Kariong Juvenile Justice Centre Compensation Claims

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SpeakersForsythe The Hon Patricia; Tebbutt The Hon Carmel
BusinessQuestions Without Notice

Page: 7070

    The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Juvenile Justice. Is it a fact that five of the six women at Kariong Juvenile Justice Centre who in June 1998 complained to the Director-General of the Department of Juvenile Justice about harassment, victimisation and discrimination, leading to the Shier-Sherlock report, have suffered either nervous breakdowns or stress-related illnesses? Have two of those women had their claims rejected by the GIO? If so, what action has the department taken, if any, to support the women? Given that the Ombudsman's report also highlighted these issues of harassment and discrimination, what action has the department taken specifically to resolve these issues, which were highlighted first in the Shier-Sherlock report and then in the Ombudsman's report?

    The Hon. CARMEL TEBBUTT: The Hon. Patricia Forsythe refers to an issue that occurred as long ago as June 1998, some time before I became the Minister for Juvenile Justice. It is my understanding that the Shier-Sherlock report that the honourable member referred to was instigated by the Director-General of the Department of Juvenile Justice in response to the allegations referred to by the honourable member, which were raised by a number of women who worked at the Kariong Juvenile Justice Centre. The department carried out a number of disciplinary inquiries related to the actions of a number of staff referred to in the Shier-Sherlock report, and a number of staff had disciplinary charges laid against them. The director-general met and counselled some 12 other staff members as a result of that report.

    I have already outlined to the House a number of measures that have been put in place as a result of the Ombudsman's inquiry. The department has also revised and implemented a new harassment-free workplace policy and grievance procedure policy in an attempt to prevent a recurrence of the problems identified in the Shier-Sherlock report.

    The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE: I ask a supplementary question. Is it a fact that the insurance company GIO has written to the Department of Juvenile Justice advising that it will not accept liability for any more stress claims from staff at the Kariong Juvenile Justice Centre, because the GIO believes that these are industrial matters and not workers compensation matters?

    The Hon. CARMEL TEBBUTT: As I outlined in response to a question at the estimates committee hearing, workers compensation within the Department of Juvenile Justice is an issue of concern for both the department and me. There is no doubt that in any service provision, department or agency, particularly one such as juvenile justice, which is working with detainees who have difficult and complex behavioural problems, one expects the number of stress-related claims to be higher than in other agencies. However, it is a concern within the department, and the department has taken a range of actions to address and improve the management of workers compensation claims and the department's occupational health and safety record, including the establishment of an occupational health and safety unit within the Department of Juvenile Justice.

    I am not able to comment on the individual letters that the department has received. However, I and the department take very seriously the goal of improving the health and safety record of the department and putting in place appropriate policies and procedures that both support staff in the very difficult job they do and also provide for the most expeditious management of workers compensation claims that is possible.