Daily Archives: February 11, 2017

Fight for Wollongong workers’ backpay ongoing

A two-month Fairfax Media investigation uncovered claims of exploitation in cafes, restaurants and shops across the Illawarra.

A two-month Fairfax Media investigation uncovered claims of exploitation in cafes, restaurants and shops across the Illawarra.

Hundreds of workers, who claim they were ripped off by their employers, have come forward on the back of a Fairfax Media investigation into employee underpayments.

The revelation comes as the South Coast Labour Council (SCLC) continues its fight to ensure the young workers who told their stories as part of the investigation get what they are owed.

As part of the reimbursement process, SCLC secretary Arthur Rorris is this week contacting employers who allegedly underpaid staff.

A two-month Fairfax Media investigation into the underpayment of workers aged 18 to 24 – revealed in the Mercury in December –  uncovered claims of exploitation in cafes, restaurants and shops across the Illawarra. 

Thirteen workers – allegedly underpaid, or not paid at all, by their employers – shared their stories publicly.

Businesses have now been given a week to respond to a SCLC request to talk about the 13 workers’ outstanding entitlements, Mr Rorris said.

“We’re putting out the call this week to employers; we’ll give them some time to digest the seriousness of the issue and their responsibilities here,” he said.

“Our objective is to actually get the entitlements that are legally owed to those workers back in their pockets.

“If there are some employers out there who … continue to behave unlawfully in their responsibility to be paying the correct amount of wages, then we will certainly escalate our response both publicly and legally.” 

The union plans to sit down with each employer and work through underpayment claims from workers. 

“We want to do that as quickly and professionally as we can, and we certainly hope that the employers in question approach it in a similar manner,” he said.

If employers were “cooperative”, many of the workers’ claims could be finalised within weeks, Mr Rorris said.

He warned businesses who “choose to stick their head in the sand” that the issue wasn’t going away.

“This should send a … very strong message to all employers in our region that we are getting large numbers of complaints, referrals and tip-offs coming through,” he said. 

Mr Rorris said hundreds of “queries, inquiries and complaints” had been received since Fairfax Media broke the story and encouraged any worker who believed they’ve been underpaid to contact their union.

Alternatively, call the Claim Your Pay hotline on 1300 486 466 or visit claimyourpay.com.au.

State of the nation | Sunday, February 12, 2017

State of the nation

Need a national news snapshot first thing? Well, we have you covered. 

Purr-fect partnership: Andy Campbell helps schnoodle Scout to cool down. Her parents said her relationship with animals was similar to one between "playmates" rather than between an owner and pet. Picture: Marina Neil

Purr-fect partnership: Andy Campbell helps schnoodle Scout to cool down. Her parents said her relationship with animals was similar to one between “playmates” rather than between an owner and pet. Picture: Marina Neil

ILLAWARRA: Andy Campbell had a tally of items to tick off her to-do list before she started kindy. Get fitted for her uniform? Check. Catch up with cousins? Check. Start her own business? Check.

Welcome to country on the first night of the Party in a Paddock event.

Welcome to country on the first night of the Party in a Paddock event.

► TASMANIA: This year’s Party in the Paddock will be hard to top in future years, according to organiser Jesse Higgs.

► NEW SOUTH WALES: See how pets across central New South Wales cooled off during the weekend’s heatwave.

Emergency crews responded to a fire in William Street on Saturday.

Emergency crews responded to a fire in William Street on Saturday.

► ORANGE: Explosions were heard and black smoke filled the air as a fire blazed at a business in William Street, Orange, yesterday.

National news

VICTORIA:More than 50,000 Victorian state school teachers and principals are preparing to strike unless the Andrews government fixes their “crushing” workload.

HUNTER: Anthony Campbell, 10, gets splashed by his aunt Heather Lawson and cousin Dannielle Goodwin at Merewether Baths on Sunday. Photo: Max Mason-Hubers

HUNTER: Anthony Campbell, 10, gets splashed by his aunt Heather Lawson and cousin Dannielle Goodwin at Merewether Baths on Sunday. Photo: Max Mason-Hubers

► REGIONAL: See the best photos taken by Fairfax Media photographers and journalists this week.

VICTORIA: A cruise liner that lost power off the Victorian coast on its way to New Zealand with thousands of passengers on board is being towed back to Melbourne for repairs.

National weather radar

World news

People hold placards during a protest against US President Donald Trump and his recent policies outside the American Embassy in Jakarta. Photo: Jefri Tarigan

People hold placards during a protest against US President Donald Trump and his recent policies outside the American Embassy in Jakarta. Photo: Jefri Tarigan

► Washington: Funny thing, reality. Donald Trump promised to be a hairy-chested president, who would shirt front all who stood in his way – but just as the courts have brought to heel on the legality of his migration crackdown, foreign policy experts have him turning somersaults on China, Iran and Israel.

