Debates Day 3 - Thursday 1 May 2003
Parliamentary Record 11
Debates for 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Thursday 1 May 2003 Moving on to another issue, one that I would seek the minister for Educations investigation of. In the issue of managing of staff, morale is critical. We can see the issues affecting morale in a discrete unit, such as a staffing body but, when we go broader to the teaching service generally, issues of morale are paramount to ensuring that we have the best possible outcome produced. We provide the best possible service conditions for our teachers, in this case, and issues of morale need to be carefully watched and managed. Sometimes they are quite difficult, I appreciate. However, when it comes to, as was alluded to earlier in the year, local teachers - some with many, many years of Territory experience, a personal investment in the Territory - being put into positions with an understanding from one quarter of the department and then, from a higher position to be told: Unfortunately, we have made a mistake and please stand aside, we have an interstate person to fill that position who, it is revealed, has no experience. Maybe it can be explained on one side that this person is going to now be an investment in the Territory for long-term gain, but we have someone who has already been in the system for 17 years and is not going anywhere, and will stay there, and will continue to stay there and needs that encouragement. We can argue it on that small case. But, the broader message that is sent out to the teaching service when we have stories such as this replicated through the system, does cause morale to be damaged. A recent case has come to my attention, and I take this opportunity to present it, for the ministers attention particularly, so that we may have some clarification on it. I specifically want to address the issue of the morale ramifications of such occurrences. I hope that this is not the case, as it has been brought to my attention, and perhaps the minister can assure me that this is not the case. It has been brought to my attention that there is a senior teacher in an executive position who was on leave overseas and uncontactable by family friends and the department. Whilst overseas on leave, this person was unaware that a vacant promotional position which they possibly would have applied for, became available. It was discovered that this person wins the expression of interest promotion, which is a short-term position. A promotion looks good on the CV. However, it was discovered that the application is alleged to have been submitted by someone else, because the person who won the position was unaware that they had actually won that position. The application, it is claimed, was submitted by a friend in the department, and after the closing date. It is claimed that the person who won the position was en route back to the Territory unaware of their promotion. Now, an isolated case we could probably explain away. However, stories such as these - and there are others that circulate through the system - do compound and add to problems with regards to morale: the non-observance of due process, unfairness, and a slap in the face to others who feel that they were overlooked and are undervalued. Members opposite will now interpret this, I presume - as I have judged by other responses to such things being brought up as an opposition is meant to - by saying: Oh, you are talking down the service, you are being critical. We need to be a little more learned and circumspect when we engage that there may be criticism, and let us see its reason to criticism reasonably responded to, rather than in a hysterical or sensitive way. This is not about personal agendas; more about getting the business of the Territory in hand. The role o f the opposition is to ensure that that is the case. I now wish to draw attention to the activity of a volunteer organisation in Central Australia. I know little about autism. I have encountered the weight that autism brings upon a family on a number of occasions through my teaching career, albeit, from a distance. I have some understanding of the condition, and I know the immense weight that falls upon a family who are to struggle with the effects of autism. I was delighted to leam that there was a support group when I made my first inquiries, when I had an approach a couple of years ago at the Freds Pass Show, in fact. I discovered that there was no support group in the Top End. I had another approach from someone in Central Australia, and I began to look for support groups. I found that there was a reasonably active group that came together in Central Australia. I believe there is the beginnings of a support group. With all due respect, it may well be well-formed at this stage, but there is a fledgling support group in the Top End now. The Autism Support Group of Central Australia was formed in January 2000 to help families of the NT deal with problems of having no appropriate services to deal with or to advise on sufferers of autistic spectrum disorders. To date, this group has achieved the following: they have run public awareness campaigns through the ABC, Impaija and NT newspapers; organised a series of autism and educational public awareness forums including special forums for NT community health and special education programs; they have been instrumental in having a pilot scheme annexe for autistic spectrum adolescence instigated through the Education department; been instrumental in the Education department receiving special training from the autism Queensland group; have discussed with 4004
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