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HomeIssue 9CatholicCare jobs for dole falls in a heap: allegation

CatholicCare jobs for dole falls in a heap: allegation

p2315-aputula-stew-1By 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?


  1. This situation at Santa Teresa and Finke is reminiscent of the Ghosts On The Payroll phenomenon that began with the introduction of the Training Allowances Scheme that was implemented by the Holt Government in NT remote communities in January 1968.
    One of the trainee jobs that I recall at Yuendumu in the late 60s was painting rocks white and placing them in line on either side of the main road leading in to the Magpie on the Arch entrance to the community.
    Two years later, govt Auditors Glazebrook and Oldroyd did a flying visit to Docker River and blew the whistle on a massive rort. 143 Trainees receiving an average $50 p.f. for two years allegedly paying the money in cash flown down from Alice fortnightly in “safe hand bags” sealed leather gladstone bags.
    The audit reduced the payroll to 41.
    This type of rort was replicated and refined in many, many remote communities in the NT over succeeding years, reaching a state of the art scale during the Whitlam government era when training allowances became award wages.
    Most of it was hushed up at the highest government level for many years.
    While I have no doubt that the wonderful people at Santa Teresa and Catholic Care are trying their hardest to be transparent in this worthwhile work for the dole project, due diligence of the highest order must continue to be applied to ensure these projects achieve their aims in the public interest.
    The hard questions asked by Alice Springs News Online should be seen as a worthwhile part of this due diligence process.
    For this reason, Catholic Care should not take umbrage, but respond in a spirit of transparent cooperation, if only to maintain Catholic Care’s excellent reputation in the wider community.
    A defensive response would serve only to enforce that wise old truism of the streets: “Everything changes and everything remains the same.”

  2. Does Come in Spinner’s comment on a realestate portfolio in town have a relevance to the price of fish in this debate?
    Does the mysterious Come in Spinner have a realestate portfolio perhaps?

  3. There is a very simple way to prove or disprove one part of these allegations:
    Ask CCNT (or any other remote provider) for the monthly appointment letters to job seekers of the past two to three months with the employment consultant in Finke (or any other community).
    There is a name, a date and a time of appointment in these letters. You will find that some job seekers have an appointment in the afternoon between 1pm and 4pm.
    If there are no employees who officially work these hours; if they are, for example, employed until 1pm, or if they leave the community at midday to travel back to Alice Springs, it is proven that job seekers miss their appointments due to a provider’s fault.
    You will find that occurs very often.
    If the employees of CCNT (or any other remote provider) in Finke (or any other community) are not at work in the mornings, job seekers with appointments in the mornings miss out as well.
    This indeed leads to substantial dole cuts to people who are already extremely disadvantaged when it comes to job opportunities, education, and access to affordable food. It is indeed so that children go hungry because of the issues described in this article.
    The morning miss-outs cannot be proven unless someone films them; the afternoon ones are easy to prove; just match employment hours with appointment times in the letters.
    Audits by government would be beneficial. Such audits would find that above scenarios go on in many NT communities on a daily basis.
    Job seekers are not only subject to employment consultants’ absences, but also to their moods and whims. Employment consultants do not know what they are doing half of the time as the rules and regulations change monthly, weekly, or daily. If employment consultants are confused, we can only imagine how confused their clients are!
    Mentors working for the CDP program (leading activities) are confused too.
    They too have the power to cut off job seeker’s dole money. And they frequently do.
    They are often forced to deal with dysfunctional participants on a daily basis. They do not get supervision, like for example counsellors do. Yet they deal with the same issues as counsellors, only on a more frequent and more involved basis. No wonder these workers suffer from burn-out and confusion.
    Their jobs are impossible.
    It is indeed true that these disfunctional and damaging schemes are paid for by the tax payer.


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