Why I love the media.

1 July 2011

There is an old saying about newspapers, the only accurate articles in the news are found in the sports section.

During my recent stint in the media I have been quoted in the Cairns Post, the Australian and I have had an occasional airing on ABC radio. This has all been due to my directorship on the board of Djarragun College.

The 30 second sound bites and inaccurate articles have caused a few clients to ask me, “What the hell has been going on?’.  I can’t go into detail however I am happy to outline my involvement and reasons for resigning.

Some simple facts are:

I have been one of the driving forces behind the investigations into what has been going on (or going wrong) at the college.

I started my time at the college a few years ago, I had been hearing about the great work the college was doing, work which was having a direct and positive influence on the indigenous youth of our region. In fact, the CEO Principal, was regarded as the best Indigenous School Principal in Australia. So in January 2007 I joined the Board of Directors and was subsequently appointed Chair. 

While Chair my fellow directors and I implemented Governance Policy processes, instigated a full Organisation Chart for the college and  undertook comprehensive and effective strategic planning. I also found my own skills and knowledge greatly improved by my tenure as Chair.

At the end of 2010 I received numerous complaints regarding the then college leadership and administration. I led the board to commission an investigation into these complaints.

The report was finalised in March 2011.

As a result of the report’s findings I issued  the CEO with a show cause notice, at which point she immediately took sick leave . Di Drew was appointed as acting principal. The Australian Newspaper ran a series of articles around the same period all this was occuring.

The following week the Non State School Accreditation Board completed an enrolment audit at Djarragun College, during which the school’s acting administration reported instances of highly unusual enrolment and attendance recording to me.  We then received the Non State Schools Accreditation Board audit findings. It found a 262 student overstatement from 2009 and 2010. It did not detail how this overstatement could have occurred.

This result was disturbing as during 2009 and 2010 the board had received minuted reports from the administration that indicated strong enrolment and attendance.

As enrolment and attendance records are legal documents which are bound by strict compliance processes I wanted to know how this ‘over enrolment’ could have occurred and ensure that it did not happen again.

I commisioned a Forensic Audit of enrolment and attendance records to provide a clear picture of the events which allowed this to occur.

The Federal Government advised the board that any over payment would need to be repaid. The board and I have been communicating openly with all government agencies to commit to a solution whereby:

  • All current enrolment and attendance processes would be corrected. This was a straightforward process.
  • Ensure viability of college and determine financial strategy for next 5 years in order to meet the Federal Government commitment.
  • Undertake Governance Review. Due to complexity of this situation and the time commitment for each and every director, this was important for the longevity of the college.

 All of the above actions have been completed and a rescue package for the college is currently under discussion between Education Queensland and other groups.

I resigned as director of Djarragun College on 20th June for 2 reasons. Firstly the Board now has a well structured governance which matches the new organisation structure and the legal issues are now in hands of government authorities. Secondly and very importantly, the amount of time required to meet my obligations to the collge has had a big impact on my family and, unfortunately, my business (I apologise to any of my clients who have been impacted with delays in meetings etc).   

 I have enjoyed the majority of my involvement with Djarragun College. I have learned a great deal and believe, despite the current problems, that I have made a positive contribution.

The college will continue to play an integral role in educating the indigenous kids in our region. I simply cannot say enough about the commitment and passion of the school staff, they have done it tough over the last 6 months yet the students remained their top priority.

I am looking forward to having more time to spend with my family and and with my clients. I will have a break from pro-bono work for a little while however will jump back in some time in the future.

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