Letters from Alice

Discrimination/Bullying and Manipulation/Inappropriate and Ineffective use of Funding – 25 September 2013

In Letters from Alice // 2013.09.26 //

Great “Bush Bash” Saturday with bands from the bush in town for a big gig sat night … highlight were the “Desert Divas” … young women with amazing voices and range of styles …

Felt sad and angry reading the local paper last week with the comments by some locals and new immigrants when a local Traditional Owner complained that the river bed (which is a sacred site) was being used by some Indian and Nepalese migrants to set up volley ball net and then leave their rubbish behind … at first I thought it was just ignorance … but then the migrants deliberately went and laughingly posed for the paper playing volleyball, the quotes suggested they were also ridiculing that the river was a sacred site …

Based on comments on their facebook page the local paper claimed the local community were wanting to use the river bed for recreational activities … hardly a representative sample …

To give you another idea of what Aboriginal people can be up against in Alice read this account of an educated Aboriginal woman working in Alice …    Read More

 Discrimination/Bullying and Manipulation/Inappropriate and ineffective use of funding

… during my seventeen months employment at the




XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX ( Clinical Psychologist)

I am 65 yrs age and a senior Aboriginal Social Worker with over 20 years experience. I have previously lodged a complaint with the Health Complaints Commission but they said it was not within their duties or legislation to address issues of discrimination and workplace bullying.

I and other staff also made a formal complaint through the Union “United Voice” but this achieved nothing.

I also consulted a lawyer at CAWLS (Central Australian Women’s Legal service) but they said they could not help me.

 Commenced employment with XXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX  

Ceased Employment  XXXXXXX

I was the only staff member of XXXXX not to have my employment contract renewed - for the next two years.

My contract was renewed for one month i.e. end of XXXXXXXXX – I was told if I completed more MHCP’s (Mental Health Care Plans) I could still have a job and would receive “big incentives” if I did so. I explained why this was not possible considering the demands placed on me as the only Aboriginal SW in the program (see attached letters).

Lots of tension and “bad vibes” within the office environment – division and “tell tale” atmosphere with favouritism e.g who got to go to conferences. They tried to appoint the youngest member of the staff with only a Cert 3 as Acting Manager of the program with authority over SW’s, Psychologists, a GP and all the Aboriginal staff, including the Senior Aboriginal Man and Senior Aboriginal Woman. Many other instances.

Meeting with Managers and 4 Board members

XXXX       All staff ordered to attend meeting with 4 members of Board of Management, CEO, Assistant Director, Manager xxxxxxx, HR Manager, xxxxxxxx Program Manager. Aboriginal staff were told repeatedly to leave their Aboriginality at home /not to bring this component of our identity to work (please note we were working in an Aboriginal XXXXXXXXXXXXXX Service). This meeting followed on from an Aboriginal male worker being sacked on the basis of blatant lies told by the xxxxxx manager to senior management. The man sacked is a very respected and well liked local Traditional Owner.

Apart from the bullying and unsubstantiated allegations made against staff in this meeting where we were forbidden from defending ourselves, there was physically threatening behaviour by CEO xxxxxxxx in front of all staff present. We were all shocked and traumatised by this intimidating and humiliating behaviour.

After the meeting I suffered a stress related heart attack and was taken to hospital.


The psychologists were paid to go to 3-4 conferences (including interstate) each while my requests to attend conferences were refused.

The only conference I attended was when I was asked to present a paper at the National Aboriginal xxxxXX Conference in Perth. After I wrote my paper I was instructed to change it. The management handed me their revised version of what they wanted me to say so it was consistent with what Dr xxxxxx and the Program Manager said in their papers. I did not use their version at the conference because I would have been misleading the conference about the true situation. Afterwards I was questioned by the manager.

This conference was also attended (all expenses paid) by ALL staff of xxxxxxxxxxx including the receptionist and a staff member who had resigned and was moving interstate (one Psychologist had all expenses paid to go to another conference, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx). This was a terrible waste of money considering we were always being told there was no money for cultural programs we wanted to do.

Abuse of freedom of association

All Aboriginal staff were called to a meeting and told by xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx manager of the xxxxx unit that we were not to associate with staff who had previously worked in the program. I questioned this instruction as I was then sharing a house with a lady (a former XXXXX Church Minister) who had previously worked in the program and been treated in a very demeaning manner. Also during my short period of employment I had made friends with another lady (xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx) who was also working for the program. She was also dismissed under somewhat horrendous circumstance while I was absent one day. Both these women are non-Indigenous but local well known people in this community.

Both these women became my friends over a period of time based on similar interests and our participation in local community events. I was the only Aboriginal person from work at xxxxx who ignored xxxxxxxxx instructions not to associate with these two ladies, or the Aboriginal Traditional Owner man who had also been dismissed. This man who staff were forbidden to associate with is related to many staff.

