychologist by medical practitioners. She did not qualify her status in any of the relevant documents by explaining that she was a counsellor providing services as a caseworker only and not as a psychologist.
The Commission is satisfied that Ms Sharobeem held herself out as a qualified psychologist, and practiced as such, without any formal qualifications or training. Her conduct involved her accepting referrals from health professionals and other community organisations, making psychological diagnoses, and treating people as patients in the capacity of a psychologist.
There was evidence that a parolee (“Mr X”), whose name is subject to a non-publication direction under s 112 of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 (“the ICAC Act”), came to see Ms Sharobeem in 2011 after obtaining a referral from a general practitioner to see a psychologist.
Ms Sharobeem told the Commission that Mr X was a young man whose family was well-known to her, and trusted her to care for and help him. She denied providing him with psychological care or treatment, or representing herself to anyone as his treating psychologist. She claimed that, after she saw Mr X, she made an appointment for him to see a psychologist, whose details however she was unable to provide to the Commission.
Department of Corrective Services (DCS) records identified Ms Sharobeem as Mr X’s psychologist. His DCS breach of parole report, dated 6 July 2011, stated that Mr X “scheduled an appointment with a psychologist on 7 July 2011” and also referred to “Contact with [Mr X’s] treating psychologist on 8 July 2011”. Ms Sharobeem did not deny that she was seeing Mr X at that time, but maintained that she did not provide psychological treatment to him but merely offered him counselling.
In a further breach of parole report of 15 August 2011, Ms Sharobeem was referred to several times as “the offender’s treating psychologist” or “the offender’s psychologist”. There was a note by DCS staff that “Contact with the offender’s treating psychologist on 10 August 2011 confirmed the offender has continued attending weekly psychological and gambling counselling. [Mr X’s] psychologist stated that she continues to work closely with both the offender and his family...”.
Ms Sharobeem told the Commission that she did not recall having a conversation with the report writer about working closely with Mr X in relation to his problems. She said that she had worked with Mr X and his family. She claimed not to remember telling anyone from DCS that she was a psychologist, although she did recall receiving calls from DCS about Mr X, and suggested that Mr X may have told the DCS officers that she was his treating psychologist.
The Commission rejects Ms Sharobeem’s evidence that she did not tell DCS officers she was Mr X’s psychologist. The Commission also rejects the possibility that it may have been Mr X, and not Ms Sharobeem, who told the DCS officers that she was his treating psychologist, and that the DCS officers mistook her as such when communicating with her about Mr X. That is because the relevant DCS records demonstrate Ms Sharobeem was providing information about Mr X to the DCS officers in the capacity of a psychologist treating Mr X, and not just as someone offering Mr X counselling and support as she claimed.
For example, it is stated in the DCS case note report dated 20 July 2011 that “Dr Eman Sharobeem” advised that she will “continue to counsel offender weekly but unsure if this is the most appropriate treatment for offender”. It is not clear whether by “treatment” she was referring to her weekly counselling sessions or the rehabilitation program that was being considered for Mr X at the time. In any event, it is clear that she was expressing an opinion on the appropriateness or otherwise of a treatment for Mr X. A further case note report dated 1 September 2011 recorded that, “Dr Sharobeem (offender’s psychologist) ... stated she would no longer be offering psychological counselling or gambling counselling to the offender”. By the express use of the words “psychological counselling”, the DCS officers would reasonably assume that Ms Sharobeem was providing Mr X with not just support counselling but counselling as a psychologist.
There is nothing to suggest in the DCS documents that any doubt had ever been raised in the minds of the DCS officers as to whether or not Ms Sharobeem was, in fact, Mr X’s treating psychologist or that, when she was contacted by them in relation to Mr X, she communicated to any of them that she was not Mr X’s psychologist.
It is unlikely that DCS officers would have identified Ms Sharobeem in DCS records as being Mr X’s treating psychologist, and made references in their breach of parole reports and case notes to Ms Sharobeem having that role, if she never told them or confirmed to them that she was Mr X’s psychologist.
That Ms Sharobeem represented herself to DCS as a qualified psychologist is consistent with her history of falsely representing herself as a qualified psychologist to others over a period of years. The Commission is satisfied that Ms Sharobeem falsely represented herself to DCS officers to be Mr X’s treating psychologist and that she saw Mr X in that capacity.
