Dept of Children & Families toxic, repressive, say staff

p2349 Dept of Children and Families 2By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

The death on August 6 of a work mate, believed to have been suicide, prompted several staff members of the Department of Children and Families (DCF, image from their website at right) to tell the Alice Springs News Online about serious conflicts in the local office.

 

They also refer to the suicide of an ex-staffer about two years ago.

 

The comments coincide with the Prime Minister’s appointment of a Royal Commission into detention of young people in the NT which will also examine the child protection system.

 

DCF said about the death on August 6 that it “extends its condolences to the family, friends and colleagues during this difficult time. As this is a personal matter, the Department has no further comment.”

 

The suspected suicide occurred a few days after the staff member was seen crying in the office.

 

One of our sources says that the CEO from Darwin flew to Alice to address the staff about the tragic event, and managers have told staff that talking amongst each other, or to outsiders about the death would be “disrespectful”.

 

“The department in Alice Springs is toxic, retributive, and unless you’re part of that repressive gang you’re in trouble,” says that source.

 

There is a massive turnover and “destruction” of staff: To survive, “they keep their heads down, their mouth shut and work as hard as they can to get out of this place.”

 

“Leaders” have strategies which put staff into no-win situations: They are given case management deadlines which are unrealistic and unachievable and the inevitable failure to meet these deadlines is recorded in the staff files.

 

If a staff member then wants to apply for transfer to another department, this information can be given to the interview panel, which can also obtain references from members of the “inner circle”  –the DCF team leaders who are in a position to put damaging information before the panel.

 

“This hugely constrains getting work elsewhere,” says the source. That in turn binds the lower level staff to the DCF and increases their vulnerability to bullying and exploitation.

 

The fact that few complaints are lodged – almost exclusively because of fear of retribution, say our sources – is commonly cited by the upper echelons as proof that there are no problems.

 

DCF says it “has a cultural organisational framework that outlines the core values of respect, courage, integrity and trust that underpin behaviour in the workplace.

 

“The department values and invests in its staff and any complaint is taken seriously and investigated.

 

“The Department encourages staff that may be experiencing difficulties to report their concerns and utilise the support services offered.

 

“If you are aware of any staff that may have a complaint or concern, please direct them to any manager or Department of Children and Families complaints.”

 

But our source says use of ‘divide and conquer’ methods are standard in this “very punitive organisation”, isolating people and groups: “Different groups are called together and given bits of information and then are being told not to talk about it to other staff,” says the contact.

 

“Yelling at staff, imposing unreasonable workloads, isolating staff, spreading rumours, encouraging them not to engage with particular workers who are a ‘bad influence,’ putting people down, talking to them like to a school-child, rolling eyes, dressing someone down in a public forum, wagging finger, eye glaring” are all in the arsenal of the “oppressive clique,” says the source.

 

“Stifling debate amongst the staff by declaring matters confidential, discouraging workers from having support people with them when they are in a performance management meeting, or pretending it is a case management meeting in which a support person would not be needed” are among of the strategies.

 

While the massive staff turnover is expensive in financial terms, the costs to the clients – the children – is inestimable. While it is vital that the case workers build up a relationship of trust and understanding, the 400-odd children in The Centre who have been taken away from their families are faced with three or four different case workers in a year.

 

Payments of up to $1000 a week per child are being made to carers, says our source, money that could be spent on helping parents to set up a functioning household.

 

Almost all clients are Indigenous but are placed with non-Indigenous carers which, by law [Care and Protection of Children Act 2007] should be a measure of last resort, and priority should be given to their placement with responsible kin, says the source.

 

p2349 Dept of Children and FamiliesOKInfrequent “supervised access” by parents or relatives, constrained by the inadequate number of DCF case workers, leads to children not seeing their families for long periods.

 

The News has obtained information from five current or recent DCF staff members to date, speaking to them personally.

 

Two more of them also use the word  “toxic” to describe the atmosphere in the Alice Springs DCF office (pictured).

 

They say “bullying, favouritism and racism” hamper the vital work of people some of whom have the power and duty to take children away from their parents.

