A Bundoora masseur has been ordered to stop touching clients, as Victoria’s Health Complaints Commissioner probes a spate of sexual misconduct allegations within the industry.
Charles Michael Dispenzeri has been slapped with an interim prohibition order preventing him from providing any general health service, or promoting therapies involving physical contact, until July.
Mr Dispenzeri operates Massage Australia One, in Ellery Street Bundoora, and offers various forms of relaxation and speciality massage, in addition to counselling and hypnosis, according to its website.
The veteran therapist declined to comment about the prohibition order on Wednesday.
The investigation into Mr Dispenzeri is ongoing and no official findings have been made, but the commissioner, Karen Cusack, said she was satisfied it was necessary to “avoid a serious risk to health, safety or welfare of the public”.
The order uses new powers to enforce temporary bans against unregistered health providers as an investigation takes place.
It also the first public action taken by the commissioner as she probes a dozen complaints of sexual misconduct against general health service providers – mostly massage therapists, and at least one sonographer.
The complaints range from sexual assault to inappropriate comments. It is understood other interim orders could follow and some matters are being investigated by police.
All the complainants are women making allegations against men.
Ms Cusack said she was concerned other cases had not been reported, as people were left feeling uncomfortable after a treatment, but were unsure if what they experienced was inappropriate.
“People are in a vulnerable position when they are lying on a massage table, so the massage therapist has to be fully informing a person what they are going to do, and what each step of the procedure is,” she said.
“The fundamental issue is that the person receiving the service has to be comfortable with it.”
The Association of Massage Therapists has a code of practice which emphasises that masseurs should set clear professional boundaries. It includes standards for appropriate draping, so people’s body parts are not unnecessarily exposed, and sets out limited circumstances where breast massaging might be clinically appropriate.
A number of Australian masseurs have been previously convicted of rape and sexual assault.