Thursday, August 22, 2013

BULLYING AT CIT A LAUGHING MATTER?

The following excerpt is from the Hansard of the Appropriations which is the speech at the end of the Estimates hearing to approve the budget. The first part refers to the CIT. Mr Doszpot questions the progress of Commissioner Kefford's report into bullying at CIT among other issues. I will separate the issues into different blog posts. 

It is very disappointing to note that Mr Barr was laughing in the face of Mr Doszpots speech, so does Mr Barr and perhaps the Labor Government think the bullying issue at CIT is a laughing matter? 


Please read and digest this information and I will add some commentary in the next few posts.






Proposed expenditure—Part 1.20—Canberra Institute of Technology—$66,054,000
(net cost of outputs) and $3,757,000 (capital injection), totalling $69,811,000.

MR DOSZPOT (Molonglo) (8.02): The Canberra Institute of Technology enjoys a
unique place in Canberra’s education sector. Unlike other states, CIT is the only
publicly-owned technical and further education provider of vocational education to
the ACT and region. It has in recent times, and by its own admission, experienced
some turbulence over a short period of time. It had to stare down the prospect of a
merger with the University of Canberra. It has watched changes to TAFE in adjoining
states following the national partnership agreement on skills reform driven by the
commonwealth government. It has experienced some difficulties in maintaining
international student numbers in light of the adverse experiences of some international
students interstate and some, frankly, dodgy RTOs in other states delivering less than
acceptable training.

CIT has managed to come through all those issues reasonably well. International
student levels have remained reasonably consistent and it has achieved a cash surplus,
something that the Bradley review warned it would need to improve. However, on
other fronts there are still issues to contend with. I speak as someone who has
enormous respect for the work that has been done by the CIT, by its teachers, by its
management and for the students that have come through the CIT. As a former
member of the CIT Advisory Council for a number of years, I have a very long and
deep respect for the CIT.

But there is an issue that just will not go away and I was hoping it would have come
to fruition by now. That issue is bullying. Bullying is becoming an endemic cancer in
our society. It is disappointing to realise that it is present not just in some of our
schools but it continues through the tertiary education levels. This is quite soul
destroying to a lot of people. I do not intend to dwell on this appalling chapter in the
CIT’s history that has destroyed the health and careers of a number of CIT staff.

There are serious questions that we put to Minister Barr way back—I think probably
two or three years ago now. But both the minister and the then senior management
failed to recognise the issues that we were raising and continued to deny that anything
was amiss.

I think around 12 or 14 months ago there was an inquiry started into this. I am still not
aware when it is going to be submitted to the Assembly or, indeed, wherever that
report has got to be submitted to. I have recently received an email that was a copy of
an email that was sent to the acting head of CIT. I will read verbatim from the email:

I have recently viewed a copy of a Message from the CIT Chief Executive dated
19th June 2013 and entitled Update on Worksafe and the complaints of 2012 and
was circulated to all CIT staff.

In this message it states, “In light of the Worksafe ACT Report the Chief
Executive asked the Commissioner for Public Administration to investigate
individual complaints and review…

It is my understanding that following the publication of the Worksafe report on
CIT and the complaints from myself and a number of other former and existing
staff, the Commissioner for Public Administration instigated an investigation
into the complaints received from numerous people on the actions of the CIT.
It is distressing to me as a former committed staff member whose health and
career was destroyed by the actions of staff from CIT that even now it is not
possible for you, as the acting head of this organisation, to portray the genesis of
this investigation accurately.

I believe that the statement in the Staff notice of 19 June 2013 is an inaccurate
statement bordering on an attempt to rewrite the history of this sorry saga. Whilst
I accept your stated aims of commencing a process outlined in your notice to
staff, if you are really committed at righting the wrongs that have been done
within CIT over past years it must start with an honest statement as to the basis
of the investigation that has taken place.

I note that Mr Barr is studiously trying to avoid listening to any of this. I will continue
with the rest of the email:

A process can only continue as it commences; if you start with the truth, then
truth will continue, but if you start with an untruth the following will also be
untruthful.

In order to put this matter in the proper perspective, I believe that staff should be
advised of how this investigation commenced, even if a formal request may have
been required to satisfy the legality of the situation.

One thing I must say is that I do applaud the work of the former minister for education,
Dr Bourke, for finally stepping in to deliver a serious warning to the executive team
some year and a half ago. I am advised that the administration finally do understand
what they need to do to protect staff and students from inappropriate behaviours and
that is an ongoing work in progress.

However, these matters were first raised over two years ago. I know there has been
much work done, many interviews conducted and reports made. But today there is
still no public and detailed apology to the several dozen staff and students who made
submissions to the Commissioner for Public Administration and whose lives—and
careers in some cases—were irreparably damaged.

That was CIT’s horrible year and this year there are still some other issues that I
would like to bring to this Assembly—

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, members! Mr Corbell and Mr Barr, could you keep the
conversation a little bit softer please or go outside?

MR DOSZPOT: Madam Speaker, thank you for bringing the attention of Mr Barr
and Mr Corbell to this issue. This is a very serious issue that reflects quite badly on
Mr Barr as an education minister. The least he could do is pay some respect to the
people whose lives have been so damaged instead of laughing and joking as he has
been for the last five minutes.

The other issue that I would just like to bring up briefly ( ... see next post please) 

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