 

Many of the issues are petty, but as they amount to ongoing harassment of about half the 80-odd people working for the local DCF office, they cause tensions, mistrust and backstabbing which is leading to staff turnover.

 

Two other contacts described the turnover as “disgusting, horrific”.

 

One said “they have emptied out the assessment and investigation team. There is hardly anyone in that position right now”.

 

The case load of up to 90 is beyond the reasonable capacity of any staff, with the ideal number considered to be 16.

 

There are carers who are not or inadequately registered working under “half baked registration”.

 

Denigrating people behind their backs, or even in their presence, in conversation with other staff members, falsifying workers’ statements in reports and “ganging up” on workers is common, said the two staff members, speaking independently from the others.

 

People from other countries are manipulated into submission because an adverse report may lead to the cancellation of their visas.

 

The two say the department has been given complaints about abusive, insulting and offensive language, unjustified criticism and setting unreasonable timelines and expectations.

 

They say a senior manager speaks to some staff with “a soft tone of voice” with “a friendly body language and facial expressions” in contrast to the “directive tone of voice”  and display of “facial expressions of feelings of discomfort and disgust” towards others.

 

The News will not be disclosing the identities of our contacts. We have offered comprehensive right of reply to the department, and will report any further responses in updates. We are quoting here all comments made by the DCF so far after we had acquainted them with the allegations made so far.

 

 

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22 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Concerned banana republic, Employee:
    Posted August 31, 2016 at 10:40 am

    Concerned Public Servant makes good points in their comment, very applicable in this situation. From the tone of “FPs” (somebody who used pseudonym) comments on facebook I would gather that she is someone quite high up in the management chain of DCF.
    Fancy picking on someone who is unwell. All part of the ongoing bullying strategy. It just shows how undeserving she is of her position within DCF.

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  2. Posted August 31, 2016 at 6:54 am

    Bullying?
    Workplace bullying is verbal, physical, social or psychological abuse by your employer (or manager), another person or group of people at work.
    Workplace bullying can happen in any type of workplace, from offices to shops, cafes, restaurants, workshops, community groups and government organisations.
    Workplace bullying can happen to volunteers, work experience students, interns, apprentices, casual and permanent employees.
    Some types of workplace bullying are criminal offences. If you have experienced violence, assault and stalking you can report it directly to the police.
    What does bullying in the workplace look like?
    Repeated hurtful remarks or attacks, or making fun of your work or you as a person (including your family, sex, sexuality, gender identity, race or culture, education or economic background); sexual harassment, particularly stuff like unwelcome touching and sexually explicit comments and requests that make you uncomfortable; excluding you or stopping you from working with people or taking part in activities that relates to your work; playing mind games, ganging up on you, or other types of psychological harassment; intimidation (making you feel less important and undervalued); giving you pointless tasks that have nothing to do with your job; giving you impossible jobs that can’t be done in the given time or with the resources provided; deliberately changing your work hours or schedule to make it difficult for you; deliberately holding back information you need for getting your work done properly; pushing, shoving, tripping, grabbing you in the workplace; attacking or threatening with equipment, knives, guns, clubs or any other type of object that can be turned into a weapon; initiation or hazing – where you are made to do humiliating or inappropriate things in order to be accepted as part of the team.
    If you are being bullied at work you might; be less active or successful; be less confident in your work; feel scared, stressed, anxious or depressed; have your life outside of work affected, e.g. study, relationships; want to stay away from work; feel like you can’t trust your employer or the people who you work with; lack confidence and happiness about yourself and your work; have physical signs of stress like headaches, backaches, sleep problems.
    As above if, you are experiencing being bullied please contact a support network to advise appropriate steps, if nothing is done internally. It is a human right to be treated with respect and to feel safe in a workplace.

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  3. Concerned banana republic, Employee:
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    Well said, Small-town Anon.

