Disciplinary Action for two public servants involved in Barrett Centre Closure


Following the presentation of the report from the Barrett Adolescent Centre Commission of Inquiry, the Public Service Commission (as an independent central agency of government) was asked to consider whether the conduct of any of the referenced Queensland Government employees breached the Public Service Act 2008 and should then be the subject of a disciplinary process.

Today (8 September 2016), families of former Barrett Centre patients were notified that the Public Service Commission had recommended action against a small number of Queensland Government employees. As a result, Queensland Health has begun disciplinary proceedings and an ABC report has indicated that:

The two employees will have the opportunity to respond before a final decision is made by the Queensland Health director-general Michael Walsh.

The former Barrett families have been advised that information concerning individual disciplinary processes is confidential and will, therefore, not be publicly available.

It is hoped that, whatever action is taken, there will be some personal, if not public acknowledgement of professional wrongdoing on the part of those involved in this process. The litany of errors of omission and commission have had a lasting impact and since those entrusted with a duty of care in relation to vulnerable people are obligated to perform at the highest level of commitment, care and diligence, then recognition of transgressions is vital. Those in decision-making roles in relation to the healthcare of young people with severe and complex mental health issues should never fail on one count, let alone on multiple occasions. Mistakes are one thing. Ignorance and arrogance are very different matters. So Queenslanders can only trust that those in breach of their Public Service obligations will have the humility to learn from what they have heard through the Inquiry and to reflect on the ramifications of not placing the welfare and respect of those they are remunerated to ‘publicly serve’ at the forefront throughout every aspect of their working day.

The waking hours are very different for those directly affected by the closure and its processes. With years of the worst kind of trauma behind them and years more of suffering to come, those people will be expecting ‘disciplinary proceedings’ to mean more than a couple of slaps on wrists or some temporary sideways movement of enterprising careers.

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