Company refutes new allegations on jobs for the dole scheme

p2422 Ampilatwatje My Pathway OK

 

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

My Pathway, a company engaged by the Federal Government to conduct a work for the dole scheme in the Sandover area north-east of Alice Springs, is raking in fees for people who do not turn up or fail to work the required periods, and make out they are running programs in outstations while in fact there are none.

 

These allegations are made by Luke Sparrow, who was sacked by My Pathway just days short of the end of his six months probation period when, as he claims, the company discovered he was keeping a diary of improper practices.

 

Paul Synnott, CEO of  My Pathway, says his company takes very seriously the allegations raised by Mr Sparrow but refutes them “in their entirety as false and mischievous. We are proud of the work we do, serving to build stronger communities.”

 

Mr Synnott responded to key aspects of Mr Sparrow’s claims.

 

Mr Sparrow, an Indigenous person, says the few programs that were under way during his time lacked meaning and purpose, such as building a “softball field that has taken over two years to be half finished” and erecting other structures on which only a white employee of My Pathway was working.

 

This is against a background of keen interest by the population in getting skills that can be applied locally or outside the community. Hardly anybody has been assisted to achieve that, says Mr Sparrow about his time at Ampilatwatje.

 

These allegations are in some ways similar to the ones included in an earlier report, in the Alice Springs News Online, when we gave right of reply to Cairns-based Leigh Pollard who provided some but not all the answers to questions we put to him.

 

“I was thrown into the job with no training, no induction, cultural understanding about the people or location,” says Mr Sparrow in a letter to the NT and Federal governments.

 

“There was no orientation, no time for a trial week of employment, no opportunity to meet the other employees.

 

“I was basically met by [an Alice Springs based manager] for a ‘chat’ then told [to start as] she doesn’t bother doing interviews as its too hard to find someone to fill these positions.

 

Mr Synnott replied: “We have robust recruitment, induction and training processes in place that our records show were applied in Mr Sparrow’s case, the same as any new employee.

 

“Mr Sparrow has suggested he was unfairly dismissed. There are avenues in place that Mr Sparrow can follow if he feels that is the case. To date we have not received any communications from him pursuing an unfair dismissal.”

 

Mr Sparrow said in his letter: “In the first week alone I noticed that the client’s files were not correct, the information didn’t add up to what was happening, including job plans … that had no signatures, no dates and were far out of date.

 

“[Some participants] could or should not be receiving income support as they had fallen off the system a long time ago, but they were still receiving income.

 

“More than 30% of the time [another employee] was calling up for appointments and there was nobody sitting in front of her, but she was still marking them down as attending, but nobody attended.

 

“That enables the participant to be paid [and] My Pathway [to] receive government money.

 

“[Another employee] marked off his time sheets for participants that did not attended his work for the dole activities but was nonetheless marking them down as attending so once again My Pathway would receive a payment.

 

“He was also notorious for marking people absent when they would refuse to attend non-culturally specific activities My Pathway deemed appropriate, and when participants would discuss this with him he would become belligerent, rude and intimidating.

 

“Many of these participants would come to me in their appointments and make formal complaints to me about this, which I would then forward this information onto [a manager] which she never took seriously or said to me as plain as ‘they do their activities or they get a Non-Attendance Record.

 

“My Pathway seemed to turn a blind eye to these [practices].

 

“I noticed that [an employee] was taking the back page (which was the page with the participants’ signatures) off the old job plan … and stapling it to the new one that she had printed out, thus making it seem that the participant had attended the appointment, when in fact no one had attended the appointment, and then contacting Centre Support and running through the usual yes/no questions – but it was all lies.

 

“These are legally binding documents that were being manipulated by her so My Pathway would receive payment for participant attendance which was not actually happening.

 

“I was shocked and confused. This happened daily and weekly for the first month and as she was going to run her activity centre she told me why she does this.

 

“Basically, if we, as the employment officer, put down a participant misses their appointment My Pathway does not get paid, so we take the last page (the signature page) and then staple it to the new job plan, thus My Pathways gets paid and no one is the wiser.”

 

Mr Synnott rejected the claim that My Pathway staff routinely doctored job plans and attendance records.

 

“The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet recently completed on‐site monitoring and evaluation of our services as an ordinary and regular part of its management of our Community Development Program contract for the region.

 

“That evaluation did not identify any concerns with our timesheets, job plans or appointment records.

 

“Further, the department has had an on the ground presence within the region, with a direct line of sight to our staff and daily operations. Any issues such as those claimed would have been immediately apparent to departmental staff.

 

“Our own regular internal checks have similarly not uncovered any such manipulation of records,” says Mr Synnott.

 

Mr Sparrow says after three weeks it became clear to him why Ampilatwatja and many other communities and outstations “are in such despair”.