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  4. Smalltown Anon
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    Firstly, respect and condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the DCF worker who reached a place that they took their own life. Deepest sympathy for you and hope for some form of consequences to come to those involved in the bullying.
    At the root of this problem, I believe, is nepotism. Alice Springs, NT: nepotism capital of Australia and (per capita) possibly the globe?
    Bullying and case mis-management are two arms of that beast.
    This is not just happening at DCF. It happens at many many organisations in Alice Springs, around the NT and remote Australian communities.
    The “inner circle” problem is rapant.
    It destroys lives and is hugely reducing the efficiency and effectiveness of the delivery of our community’s services. I sat here this morning and listened to a friend who is suffering the same problems in another community not far from here and over the weekend heard two other friends speak on the same issues.
    As a person who has been involved in the community services sector here in Alice Springs, I have witnessed this problem in a youth drug, alcohol and crime rehabilitation facility, youth detention, numerous NGOs, DCF and a wide variety of other sectors also, including the arts.
    I was subject to and witnessed bullying in one of my own workplaces. At one organisation, stereotyping, racism and homophobia are on full view for clients, workers and visitors to see.
    Yet nothing is done as the perpetrator is a relative of the CEO. It is time for everyone to be able to speak up in a safe and protected way and for managements to walk the talk.
    We need to be able to go to the root of the problem. Surely there are simple ways to ensure that nepotism can be massively reduced or even eliminated completely?
    So often are Third World Countries characterised as hubs for nepotism, corruption and supreme dodginess.
    It feels like it is time to take a big hard look in our own backyard and ask ourselves how do we reduce or get rid of this problem? And could it also be one reason some of the conditions in our communities are considered Third World?

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  5. Concerned Tax Payer
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 9:20 am

    Let’s all hope Mr Gunner appoints a legitimate Minister who will investigate these claims sooner than later and restore some order and leadership back into DCF!

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  6. Another Victim of Bullying and Racism, Employee
    Posted August 28, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    In addition to below comments made by Concerned banana republic, Employee, I would like to add that I am also informed that almost 99 percent of work comp claims of psychological injury based on bullying, discrimination and racism are rejected and dismissed by employer’s (DCF) insurer TIO.
    This means that once the claim is dismissed, they do not have to provide any explanation or justification, and the issues raised in the comp claim are not investigated as per DCF’s decision. This is probably because the employer is able to claim that the claimant (employee) is the “problem” and “liar”.
    Furthermore, other employees have said that they were pressured and encouraged by their bully manager and team leader to complain against their fellow colleagues (the target of bullying).
    The colleagues, who do not comply with this pressure and demand of the manager, are victimized and vilified by not being allowed to be transferred to other teams or locations or departments and by not being promoted.
    In the Dog Eat Dog, very competitive work environment in social services, I will leave it to your imagination what kind of accusations the victims are blamed for.
    If you would like me to post a few examples, please comment here.
    The colleagues who want to climb up the ladder fast or who give up to the pressure of the bully manager make statements against the victims during the confidential supervision meetings with the team leader and accept the team leader’s writing “lies” on their own supervision notes.
    This allows the team leader and manager to make allegations that IT IS OTHER colleagues who made complaints against this employee (the victim of bullying) – as if this so called “justified complaints and criticism” do not come directly from them.
    It is a hellhole to work at DCF in Alice Springs because bully senior managers have taken over the Department.
    Unlike your experience, my experience is quite different. I believe that the policies and procedures are operated in a way that is not to protect the employees but to protect and serve the management.
    One might say that the policies and procedures are all to look good to the public and the State. However, the way they are operated in reality contributes to the dishonesty and corruption in the management and so, it does not protect the employees and the clients: children and families, which supposed to be the main purpose of our job.

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  7. Concerned banana republic, Employee:
    Posted August 28, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    Hi Lizzie: There is policies and procedures in place and these so far have only stood to protect the bullies.
    If one goes as far as a workers compensation claim then the department has TIO follow this up with an investigation, if the claim is accepted.
    I am advised that 99% of injury for psychological reasons due to bullying and harassment are not accepted.
    When the investigator investigates they will generally find in favour of the employer. If they do not they will be told that they are not impartial. The result is no future investigations for the investigator.
    If one is stupid enough to try to resolve the bullying situation in house they will be swiftly dealt with.
    This will involve a large amount of bullying and harassment, being undermined having, trumped up complaints put on their file and being made to feel that things are so impossible.
    Also involved in the treatment will be total humiliation in front of colleagues who will be pulled in to the bullying as well.
    They will comply for fear if they do not that they will be the next victim of bullying.
    It’s not a wonder people feel like everything is hopeless.
    These bullies are not just into making staff leave they do their level best to try to ruin the workers’ reputation and chance of getting future employment.
    They do this by making sure the person has a bad work history due to the trumped up complaints and therefore will feel justified in giving bad references.

