6 August 2018 marks two years since Justice 4 Workers Qld became a registered business. I thought I’d take this opportunity to reflect on the effort and achievements of this ‘Lone Ranger’ during that time.
Rapidly expanding client base
During the last two years, Justice 4 Workers has assisted almost 80 clients with matters such as;
- General Advice
- Workers’ Compensation Claims
- Reviews of rejected workers’ compensation claims submitted to the Workers’ Compensation Regulator
- Appeals against insurer decisions submitted to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission
- Responding to Notice’s of Suspicion of Unfitness for Duty – s.8.3 Police Service Administration Act 1990
- Applying for Sick Leave Bank access
- Applying for medical retirement
- Liaising between clients and the QPS Injury Management Section and/or WorkCover Queensland
- Referring clients on to law firms for employment law, administrative law and personal injury law
- Lodging a General Protections Application with the Federal Circuit Court
- Attending a Fair Work Commission Conference for a General Protections conference
- Attending conferences for workers’ compensation matters
- Travelling as a support person to Adelaide and Brisbane with a client attending Independent Medical Examinations and the Medical Assessment Tribunal
- Attending as a representative for a police officer at the Office of the Commissioner for Police Service Reviews
- Total and Permanent Disability Claims (QSuper)
All but five of those clients are Queensland Police Service Employees.
The Justice 4 Workers Facebook page has gained 857 likes and 887 followers!!
Supporting sworn and unsworn staff
A Facebook support page was created for current and former sworn and unsworn QPS Employees who have been diagnosed with a psychological injury and/or have been adversely affected by bullying. Access is only by invite from a friend on the page, and certain criteria apply.
The group started with 11 members and now has 84!
I also created another support page for family members of PTSD sufferers to share support and experiences. The page is called ‘Blue Family Support’.
From the above police group I have been fortunate enough to have officers who have put their hand up to attend Independent Medical Examinations and Medical Assessment Tribunal’s in a support capacity with injured QPS Employees. This has proven to be a valuable service for those unfamiliar with the process and who require support.
On 15 July 2017 myself and two other police officers who volunteered their time, attended the ‘You’re Not Alone’ Suicide Awareness Concert on Cairns Esplanade.
Justice 4 Workers is currently in the process of registering a charity to support police. More details to come.
Research and reports
I have initiated survey’s on police suicide and organisational culture, and have conducted research on these subjects. One survey attracted 678 respondents in just 6 days.
Statistics were sought from the Queensland Police Service and WorkCover Queensland via Right to Information regarding psychological injury claims, success of return to work rehabilitation, and police bullying claims.
The information was analysed and collated into two reports: “Broken, Bullied and Blue” (64 pages), and “The Queensland Police Service; How Widespread Systemic Bullying is Harming Our Police” (130 pages plus an additional 120 pages of statements from police).
After becoming aware that a number of officers medically retired without receiving their Commissioner’s Certificate of Service and medals, contact was made with the QPS Honours and Awards Section who made contact with these officers who are now receiving their awards and acknowledgement of service.
Fighting for change
“Broken, Bullied and Blue”, and also the thesis of Dr. Timothy White and the results of my survey were forwarded to the Queensland Premier, the Hon. Ms. Annastacia Palaszczuk, Queensland Police Minister the Hon. Mr Mark Ryan, and Queensland Minister for Industrial Relations, the Hon. Ms. Grace Grace. The Premier fobbed it off to the Police Minister who was fed misleading an false figures from the QPS and therefore determined there was no problem. The office of the Minister for Industrial Relations at least read the report and responded in detail, albeit determining that WorkCover Queensland are not in need of an Inquiry or similar.
It was also sent to former Senator Jacqui Lambie who I met with in person after she invited me to a meeting in Townsville. She promised the world and did nothing.
A Ministerial complaint was also made on behalf of an officer who had waited an unacceptable period of time for a Total and Permanent Disability Claim to be approved via QSuper. This saw their claim approved soon after.