 

He writes: “In communities like Irrultja, Utopia, Arlparra and many more there are no activities – none, yet on the job plan it says the participant will attend their activity by attending the (phone box) to see their activity supervisor for the mutual obligation activity.”

 

However, writes Mr Sparrow, there is no activity; 50% of the time there is no phone box; no activity supervisor; no service provided in that community at all by this service provider, My Pathway.

 

“Once [a staff member] started her women’s activity, which was knitting beanies for five hours a day.

 

“A job plan stipulates the mutual obligation for Work for the Dole which is five hours a day, twenty-five hours a week, fifty hours a fortnight. [The staff member] was signing off ladies from activities when they were not even there. She was signing off ladies when they had only been there for half an hour.

 

“She would not listen to their requests to do more culturally appropriate activities, and would suggest they paint so she could buy them at a (cheap as chips) price.

 

“Many of the ladies would be asked to be placed at Artists of Ampilatwatja, but because [the My Pathway staff] disliked the manager they refused to allow her to have any participants attend, to work or even be given a resume.

 

“They don’t want independent Indigenous people out there working for themselves or making change.”

 

Mr Synnott refutes that, saying My Pathway currently has four participants at the Ampilatwatja Art Centre.

 

About complaints from job seekers Mr Synnott says Mr Sparrow had not submitted any written complaints for action.

 

He also refutes that there are no suitable activities available for community residents: “There are a variety of activities available for participants across the North East Alice Region. Attendance levels at those activities provide an indication of their acceptance by community.

 

“We encourage community involvement in the development of new activities so that our activities continue to align with community aspirations. Recent examples include the new Fencing Project and the Housing Construction Project, which is aligned with developing skills so participants can secure employment on the new housing / maintenance roll out.”

 

That is in stark contrast to how Mr Sparrow describes the activity, claiming the construction of staff accommodation is in fact being done by a single white employee.

 

“The government has supplied thousands upon thousands of dollars at the expenses of the tax payer to purchase such items as tyre changing equipment, a metal fabrication folding machine, gardening equipment, wicking beds, raised garden beds, pallets of bricks and square tubing, propagation materials, soils and shade structures, hand held tools, trailers, cement mixers, hundreds of pairs of boots, work shirts, pants, thousands of dollars worth of sewing machines, art supplies, kitchenware and cooking implements.

 

“These items are locked away in sheds and out in the elements rusting away, as [the staff member] uses this as his own personal inventory and takes these items to fix his own property.

 

“At no time, has there been one program based on healthy living, healthy eating. No cooking classes, no gardening classes, no life skills programs, no training what so ever.

 

“Job plans just state ‘IF’ a course becomes available My Pathway ‘MAY’ assist. People are screaming out for knowledge, for skills based programs and My Pathway are doing nothing and have done nothing.”

 

Says Mr Synnott: “There is a stockpile of equipment that is not utilised for activities. We maintain a store of equipment from across the region, the purchase of which was fully approved and acquitted by the Department. This equipment is used as required across the Region’s activities.”

 

 

 

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9 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. David de Vries
    Posted April 8, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    Kudos to Alice Springs News Online. Providing illumination in subjects others are too scared to present. I have also witnessed the My Pathway charade. The same fiasco at every remote site across the country. EVERY.

    View Comment
  2. Paul Parker
    Posted April 3, 2017 at 10:43 am

    Like many I agree with Alex Nelson [Posted March 28, 2017 at 10:31 pm]
    Many do not recognize how the failings remain built into Commonwealth’s complete approach, its legislation, then its administration of Commonwealth programs intended to benefit needy fellow Australians.
    Problems in these communities are NOT difficult to resolve provided we start with principle of equality of rights and responsibilities for ALL Australians regardless of racial identification.
    Commonwealth corruption begins with its abusive label “Aboriginal” to qualify everything, to deny rights, to avoid responsibilities, and to prevent accountability.
    Commonwealth supports, promotes and practices this corruption, it denies Australians with families their rights to live together, to visit each other, to run a business together, abusively using racial identification as its measure.
    Exact same corruption was why Australians overwhelmingly voted in 1967 with their acknowledged purpose to eliminate, to extinguish, all and every legislative usage of Australians’ racial identification to qualify their rights and their responsibilities Australians.
    Still the Commonwealth maintains racial segregation, forced separation of families, denial of basic civil rights and responsibilities, further disadvantaging Australians by abusing racial identification as its measure.
    Shame on the Commonwealth, for obstructing to prevent legal resolution of the constitutional issues our case raised.

