Due to changes in the criteria for funding of disability services by the federal government in Australia, smaller NGOs felt the need to merge in order to survive. On Track Community Programs saw this as an opportunity to acquire (or “take over”, as was put to me by their CEO) established NGOs and grow itself.
There was much disquiet after the merger sometime in 2007 between MHARS and On Track Community Programs. The take-over appeared to sow the seeds of a power play between the most senior manager at what was MHARS in Lismore and the CEO of On Track Community Programs based in Tweed Heads. Each doing their best to make life difficult for the other it would seem. This information filtered to me from my partner as he watched the manager of the Lismore branch begin to crumble under the stress of playing second fiddle to a person she had a strong disliking to. On the occasions where I had the opportunity to meet separately with the Lismore Manager and the CEO, I witnessed (and was the receiving person to) their comments about each other. On one such occasion whilst at the Tweed Heads head office, the CEO proudly declared with a grin on her face as she left the room I sat in, “I can because I am the CEO” to her earlier disruption of well planned care schedules in the Lismore Branch. She had tasked Michael to work in the head office for several days to assist with the production of their annual report, knowing he was only one of two persons who had responsibility of a number of clients in Lismore. Did she know that it would upset the Lismore Manager? On another occasion, I was the receiving person to the line “I hate that bitch” but will not reveal in this instance from whom and in relation to whom. Together with information received from Michael, these little interactions gave me a glimpse of what I felt was a power play between the individuals.
Staff at the Lismore office complained of receiving little support and were constantly frustrated with having to make decisions on their own. The Lismore Manager appeared to leave much of the decision making to the staff and would often abandon the office with the alleged declaration of returning home for her “drink” – not so much said as gestured. There was the allegation by staff that the Lismore Manager was either unable to or had lost the ability to perform in her new role. They continued to feel the stress of what they believed to be mismanagement and felt their concerns were being ignored and had no one to turn to.
Since Michael’s murder, multiple allegations from both existing and past staff members have emerged relating to management’s practices that placed both trained and untrained staff in situations they were unlikely to be able to handle.