SUBJECTS: Services Australia’s frontline workers

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: This week has been a watershed moment for the victims of the unlawful Robodebt scandal. The Albanese government has agreed to, in full or in principle, to all 56 recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Coalition Robodebt scandal. But in particular, today I want to talk about the 30,000 or so staff who work at Services Australia. Many were traumatised by having to follow and implement the morally bankrupt suggestions of their senior leadership and the previous Coalition Ministers. The Labor government says no more, never again to Robodebt. But what's important is that Services Australia staff feel that they can feel that they are backed up on the front line, which they are by this government.

I want to acknowledge to Service Australia officers who exemplify the typical frontline worker. The first is Sean Donohoe, a member of my community. Sean has recently retired in the last couple of weeks after 31 years of service, for people who used to come through the office of the old DSS office in Glenroy and at Broadmeadows Centrelink. In the last ten years, Sean's focus has been working and helping refugees and asylum seekers. He played an important role in establishing the National Refugee Servicing Team earlier this year. For Sean, this is not just a job, but it's a vocation - a deliberate decision to be a true servant of the public. Sean was and is a priceless asset, he generously mentored junior staff to ensure customers reap the benefits of his experience and wisdom. What a great legacy, Sean. Congratulations! I thank him for decades of service and I wish him and Natalie well in their next chapter.

I would also like to acknowledge another senior Services Australia frontline leader, Kim Henderson. Kim was the service centre manager at the Newmarket Service Centre for the best part of 21 years, she's worked at Medicare, Services Australia. She has built an exceptional team down there at Flemington, near where I live and where my office is. She's been fantastic for my electorate office to deal with. I saw Kim in action last year at the Maribyrnong River floods, she and her Service Australia team worked tirelessly to help community members in their desperate need of support. And indeed, after the dreadful stabbing of respected team leader Joanne Cassar at Airport West earlier this year, Kim helped pull together the response and helped a lot of shocked and traumatised staff regroup and continue their services to everyday Australians. I want to express my gratitude to Kim for all the work she's done, and I look forward to her contribution at the National Disability Insurance Agency going forward.

In summary, Services Australia staff work not only with their intellect and not only with their physical labour, but they work with their emotions. This is a tiring, thankless task. A lot of vulnerable people, people doing it hard, walk through the doors of Centrelink and Service Australia offices, and they will take their cues from how the staff are feeling and how the staff are responding. It can be very tiring working with your emotional, physical, and intellectual energy every day, but that's what Services Australia staff do. Today I've just given but two of the stories, Sean Donohoe, and Kim Henderson. I just want to thank all the frontline service staff of Services Australia, because you do a fantastic job, and you extend human rights to all Australians.