Alice Springs news
Alice Springs news; NewspaperNT
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This publication contains many links to external sites. These external sites may no longer be active.
Community newspspers; Australia, Central; Alice Springs (N.T.); Newspapers
v. 10 issue 44
Copyright. Made available by the publisher under licence.
normal people do". On October 26 he received a letter from the community council asking him to leave the community by 6pm that very evening until the department had advised that it was "appropriate" for him to return. Says Mr Close: "The Education Department kicked me out of my house for 45 days."How can anyone in democratic Australia get kicked out of their house without it going through a magistrate?" At the end of the 45 days, he received the "right" to go home, once again on the advice of the department to the community council. This was ended, however, by Mr Totham having police on the community serve a trespass notice on Mr Close. Adding to the harassment that Mr Close felt during this period was a two and a half week stop on his pay and refusal by the department to pay some $4000 worth of incidental expenses, all of which was later paid to him as his due. Returning to October 29, that is, one week after the stand-down and just over one month after the probation report, the Darwin-based director of the Human Resources Service within the department, Linda King, foreshadowed her intention of terminating Mr Close's employment. ALLEGATIONS Mr Close says he had not had any opportunity to discuss his responses to any of the allegations against him (none of which were sackable offences) with anyone in the department. He says the principal with whom he worked for five terms was never asked for his opinion of Mr Close's practice in the school. On December 3 he was advised by the CEO of the department, Peter Plummer, that, in Mr Close's response to the allegations against him, he had "focused on specific items raised by individuals" and had not "addressed the broader issues" of his "alleged inappropriate behaviour as a probationer". Mr Plummer acknowledged, however, that Mr Close's probation "had not been managed in accordance with standard procedures" and transferred him in 2002 to Darwin High School, where Mr Close had no desire to go. Mr Close asks: "Did he not read my response? [It runs to about 30 A4 pages with about as many supporting documents.] "How could I not address the broader issues when putting the specific items in the general context? If these broader issues were not addressed with satisfaction, why was I not terminated? "Then out of the blue he decides to transfer me to Darwin, no consultation with me as usual. "It is as if my life is at the whim of the power brokers of DEET. "Why should I leave Central Australia, my home, where my friends are, where my interests lie and move even further away from my family [in South Australia] and live in a humid climate, which I don't like at all. "Simply to continue the pressure that DEET put on me from the beginning, in the hope that I would give up and disappear?" If this was the aim then the department almost succeeded: on January 26, 2002 Mr Close resigned, "totally disgusted, exhausted, feeling abused, seeing no natural justice, and knowing I had been unjustly coerced, harassed and bullied out of my teaching career with DEET." That is not quite the end of Mr Close's story, however. By April, he was feeling well enough to reapply for work. He says he was aware of a number of positions in schools in the southern region for which he is qualified and experienced. However, Mr Totham advised that there was no work for someone of his experience and qualifications in the entire zone. At the start of this year he attempted to get an Emergency Teacher Relief Permit from the Gap Road office. He says he could never get put through to the Human Resource Manager. After 10 calls he went to the office to see her. He says he waited and waited, to eventually be told she would not see him. Absurdly, he has been able to arrange such a permit through Darwin HR office, which is how he has come to be relief teaching in schools around town. Initially Mr Close did not lodge a grievance with the Office of the Commissioner for Public Employment (OCPE) because he had no faith in its processes. When the present commissioner, John Kirwan, took up his post, Mr Close decided to give it a try. Mr Kirwan, despite the belated submission, ordered an independent review of Mr Close's grievance. Its findings acknowledged shortcomings in the probation process and that the "timeframe for [Mr Close's] removal" from the community was "tight". It also saw "no reason why the Alice Springs office should not in future issue [Mr Close] the [relief teacher] card" as the Darwin office had seen fit to do so.
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