Drug testing of police at psychiatric Independent Medical Examinations
I was subjected to this practice myself, and received a number of complaints from clients who were also exposed to supervised drug and alcohol screening during psychiatric IME’s. My issue with this is that officers were under direction from the QPS to comply with ‘all aspects’ of the IME process. This means They were not informed of the reasons for the tests, the possibility that they may be tested, or their right to refuse to participate. When sprung upon you in your most vulnerable state and without explanation, the event of being watched while you urinate in jar is most humiliating and degrading. It also appeared to be an underhanded way for the QPS to circumvent the targeted drug testing provisions of the Police Service Administration Act 1990 (Qld). In directing officers to comply during an IME, the QPS were essentially giving what I believed to be an unlawful direction to comply with drug and alcohol screening during IME’s.
I met with lawyers regarding this matter, and also contacted Ms. Shauna McGarry from QPS Safety and Wellbeing, who stated that officers could in fact refuse. Ms. McGarry informed me that she was in the process of re-writing the policy to ensure police were aware of their rights and that officers were provided with clearer instructions and advice prior to attendance at IME’s. That was at the end of 2016 and I recently made contact again and asked how that policy was coming along. I’m awaiting a response.
Research and interview for ‘The Project’ segment
In 2017 I compiled and forwarded an extensive amount of researched information to a reporter at The Project upon her request. I was then interviewed for the segment on police psychological injuries and organisational issues but another person was slipped in at the last minute.
Information and recommendations made to QPS/QUT Retirement Project Team 2016
Recommendations for more support for police pre and post medical retirement, as well as highlighting the predominant concerns at that time.
Information provided to the Queensland Audit Office 2017
Researched information was provided to the audit – ‘Managing the Mental Health of Queensland Police Employees’ for consideration.
Workplace Bullying Causing Psychological Harm – Work Health and Safety Investigation
My report “The Queensland Police Service; How Widespread Systemic Bullying is Harming Our Police” was sent to Work Health and Safety Queensland in June 2018. Shortly after that, a teleconference was arranged and I met with the Executive Director of Specialist Investigations, and the Manager of Psychological Safety at WH&SQ. The report provided evidence of systemic bullying, failure to properly investigate bullying claims, inept record keeping regarding psychological injuries and their causes, as well as unacceptable risk management practices overall.
As a direct result of the content of this report, a WH&S investigation has now been commenced into bullying related risks to psychological safety in the QPS.
Courier Mail Article 15 July 2018
On 15 July 2018 the Courier Mail/Sunday Mail published an article regarding the above WH&S investigation and upcoming Senate Committee Hearing. After that article was published I was inundated with messages of support and gratitude by serving Queensland Police Employees from all over the State! I also received a considerable number of new QPS clients. Thank you Courier Mail, and thanks to all those officers who are behind me!
Submission to the Senate Committee for the Inquiry into Mental Health Conditions Experienced by First Responders
In June 2018 I made a submission to the Parliamentary Committee that painted a not so positive picture of how our police and unsworn staff are treated. My submission covered the topics of bullying and the organisational culture issues that prevent QPS employees from seeking psychological support. The submission also covered the subject of suicide ideation and suicide in the QPS, and called for a Royal Commission into the organisation.
By 18 July 2018 I was giving a speech in Parliament and answering questions from the Senate Committee about the content of my submission. I again called for a Royal Commission.
Strong professional networks have been established and maintained with a number of law firms, psychologists and mental health care providers. Justice 4 Workers will be expanding this network in the near future with the registration of a charity that will involve community service providers.
New addition to Justice 4 Workers
With all the above going on, it’s no wonder I have had to engage the services of my new, very capable offsider. Leith holds a Bachelor of Business (Major in Human Resource Management) and a Bachelor of Arts (Major in Psychology). She also holds a Graduate Diploma in Psychology and is now studying law. She will be an incredibly positive asset to Justice 4 Workers as the business expands further. A huge welcome to Leith!