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  8. Lizzie Gilliam
    Posted August 27, 2016 at 9:53 pm

    I read the article and comments with a sense of disappointment and sadness.
    I commenced living and working in the NT in 1995 in FYCS (as it was called then).
    It was truly a case of being chucked in at the deep end (I was barely qualified and had no experience whatsoever) but those four years were amongst the best of my working life in the NT (now 21 years).
    I had difficult cases, felt out of my depth, but had an amazing team around me, including management.
    I recall those days fondly. I learned a lot. We did some good work. I still hold the managers from those days in high regard.
    Bullying in the workplace is unacceptable in any shape or form. There are laws and policies in place to protect staff and I hope there is a positive outcome for staff, carers and, most important of all, the children, very soon.

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  9. Concerned banana republic, Employee:
    Posted August 25, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    In reply to Concerned Government Employee: Whenever I hear about someone like you leaving DCF I am left wondering who is going to fill the void. My hat off to you!

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  10. Posted August 25, 2016 at 6:45 am

    I feel I need to respond to a comment by “F… P…” on the Face Book site of the Alice Springs News Online.
    [ED – The name given is fictitious. The person has also attempted to place a reader’s comment here in our comment section. We do not permit this without knowing the identity and contact details of the contributor, but we are prepared to withhold these from publication. We have deleted the FP posting but are happy to provide a forum to “Concerned Public Servant” whose identity we know.]
    I am so truly over this! We are all human beings with emotions, you know feelings! We are not robots! The system has gaps, big gaps … I have been in DCF for a long time, and nothing has changed! Except for new leaderships and a new round of a particular group. Who are you?
    You say: “To be honest, sometimes I am sick to death of a Team leader caught up with the same people over and over again yet other staff are left to carry their work load because they are too busy crying ‘poor me’. Do you know who doesn’t get to cry ‘poor me’? The kids.”
    FYI, I am one of those DCF workers that cried today, and yesterday, and the day before that, and so on … because I am human, and humans cry!
    And don’t worry and thanks for asking, I have made contact with the relevant support provider. Your comment made me feel insulted that I am wasting tax payers money, and less confident to access my line management to debrief if required. You are insinuating that a particular group does not care about the kids! And for the record no one picks up my work.
    I started with DCF at the bottom, yes the bottom where I worked at the frontline everyday with case mangers from across the Territory who visited the community from all DCF Remote Areas.
    I was with visiting professionals from mental health and other various social services.
    I was based on community working liaising providing cultural brokerage.
    I didn’t have an office to start inn. I had to use my own personal car as an office until I scoped an office to setup the program. Eventually a vehicle was supplied.
    I didn’t calculate a total of reimbursement receipts to submit to DCF for using my own vehicle or other expenses, like providing lunches, to promote the program out of my own pocket.
    I built that program to what it was when I left the position. Me, myself.
    I built relationships with the community. Me, I did it all.
    I did this with hardly any support. Eventually the program employed two more workers due to the caseload being so high.
    I mentored / scaffolded my respected colleagues to be able to enter data on the computer, receive and scan and send emails.
    Our team delivered many national calendar events which promoted community education and awareness.
    Our community had the highest caseload and successful interventions of preventing children entering the system, because I/we worked hard! Every day with families and with the community. Sweat and tears, while you were tucked away in your bed at night, I was still working
    Because the program was that successful, families obviously felt safe to attend my home to escape domestic violence. Protective behaviours, I believe.
    And not one family did I turn away. Eventually families developed confidence to report to police, and that alone is difficult particularly living in a community.
    I found my strengths in families, and they found it in me because I am passionate about helping those in need, and making a difference!
    Aboriginal families know if you are real or plastic, because I am one!
    So when I cry, it hurts, cause it’s real, and that’s what we do as ACWs, and Practitioners.
    It’s a tough job to be the middle person but that’s our job and that’s what we do.
    We keep children safe from harm, and further – with all due respect – don’t tell me kids don’t get to cry, cause they do.
    I have shared many tears and pain with children from all ages.
    So are you saying I’m not allowed to cry? How does one then provide a nurturing response to a child, if they operate like a robot!? So please don’t tell me when not to cry.
    Some don’t, they carry anger, display complex behaviours, some don’t cry cause they can’t!
    Or don’t know how to.
    And FYI, if you are that person when they break out in anger and cry, guess who’s there to catch them – we are!
    And yes, after a shared experience with a child / young person – there’s tears in the workplace, cause I’m human!
    I’m not scared to identify. I have experienced many forms of emotions since my employment with DCF, ranging from bullying, isolation, rejection, being belittled, being called stupid, weird. That’s internally. What keeps me going is the difference I know I make when I work with families and their communities, and yes, a debrief with a team leader when necessary, no matter the circumstances cause every human being is affected differently.
    And if your team leader has a robotic management style, so to speak, that doesn’t meet the needs of that case manager, you lost it right there in that moment. It shuts down. People become unhappy and work starts to deteriorate you get the system failing internally and you are left feeling helpless and actually questioning one’s confidence and ability to soldier on.
    The system fails children, families and their communities time and time again. It’s heartbreaking as internally we have not got it right, therefore, Felicity, if you wish to discuss further about a particular personality group, I suggest you get the facts right to why humans cry!
    To this end I hope you are able to reflect on emotional intelligence cause having that in my opinion makes a difference in leadership, to ripple to those that work at ground level and then onto our most vulnerable, and that my friend, wether you like it or not, are DCF workers, and our vulnerable families we work with. It’s a tough, heart breaking and complex job. Pay it forward.