► Bangkok: Cambodia’s opposition leader has resigned to save his party from forced dissolution after threats from the country’s strongman Hun Sen.

On this day: February 12

 2008: GM reports record loss, offers buyouts to 74,000 workers.

► 1938: Judy Blume, popular young-adult author, is born.

1976: Actor Sal Mineo is killed in Hollywood.

The faces of Australia: David Manning

One of two: David Manning with a picture of himself in 1937 at the age of 13, as a naval cadet aboard HMAS Vampire. Mr Manning is one of two crew of the Perth still alive. Picture: Lachlan Bence.

One of two: David Manning with a picture of himself in 1937 at the age of 13, as a naval cadet aboard HMAS Vampire. Mr Manning is one of two crew of the Perth still alive. Picture: Lachlan Bence.

► That David Manning became a prisoner of the Japanese during World War Two at all was as much down to bad luck as to the general ebb and flow of history.

How safe are your children in Catholic schools?

The royal commission has uncovered abuse on a staggering scale inside the Catholic church, particularly inside religious orders which ran schools. Can the church be trusted with your children?

Mark Fabbro remembers most vividly the flowering callistemon and blue sky outside the window of the small room tucked behind the priest’s office.

Everything else – the whip, the feel of his bare skin being pressed into the leather couch, the priest mumbling in Latin behind him – comes back in fractured snapshots, images rising unbidden from the deep wells of childhood memory.

“That was a mental escape for me, out the window and into nature,” Mr Fabbro says. “Apparently I was sent there again but I can’t remember what happened [the second time]. It’s like my mind shut down as I crossed the playground.”

Mr Fabbro was just 11 when he was raped by Jesuit priest John Byrne at the prestigious Xavier College in Melbourne.

Not long after, he was sent to board at St Ignatius’ College in Sydney, where another priest (who can’t be named for legal reasons) took a liking to him.

This abuser, he alleges, would make him strip, and belt him with a leather strap while the other boarders slept in the dormitory next door.

Mark Fabbro was 11 when he was raped by a Jesuit priest at the prestigious Xavier College in Melbourne. Photo: Louie Douvis

Mark Fabbro was 11 when he was raped by a Jesuit priest at the prestigious Xavier College in Melbourne. Photo: Louie Douvis

Mr Fabbro, now 55, says if the church is to continue running schools it needs to be held to a higher standard.

Read more: One in nine Wollongong priests alleged child sex abusers – Royal Commission

“The church has proven it is unable to govern itself or in the interests of children over many decades,” the survivor’s advocate says.

“It has concealed the crimes. It’s time the civil authorities step in and ensure an appropriate degree of governance.”

St Alipius Presbytery, a church and old boys' school in Ballarat, has ribbons tied to the fence to pay tribute to the victims and survivors of child abuse. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer

St Alipius Presbytery, a church and old boys’ school in Ballarat, has ribbons tied to the fence to pay tribute to the victims and survivors of child abuse. Photo: Simon O’Dwyer

Leonie Sheedy, co-founder of support group Care Leavers Australia Network, argues Catholic schools should get “no more taxpayer dollars” until there is greater accountability. Federal funding is generous: $5.5 billion to the Catholic sector in 2014, topping up state and parent contributions.

She is not alone. Many victims are demanding a comprehensive external review of the sprawling maze that constitutes Australia’s Catholic education system.

The case for fundamental change gained powerful traction this week when senior counsel assisting the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Gail Furness, SC, laid bare the breathtaking scale of it: nearly 4500 alleged victims within more than 1000 separate Catholic institutions who made complaints between 1980 and February 2015, and close to 2000 alleged perpetrators.

Most staggering were the proportions of abusers within some of the semi-autonomous Catholic religious orders (spiritual communities, often with roots in the church’s European ancestry).

These organisations had tentacles deep into the Catholic school system, with some of the worst abuse reported in the schools they ran. They included the Order of St John of God, where the proportion of alleged perpetrators was estimated at 40.4 per cent; the Christian Brothers (22 per cent) and the Marist brothers (20.4 per cent).

“The statistics this week are appalling,” one Catholic school principal admitted. “To think it could have gone on, and then gone on again, and again. I think in the future there will be a governance model in Catholic schools that is very different from today’s.”

Counsel assisting the royal commission Gail Furness. Photo: Supplied

Counsel assisting the royal commission Gail Furness. Photo: Supplied

Catholic officials who spoke to Fairfax Media this week insist their schools are run very differently now. Federal and state government authorities have tightened school registration requirements, including tougher child protection standards, which religious-based and independent schools must comply with. And parents are still queuing up to enrol kids in church-run schools.