From the evidence available to the Commission, it is not possible to establish with certainty exactly when Ms Sharobeem first started to use the title “Dr”, purport to be a qualified psychologist or provide treatment as a psychologist. However, given her 2006 CV, and in the absence of any evidence showing that her practice of misrepresenting herself as a qualified psychologist ceased at any point before IWHS was closed in 2016, it can be reasonably inferred that this conduct occurred between at least 2006 and 2016.
Evidence obtained by the Commission shows that Ms Sharobeem sometimes held herself out to hold just one PhD, and on other occasions claimed to have two PhDs. For example, in her 2011 application to the NSW Community Relations Commission to become a part-time commissioner, and in a 2014 email to an officer at the Anti-Discrimination Board NSW (both of which are discussed in chapter 11 of this report), she claimed to have a PhD in psychology from the American University, and a second PhD in management in organisational leadership from UTS. The available evidence shows that she consistently represented herself as a psychologist with at least one PhD in psychology. She also often claimed to have a masters degree in community management or social science.
Ms Sharobeem’s false pretences created significant risks to the community in that she saw vulnerable people who required psychological treatment from a qualified professional.
The Commission finds that, between at least 2006 and 2016, Ms Sharobeem improperly exercised her official functions by falsely claiming to be a qualified psychologist with a PhD in psychology, and providing psychological treatment to IWHS clients and patients referred to her.
Ms Sharobeem’s conduct was corrupt conduct for the purpose of s 8 of the the ICAC Act. This is because her conduct constituted or involved the dishonest exercise of her official functions and therefore comes within s 8(1)(b) of the ICAC Act. Her conduct also constituted or involved a breach of public trust and therefore comes within s 8(1)(c) of the ICAC Act.
The Commission is satisfied, for the purpose of s 9(1)(a) of the ICAC Act, that, if the facts it has found were proved on admissible evidence to the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt and accepted by an appropriate tribunal, they would be grounds on which such a tribunal would find that Ms Sharobeem committed an offence of using a protected title under s 113 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW). That section provides it is unlawful for a person to knowingly or recklessly take or use a title that could be reasonably expected to induce a belief that the person is registered in the health profession listed in one of the health professions in the table to the section. The table includes “psychology” under the category of professions and “psychologist” under the category of titles.
The Commission is also satisfied, for the purpose of s 9(1)(b) of the ICAC Act, that, if the facts as found were to be proved on admissible evidence to the requisite standard of on the balance of probabilities and accepted by an appropriate tribunal, they would be grounds on which such a tribunal would find that Ms Sharobeem committed a disciplinary offence of misconduct.
Accordingly, the Commission is satisfied that the jurisdictional requirements of s 13(3A) of the ICAC Act are satisfied.
The Commission is also satisfied, for the purpose of s 74BA of the ICAC Act, that Ms Sharobeem engaged in serious corrupt conduct. This is because her conduct:
- involved serious dishonesty in falsely representing herself as a qualified psychologist to her clients, government authorities, community organisations and the community at large
- involved providing psychological treatment to a number of people over a period of years without having the requisite professional qualifications or training, thereby creating a risk to the health of members of the public at large
- involved an extreme departure from the objects and purpose of IWHS to promote good health, including mental health, among people from a culturally and linguistically diverse background
- occurred over a significant period of time
- involved a substantial breach of public trust motivated by her own self-aggrandisement, which may have affected the official functions of a number of public sector agencies
- could constitute a criminal offence under s 113 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW), which carries a maximum penalty of $30,000.
The Commission finds that, between at least 2006 and 2016, Ms Sharobeem engaged in serious corrupt conduct by improperly exercising her official functions by falsely representing herself to be a qualified psychologist with a PhD in psychology and providing psychological treatment to IWHS clients and patients referred to her.
Section 74A(2) statement
The Commission is satisfied that Ms Sharobeem is an “affected” person with respect to the matters dealt with in this chapter.
The Commission is not of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) with respect to the prosecution of Ms Sharobeem for the criminal offence of using a protected title under s 113 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW) in relation to her use of the title of psychologist. This is because proceedings for this offence must be commenced within six months from the date on which the offence was alleged to have been committed, and this period has now expired.
The Commission is of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the DPP with respect to the prosecution of Ms Sharobeem for offences under s 87 of the ICAC Act in relation to her evidence that:
- she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the American University
- she did not claim to be a psychologist when providing care to Mr X.
Given that Ms Sharobeem no longer works for IWHS, which itself is no longer in existence, the issue of whether consideration should be given to the taking of action against her for a disciplinary offence or with a view to her dismissal does not arise.