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  11. Concerned banana republic, Employee:
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    In the last few weeks we at Alice Spring office of Department of Children and Families DCF) have had the CEO, the second in command and HR personal visit the office.
    Team leaders and managers are not displaying the usual bad treatment of staff in front of them. Most of the staff will not speak up for fear of retribution.
    The 2IC commented that it is only a few disgruntled employees complaining.
    Obviously the 2IC did not account for those who have left because of the bullying, those who have left in disgust at the way the place is run and employees who are too scared to speak up for fear of becoming the next victim. How blind those in charge of DCF are!
    There is definitely a bullying culture at the DCF office in Alice Springs.
    In the State of Victoria I hear a person can be jailed receiving a sentence of up to 12 years if found guilty of bullying an employee. We do not have the same protection. Could the law be changed?
    It seems as the most important thing for this organisations management is about how far up the management ladder they can climb to display their greatness. Not about the children and the families.
    Recently a manager was promoted and appointed as acting director of another DCF office in the NT. That Office/Region has not previously ever had a director before.
    There has not been any growth explosion of the population in that area therefore one would question why it has now become necessary.
    DCF is claimed to have a policy of valuing employees. I dare say there are many like me now and in the past that do not feel as though they were valued.
    Social Workers: agents of social change? Can we?

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  12. Concerned Taxpayer
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 10:42 am

    In light of Northern Territory Youth Detention Centre stories brought to light by Four Corners, it raises a lot of questions and red flags about the NT Government.
    When the current Regional Executive Director, Dorrelle Anderson (aka Dorrelle Hanley) was appointed to the Office of Children and Families (Child Protection Services) of Central Australia she had not worked a day in her life in child protection.
    No wonder systems are failing NT youths, especially when people are appointed to important positions with little or NO experience in child protection or management.
    Ms Anderson did not work in the Department of Child Protection Services (DCP) in Perth, Western Australia. She worked as an Aboriginal recruitment liaison officer in a department next to Child Protection Services.
    So which ever political party forms government, it is a priority that these serious complaints and claims should investigated in a timely manner.
    Without managerial experience it is no wonder the Alice Springs DCF office is falling to the wayside with no real leadership, a manager with many claims of bullying and unprofessional conduct who places unrealistic expectations on whatever staff is left.
    The high turnover of staff talks volumes and those who have managed to leave the department and escaped this treatment would be best placed to participate in an investigation.
    Children’s lives should not be gambled with like this. Child protection is a serious area and warrants very experienced management in order to be productive and effective.
    It doesn’t take a genius to work out the children that are ending up in our juvenile justice system are the most vulnerable children that Child Protection have failed.
    The Royal Commission must also investigate questionable appointments of such positions in areas that are clearly failing. Are the right people in the right jobs?