I witnessed many times how scared and intimidated other Aboriginal staff from xxxxx were when by chance we would run into one of these dismissed people down town. While staff said they very much wanted to talk to and meet with them they were too scared to be seen with these ex employees of xxxxx in case xxxxxx management saw this interaction (remembering that Alice is a very small place).

However I made no secret of the fact that these ladies were my friends, and am in no doubt I was seen by management as ignoring their ‘mission day mentality’ by choosing who I would associate with outside of a working week. I believe I have the right to choose who I associate with and who my friends are.

XXXXX TRIBUNAL appointment

I applied for and was accepted to be a member of the N.T. Government XXXXX XXX XXXXX Tribunal here in Alice Springs. (As the only Social Worker or Aboriginal on the XXXX Tribunal) I felt as though I was privileged to be accepted and advised management that this would only take me away from my work for about a half day a month as LWOP.

The manager xxxxxxxxxxx denied me this request for LWOP and said they would not approve my involvement. I thought this response very unfair and discriminatory considering that a Non Aboriginal Psychologist working for xxxxxx was also appointed to the XXXX TRIBUNAL and this was approved by management without question. Stopping me being on the Tribunal was also strange considering I was employed as an xxxxxxxx and was being denied the opportunity to represent the ONLY Aboriginal view on the Tribunal.

 “Incentives/rewards/kickbacks for completing medicare MHCP’s

During a regular ‘supervision session’ with the senior clinical psychologist xxxxxxx I was advised that were I to complete more Mental Health Care Plans I would keep my job and receive a “big incentive/reward” if I did so. I explained why I could not do more MHCP’s especially in order to receive a “kick back “ (see attached letters).

I feel this collusion between my clinical supervisor and the managers is unethical if not illegal.

Breach of confidentiality

30/07/2012   Male clinical psychologist xxxxxxxxxxxx spoke to me about my medical condition. How did he know about this? I had only ever mentioned this health related condition to Program Manager xxxxxxxxxxx in relation as to why I needed to take a week off work to travel to Darwin to see a specialist.

Professional Practice

Several times I, other Aboriginal staff and the Senior Psychologist who was dismissed, talked to management and the other psychologists about how the way we were being told to work was against the Treatment Guidelines and could be unsafe for our clients but we were ignored. I also went and spoke to Dr xxxxxxxxx who controls how the program operates, but he was totally dismissive of what I had to say. He is a GP not a mental health professional.

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxx and xxxxxxxxxx (both Clinical Psychologists) know that the way we are instructed to work breaches the Guidelines but they do nothing but continue to make the situation worse for Aboriginal staff by colluding with management. This stops more Aboriginal xxxxx workers being employed who would be more effective. The psychologists are not doing anything that could not be done and is being done by the Aboriginal xxxxxxx workers. Non Aboriginal xxxxx Therapists who have resigned have all complained their skills could not be used in our context because of the language and socio economic situation of our clients. ie the psychologists are working with clients knowing they can not be effective.

Also they have gone along with management re the lack of informed consent for our clients and made no formal complaints when they found out the records of psychologists were being changed by management.

Employment terminated

I finished employment on xxxxxxxxxx. There was no office farewell from any of the non-Indigenous Staff which consisted of two senior clinical psychologists, one trainee psychologist and one Social Worker. No acknowledgement of my seventeen months employment from the program manager or from the manager xxxxxxxxxxxx Unit of xxxxxx or even from the non-Indigenous staff.

However when a Non Aboriginal staff member of the xxxxx Unit finished her employment three days after me, the manager of xxxxx sent a memo to all staff to chip in and buy her a going away present and for xxxx staff to attend her farewell afternoon tea.

On the day I left, the Aboriginal staff and clients of the xxxxx gave me a lovely farewell where I was presented with two lovely Aboriginal paintings that Aboriginal clients had painted for me and two beautiful books presented to me by the Aboriginal staff who themselves made the appropriate workplace speeches/farewell. But even though the program manager xxxxxx and xxxxxxxxx  Unit Manager were in attendance neither made any attempt to wish me well or whatever management are supposed to do when a staff member leaves their place of employment.

Please note also that not one non-Indigenous staff said anything to add to my leaving that place of employment. In my opinion all of the non-Indigenous staff were shocked that about twenty odd Aboriginal clients came to bid me farewell. I believed that I had a really good working relationship with both clients and Aboriginal work mates but this behaviour by the non-Indigenous management and professional staff shocked me and once more traumatised me.

I am especially upset that even though Aboriginal staff members and the xxxxxxxxxx Psychologist (who was dismissed) complained to HR, and then directly to the Assistant Director xxxxxxx and the CEO xxxxxxx they did nothing to help us. Instead they fully supported Dr xxxxxxxx and the other Non Aboriginal professionals and managers.

Even xxxxxxxxxxxx the xxxxx CEO xxxxxxxxx has done nothing that changes the way Aboriginal staff are treated.

xxxxxxxx  16.8.12

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