Yet even a cursory examination of how the Catholic education system is structured in Australia reveals a dizzying complexity within each state which obscures lines of accountability. And there remain striking differences between states.

Read more: Long struggle to expose evil abuse of children in the Illawarra

In New South Wales, for instance, there are 592 Catholic schools with a combined quarter of million students. Of these, 548 are diocesan or “systemic” schools under the administration of no less than 11 individual dioceses reporting to 11 different bishops.

The remaining 44 Catholic schools in the state are run either by the independent Catholic orders, or by associated entities with the obscure church title of “public juridic person”.

Acting executive director of the Catholic Education Commission NSW, Ian Baker, insists child protection is now triply safeguarded by mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse backed by strict oversight through an array of state bodies, including the NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian, the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) and the Ombudsman.

“Working with children” checks are under way on all the state’s teachers, and on clergy who take up pastoral care in schools, he says.

Read more: Edmund Rice was ‘a dumping ground’ for predators, says MP

“There are multiple agencies with multiple lenses on this matter,” says Mr Baker. “We are not denying any of the history. But the question is, can we be confident that within all schools in NSW – Catholic or otherwise – child protection is now transparently and independently oversighted? Our answer is yes.”

Yet in Victoria, unlike NSW, priests still have a lot of power in individual parishes and play a significant role in running all but a handful of the state’s 400 Catholic primary schools. Priests are charged with employing the principal, overseeing school finances and are central to setting up the governing board.

About half of Victoria’s approximately 100 secondary schools are owned by 21 different religious orders – each have varying governance structures. The other half, the systemic schools, fall under the four Victorian dioceses to which they belong.

The Catholic Education Commission of Victoria – which distributes taxpayers’ money to the state’s 492 Catholic schools – refused requests for an interview, spokesman Christian Kerr saying it was “inappropriate” to comment before officials appeared before the royal commission next week.

Catholic Religious Victoria, which represents the various congregations that run schools, said parents could be confident all schools complied with statutory requirements and were committed to child safety.

“We want to make sure that this kind of terrible thing could never happen again,” said its president, Sister Veronica Hoey.

“I’m reassured that our schools are compliant with all processes, procedures and policies.”

Yet asked about the reporting mechanisms in place for the religious order-run schools, one experienced principal replied: “It’s as clear as mud. Who would know?”

Another Catholic education official admits it’s taken him years to understand the system.

The welter of bodies with a finger in the Catholic education pie include the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, which last year set up a new entity called Catholic Professional Standards Limited and the National Catholic Education Commission, an advocacy group. The Catholic orders have their own umbrella group, Catholic Religious Australia.

Yet there is, as one seasoned church observer puts it, “no CEO of the Catholic church in Australia, there is no boss. There is nobody who runs it. Each bishop or archbishop in each diocese – whether in the cities or outback Australia – answer only to the Holy See in Rome.”

Former principal of St Joseph’s College in Geelong, Paul Tobias, has told the the royal commission the church is persisting with “antiquated” governance models. He believes there remains too much power among the few people at the top with not enough input from non-clerics and women.

Some of the orders named and shamed before the royal commission this week (such as St John of God) no longer run schools in Australia. Others are putting a greater emphasis on lay administration.

These include Edmund Rice Education Australia (named after the early 19 century founder of the Christian Brothers order) which 10 years ago took over the running of all Christian Brothers schools in the country.

EREA’s executive director Wayne Tinsey insists that “the congregation of the Christian Brothers have nothing to do with the day to day management, governance or leaderships of the schools, which they previously owned but are now owned by us”.

Even so, the order’s Rome-based Congregation Leader appoints the council of trustees, who then appoint a board of management to run the organisation’s 50 schools.

Dr Tinsey admits shock at the figures coming out of the royal commission this week. “It is an uncomfortable time to be a Catholic,” he says.

“It’s part of a destructive and shameful reality in our national history and we are totally committed to it never ever happening again.”

Yet he maintains organisations such as his should be able to keep their autonomy within the church and the school system, to keep faith with the order’s original mission, or “charism”, in church parlance.

Chris MacIsaac, from victims support group Broken Rites, said a problem for many clergy abuse victims was that the hierarchy of their former schools did not acknowledge or address the scourge of abuse when they came forward.

Melbourne lawyer Vivian Waller says while many abuse victims do not trust Catholic institutions to look after children, banning a religious denomination from teaching “feels like a dangerous course”.

Dr Waller, who has represented hundreds of victims of abuse at the hands of clergy, says church-run schools need to “walk the walk and what the community want to see is that they have put processes in place for protecting children and reporting to police”.