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  13. Erwin Chlanda
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 9:38 am

    NOTE TO OUR READERS WHO PROVIDE COMMENTS:

    We have published more than 12,000 readers’ comments in the past five years and they are a very important part of our content.
    While we prefer to show a contributor’s full name we accept a pseudonym when a writer fears victimisation for expressing views. Everybody has the right to freedom of speech.
    However, we will not publish a contribution when we are unable to contact the writer on the email address from which the comment has been sent to us, or have been contacted by him or her in another way.
    In other words, we need to know who the writer is although, upon request, we will not disclose that information.
    Erwin Chlanda, Editor

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  14. Mark Wilson
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    What a toxic workplace. But I’m guessing the mission statement is a beauty and the KPIs well managed.
    Any wonder the “clients”, the kids, fall through the gaping cracks. Heads need to roll whichever government assumes power. It’s a disgrace.

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  15. Annette Kelly
    Posted August 22, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    I completely agree with comments made by Maree Jones.
    As a social worker and part of next of kin process as a carer I have been dismayed and dishevelled by the response of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to supporting carers. And most importantly to respecting the rights of the child and to do no harm.
    Carers becoming case managers and organising a full family connected experience for the children.
    I have met some well meaning case workers from DCF but I only get to meet them when a care plan is due or some other paperwork is required.
    I have been disappointed with bureaucratic responses and robotic speak and even words falling on deaf ears when the rhetoric reflects respect, courage, and integrity.
    The child in the system is not at the centre but lost in the report writing or statistics.
    It is well evidenced that children want a relationship with their biological parent and family despite dysfunction and regardless of unsafe relations.
    So why doesn’t funding reflect this and why isn’t their more support in this area – not maintenance of dysfunction, not even prevention labelling but pre-conception support of families.
    And recruiting and mentorship within the local environment and with local resources.
    Child protection is a reflection of society so funding should filter to the core, to the initiatives and creativity of grass roots projects and toward longevity of committed support.
    My hat goes off to the case managers at DCF that are experiencing bullying, harassment and isolation in such a challenging work environment.
    And respect too towards those carers out there doing the right thing despite a system that has been problematic for some time.

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  16. Kim Wright
    Posted August 22, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    It’s been over 15 years since I worked in Alice, not with the department, but with a community group who supported children.
    The department was awful then, always floundering and dealing with consistent staff changes. Unfortunately many staff are new graduates, getting thrown into the most complicated and delicate work area one can imagine.
    There was a real them and us mentality at that time, which made coordination and cooperation with services who actually worked with the children, knew the children and families and put the child first.
    It is a very stressful work area. It was and always will be the place requiring the most experienced confident workers, not young graduates and not managers who wouldn’t have gotten their jobs anywhere else but in Alice. I shudder to think of the number of children who have suffered due to this “broken system” operating in complex town, supposedly supported by traumatised and inept workers. Where do these kids end up? I think we all know that. Alcoholics? Quick suicide as opposed to slow agonising despairing death or Don Dale.

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  17. Jacqueline Owens
    Posted August 22, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    Well, having been a long time employee of government departments I can say without doubt that the departments across the board are all run by State Government. The message of budget and covering up gaps and loop holes is filtered on down the ranks to those people on the front line.
    If you value your position, want to get further in the departments to where you might make a difference, you eventualy play ball or quit before the above story becomes available to the media.
    People who have worked their way up in Government are only there for two reasons, they are friends with someone involved in the hiring process, or you are incredibly good at what you do in the public eye, good for business.
    There is a common outlook of acceptance that you cannot change and continue to do the job required or leave and find a job where you compete in much the same way.
    There are good people within the government who fight everyday the good fight, but there comes a time you have to decide, is the good fight worth the aftermath you leave behind?

