By ERWIN CHLANDA
A jobs for the dole scheme at Finke and Santa Teresa run by CatholicCare NT has fallen in a heap but Federal Government grants money to the scheme is still flowing, according to a former resident who spoke to the Alice Springs News Online on condition of not being named.
The source says several constructive initiatives in the communities folded because staff were fired, were not replaced, and the task of controlling the job scheme fell to people not adequately skilled.
CatholicCare NT is paid per person per day – $40 to $50 – for people recorded on attendance sheets. The NGO gets paid for the names on the sheets even if the people themselves are not there, or not there for the required time, alleges the source.
The News sent a draft report detailing the source’s allegations to Carl Russelhuber, of CatholicCare NT in Alice Springs. He replied: “CatholicCare NT refutes these claims and believe that these allegations come from a former employee who was a resident from Alice Springs who worked in Finke in a fly in fly out capacity.
“We believe that these comments are malicious.
“CatholicCare is transparent and open with its dealings with the community and government. CCNT operations in Finke are carried out very capably by local staff.”
Without making assertions about CatholicCare’s performance we consider our source to be knowledgeable and the issues are in the public interest, and have elsewhere attracted serious criticism.
Noting Mr Russelhuber’s claim that his organisation is “transparent and open” but that he has not responded to the detailed allegations, we have sent follow-up questions to him (see footnote).
The source says until recently there were women’s activities in Aputula (Finke) that provided training in cooking, cleaning, painting, Remote Indigenous Broadcasting Service (RIBS) radio production, fashion, jewellery production, and more to female job seekers. (The photos on this page are from our previously published report.)
A group of men were restoring the Old Police Station. Mentors were employed on contracts until July 2018 – three and a half years, enough time to develop meaningful and sustainable projects.
It seemed as if, after the failure of the community gardens that Alice Springs horticulturalist Geoff Miers had set up so lovingly, something good and lasting could finally develop.
Attendance was high and participants were enthusiastic. These arrangements have now crashed, says the source.
The two CatholicCare NT CDP mentors, who lived and worked in the community, have been laid off and replaced, says the source, by local untrained and unqualified mentors and an untrained employment consultant.
These employees are confused as to what their tasks are, suggests the source who has spoken to them. They have received no job descriptions, no pay slips, and hardly any training.
They told our source: “When we go to Alice for training or there is a meeting here, we don’t understand what is going on.”
“When the manager comes he screams at me. He fired me once, then apologized and said I was not fired. I did not understand what was going on at all. It gave me big stress.”
Work for the Dole activities are supposed to be run from 8am to 1pm.
This is far from reality, says the source. The gate is opened in the mornings, between 10am and 11.30am, and a sheet with the names of the work for the dole participants is placed on a table.
Women and men come in, sign the sheets and disappear. There is no cooking going on, no radio-making or photo shoots. The painting materials have run out weeks ago. The place looks shabby and deserted, says our source.
Job seekers who have to attend their monthly appointment frequently find the gate shut, although missing an appointment risks “breaching” (suspension of the dole) of the participant for up to eight weeks.
According to another job seeker, says our source, the local employees who have to keep the activities and employment services running, turn up for an hour or so a day.
The plants in the hydroponic garden are dead, the lock on the gate does not work, the fence is broken in several places and the grounds are littered with cigarette buds, broken office chairs, and garbage. Some men sit around smoking.
Nothing has been done at the half-finished old police station for at least six months, says the source.
The formerly thriving community garden in Santa Teresa set up by CatholicCare is deserted and dead, replaced by a new “shabby looking” garden behind the CatholicCare NT building, says our source.
FOOTNOTE: We emailed the following questions and requests to Mr Russelhuber this morning:-
How do you keep tabs on the operations in Finke and Santa Teresa?
What paperwork is being generated?
What have been the major activities of participants in the past three months?
Please give me access to the attendance sheets for the last three months.
What kind of corroboration do you provide to the funding bodies for your claim that “operations in Finke are carried out very capably by local staff”?
What proof do your funding bodies require of the funded activities taking place at all, taking place to the full extent required, and with the expected outcomes?
What proof is there for the required activities having been performed during the mandatory five hours of activities?
Please provide contact details of the consultants meeting monthly with participants during the past three months. We will contact them.
How many permanent jobs have been gained other than with the MacDonnell Regional Council?
How much has CatholicCare NT been paid so far during the current program?
We understand that providers are monitoring people placed in jobs for one year. What is the pattern of on the job performances they have found?
How often have participants had their dole suspended because of non-attendance at the monthly interviews?
How often was this non-attendance caused by the CatholicCare consultant not being there?
How often does a senior CatholicCare representative go to Finke and Santa Teresa?
What is the staff turnover in Alice Springs?
What have been the results of the get-children-to-school initiative?
By ERWIN CHLANDA