    View Comment
  3. Sarah
    Posted March 31, 2017 at 11:03 am

    Surprised? No-one should be. Many years ago I worked for a Land Corp in the Kimberley, WA, where I would take phone calls from CDEP and paid Indigenous employees to “sign me in” and then “sign me out”.
    Saying “no” was not allowed, this was “their” Land Corp.
    While an abundance of money and resources are thrown at ANY cohort, those benefiting will always take advantage of the situation.
    And I cant say I blame them, if I was lucky enough to get paid for not turning up to work, where the Toyotas, country and houses were all supplied, no doubt I’d do the same thing.
    But who’s going to change anything. No one. The end.

    View Comment
  4. Harold
    Posted March 30, 2017 at 8:23 am

    @ Anagram: I think you’ve wandered in and preached in the wrong thread.

    View Comment
  5. David
    Posted March 30, 2017 at 7:15 am

    @ Anagram. Stop using Aboriginal culture as an excuse for not doing what you’re funded to do. This is another Federal Government failed social experiment. So on it goes.

    View Comment
  6. Anagram
    Posted March 29, 2017 at 9:29 pm

    All posts below are interesting and come from very subjective points of view.
    Objectively, anyone who has worked and become involved in remote Indigenous communities would understand the more extreme challenges that are faced compared to “western civilised” life!
    You are living in very isolated and remote places in Australia where you have to rely on resilience, fortitude and respect for the Aboriginal culture.
    On entering these communities you would ensure you have some understanding of their ceremonies and how they are conducted on sacred land.
    I feel the man that posted the initial statement did not try to affiliate himself with the rules and regulations of this indigenous community and did not abide by these guidelines.
    The elders or TOs will decide if you are accepted and if you have overstepped their boundaries and traditions then you have to expect consequences. It is not acceptable to let your ego be your protocol!

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  7. Posted March 29, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    There are 181 artists on the Artists of Ampilatwatja Aboriginal Corporation database, many of these artists are on the CDP case load at My Pathways, doing 20 or 25 hours a week work the dole.
    The females all are expected to fulfill their obligational tasks, doing alleged activities such as knitting.
    The men’s activities are as equally inane, however, as no one in the community is allowed to enter the My Pathways compound, nothing can be substantiated.
    The Artists of Ampilatwatja Aboriginal Corporation have never been made privy to which of their artist members are on the case load. This is very frustrating.
    In 2014 the Artists of Ampilatwatja Aboriginal Corporation was considered by My Pathways (in agreement with Prime Minister and Cabinet) as a suitable host to delivery activities to already practicing artists. After more than two years of multiple attempts to procure artists the art centre finally secured only two artists in November 2016.
    As of yesterday when this story was about to be published the Artists of Ampilatwatja Aboriginal Corporation secured another two artists. It seems the reason these artists were finally signed on to a contract was because there is a relief My Pathways manager working in the community, who in one hour signed two artists onto an existing Artists of Ampilatwatja Aboriginal Corporation contract.
    It has taken two and a half years to secure four artists; I have absolutely no faith in the work for the dole scheme and little trust in those who are delivering it.
    The fact is as the manager of Artists of Ampilatwatja Aboriginal Corporation I can say that since the work for the dole scheme has started and delivered by My Pathways the art centre’s production has decreased by at least 15% and the artists themselves are $26k down on last year’s sales.
    I therefore conclude that My Pathways work for the dole scheme has taken away the profits from the artists, their families and the wider community and their own corporation.
    Their painting is their culture and their livelihood and a cultural education for their offspring.

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  8. Geoff Davies
    Posted March 29, 2017 at 12:56 am

    I was Training and Development Manager for these jerks in 2012.
    I left them for the exact same reason.
    Five million dollars per year and not a single palpable outcome.

    View Comment
  9. Posted March 28, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    Luke Sparrow’s six month tenure on a work for the dole scheme strongly echoes my own experience as an employee of the CDEP scheme administered by the Arrernte Council of Central Australia 20 years ago (see http://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/1221.html “His life on jobs for the dole”; and also Erwin Chlanda’s report “New broom for dole scheme” reported in the same edition).
    Given what I observed two decades ago, Mr Sparrow’s account rings very true and it appears nothing has changed. I’ve no hesitation in stating that corruption in the administration of Commonwealth programs intended for the benefit of remote Aboriginal communities is systemic and this has been the case for decades.
    I can advise Mr Sparrow that he will receive no joy in doing the right thing by reporting his allegations to the appropriate authorities, including the police.
    As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to investigation of official corruption by both the NT Police and the Australian Federal Police, they’re not quite as useful as tits on a rooster.
    The same criticism applies to the mainstream media, although Mr Sparrow might possibly be given a hearing by the ABC given his particular cultural background.
    In my case, despite several attempts and lots of material evidence, I was never taken seriously and can only assume my particular shade of skin colour counted against my credibility.

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