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  18. Jude Billard
    Posted August 22, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    I used to work there. Initially it was a great place to work. Then they hired a new senior manager who hired all of her incompetent friends and began the process of dismantling the agency.
    I was bullied mercilessly until I had enough and quit. Five people quit that day. Serious problems with this manager and her loser friends were ignored for years. This agency turned out to be the worst experience of my whole entire career.
    Countless employees were driven away. I was so disgusted with how they treated their employees, and when I did complain, nothing was ever done about the abuse of power.
    I could still vomit just thinking about the horrible things I witnessed and experienced at DCF.

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  19. Posted August 22, 2016 at 8:18 am

    The situation described in this report about the Department of Children and Families appears to have reached an extreme level but I’m aware from what others have indicated to me that demoralization of staff in other NTPS bodies is widespread. The bureaucracy of the NT has long been a law unto itself while the public’s attention is distracted by the antics of our politicians.

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  20. Phil Walcott
    Posted August 22, 2016 at 7:07 am

    The current DCF model in Central Australia (and I suspect elsewhere around this country) has been broken for decades. Everyone who works there or is a client of the agency is impacted. Bureaucracy is the culprit. It needs to implode and be built anew under a different model.
    The dysfunctional nature of this agency has staff who work on the same floor not communicating with each other about clients they share as part of their careload. Some kids have multiple careworkers in different capacities. Little wonder the kids (and carers) get confused as to who is their person.
    The following is an example of what has been achieved in some places (including Australia) around the world. There are lessons here to be learned.
    Should Territory Labor become the next NT government, it has promised to appoint a Minister for Children (Lynne Walker is proposed) whose role will be to oversee the communication channels between different government agencies (Child Protection, Children and Families, Health and Education) to ensure there is a focus on effective consultation with each other, share relevant information around the various agencies and not stuck in silos.
    The managers of this agency are stuck in the same mess as the rest of the staff. It’s the model that’s broken. Many of the people who work there are really quite remarkable and the job they do is to be commended.
    Phil Walcott
    Independent candidate for Braitling

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  21. Maree Jones
    Posted August 21, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    As a foster carer I have seen, in case conferences, how staff are bullied by their managers. I’ve found myself having to support them!
    DCF managment treat their foster carers equally badly. Kinship placements are set up to fail by being rushed and poorly planned by senior management, to boost their statistics.
    The high turnover in staff means that carers are the most knowledgable about the children in their care, yet our relationship with the kids and knowledge is ignored.
    Carers are often the ones who are left to maintain and facilitate family relationships and look out for the best interests of the children. We take the kids to vist their parent in goal, have a picnic visit with the siblings they are separated from and have a catch up with the grandmothers.
    When things go wrong with kids psychological needs, health, childcare, schools, family relationship, breakdown of kinship care or holiday plans, our numerous phone calls and emails go unanswered.
    At carer meetings we bring up issues that make our caring harder. Meeting after meeting the same issues get raised but nothing gets done. And managment’s solution is to close down carer’s abilty to complain about issues we all have in common.
    Cares are the ones that are left to pick up the pieces of poor staffing and management practices. One of my two year olds had five placements in five months!
    Unsupported, having to deal with the many issues of vulnerable children … in the end many carers give up! Many carers leave their caring roles suffering from depression and anxiety -damaged by DCF.
    The DCF disorganisation is failing their staff, their volunteer carers and more importantly their kids.
    The well has been left out of welfare.

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  22. Carolyn Drew
    Posted August 21, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    This is disgraceful. Bullying staff in this way makes mockery out of the ethics of this profession.
    What sort of leadership is management showing? They are modeling violence as a way of solving problems yet expect their client base to do better.
    The management levels should be sent back to further education and then given jobs at the beginning level again and have to make their way back up to management by merit (under supervision).

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