But not all parts of the church are yet “walking the walk”. Even the royal commission is having trouble extracting documents from the Holy See, Ms Furness revealed this week. The task ahead, she flagged, would be to identify the “structural, governance and cultural” factors that must change inside the church to ensure its dark past never returns.

Lifeline to trial Australian-first text service

''You can be on a bus and text a crisis service, and the person next to you wouldn’t even know.''

”You can be on a bus and text a crisis service, and the person next to you wouldn’t even know.”

An Australia-first service that will make crisis support available via text message has the potential to reach where traditional methods have not, the region’s Lifeline chief says. 

Lifeline Australia has begun development on the Text4Good service, which was granted $2.5 million in seed funding mid-last year, as Australia’s suicide toll approached a 10-year high.

The service is intended to complement Lifeline’s 24-hour 13 11 14 crisis line and its online chat service.

Grahame Gould, executive director Lifeline South Coast, said text messages could appeal to people – particularly men – who were reluctant to access existing suicide prevention and other services. 

POTENTIAL: Grahame Gould has welcomed the upcoming trial of a text messaging service for people seeking crisis support.

POTENTIAL: Grahame Gould has welcomed the upcoming trial of a text messaging service for people seeking crisis support.

“The reason it may reach men is because, you can be on a bus and text a crisis service, and the person next to you wouldn’t even know,” Mr Gould said. 

“They don’t have to articulate the things that men sometimes find difficult to deal with in spoken words.” 

“We would take a strong interest in being involved [in a trial of the service].”

New Sunderland bridge pylon successfully lifted into place

Sunderland’s skyline has a magnificent new addition.

The New Wear Crossing’s stunning 100metre centrepiece pylon has been lifted into position.

The New Wear Crossing pylon in place

The New Wear Crossing pylon in place

Work began at first light yesterday and carried on until dusk last night then resumed first thing this morning and by 9am the backmast, which has supported the pylon during the early stages of the lift process, had been disconnected.

The work was finally completed at 3.30pm.

Stephen McCaffrey is project director for FVB joint Venture, the company which is building the bridge.

“We are all delighted and very relieved,” he said.

Patrick Van Severen, project director with Victor Buyck Steel Construction, and site boss Stephen McCaffrey are VERY happy men.

Patrick Van Severen, project director with Victor Buyck Steel Construction, and site boss Stephen McCaffrey are VERY happy men.

“We did put a lot of time and effort in to the planning and we were aware of the potential problems.

“But you can plan it as much as you like – the most important thing is that it happens on the day.

“It went very smoothly – there were no problems, which is a big relief.

“We are all delighted to be here today, having successfully raised the pylon, but it is back to work on Monday. We now need to fix the pylon onto the massive concrete tusks it will rest on.

“The next stage is to push the bridge deck out from where it is sitting on the south side of the river to the north side.

“We could have built the pylon on-site, from the ground up, but we chose to fabricate it in one go, off site, in a factory environment because we had better control over conditions, got a better quality of finish and could avoid having people working at height.

“The transportation of the pylon from the fabrication yard in Belgium and the raising on site have been challenging but we planned well and the result was a successful operation.”

Patrick Van Severen, project director for Victor Buyck Steel Constrrction, said a milestone had been reached but there was more to do.

“The sheer size and weight of the structure, as well as its shape, meant that getting it here on site, attached to the foundation and then raised into position took a lot of preparation and precision from a large team of people who each brought their skills to the project,” he said.

“We had allowed the whole weekend for the raising operation, but we completed in less than 16 hours over two days, so we are very happy.

“Now our focus turns to the next phases of work. We will be launching the bridge deck out across the river in the Spring and will start connecting the cable stays in the summer.

“After that, people will really see their bridge come to life.”

Sunderland City Council leader Coun Paul Watson said the difference between seeing the pylon in reality rather than on architect’s plans and computer simulations was ‘like watching Match of the Day on telly or going to the match in person.’

“The atmosphere, the ambience is completely different,” he said.

“Walking out today, it feels like a really significant moment.

“It is a fantastic success story.”

The challenge now was to deliver the benefits the bridge was intended to provide for Sunderland.

“It can’t be overstated, the impact this project can have on the city, not just now but in the future for our children and grandchildren,” said Coun Watson.

“We need to make sure it delivers what is was put there for, in terms of the econmic success, the social benefits, getting people into jobs.”

The new bridge will have dual two-lane carriageways for vehicles, as well as dedicated cycle and pedestrian routes and will enhance public transport, as well as significantly improving the important transport links to the city centre and Port of Sunderland from the A19 and A1.

It is on track to open in the spring of 2018.