A message from our CEO - Stopping community violence

Published on 23 May 2016

Since I moved to this fabulous region, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with many wonderful people.  I’ve been made to feel very welcome and have established some very strong working relationships with a number of community and business groups which are focused on making Mildura a greater place to live, work and enjoy.

And while the majority of people in our community are respectful, professional and happy to discuss different points of view in a constructive way, unfortunately there are others who think it is okay to verbally abuse Council staff. 

As an organisation, we expect our staff to adhere to a high level of professional courtesy and customer service.  We expect our staff to remain calm in stressful situations and not be abusive or rude to residents or visitors.  We expect our staff to show respect to everyone in our community. We apply a Discipline Policy when these high standards occasionally vary.

Why then, as we struggle with issues of violence in our community, do some people believe our Council staff deserve less respect and should be subject to abuse?

If you don’t like the road works, if you’re unhappy with your garbage collection, if you don’t like how long the grass is in the park, if you’re not happy with a parking infringement, then yes, you have a right to complain.  Complain – yes.  Abuse – absolutely not.

The false reporting of facts about Council doesn’t help matters.  It just inflames and reinforces negative attitudes towards our dedicated staff.

For example we consistently see uninformed complaints about how long Council takes to complete road works and that we fall behind schedule.  But the facts show that we aren’t behind at all. 

Our completion rates for scheduled road works have been in excess of 97% for the last three years – an outstanding result for a regional Council, in fact for any Council. And the very few delays that have occurred, have generally been caused by factors outside our control such as weather or the unavailability of required materials.

But when people read or hear misinformation, they presume it is correct, they get frustrated and they take it out on the staff on site.

Each week a staff member in one of our front line customer service positions, be they on a road team, a garden team, a local laws officer or working in our customer service centres and libraries, is verbally and sometimes even physically, assaulted by a member of the community.  Sometimes it’s face to face and sometimes over the phone.  Sometimes the abuse is in writing. We’ve even had staff spat on, threatened, pushed and punched.  Whatever form it takes, it has to stop.

If you’re not satisfied with a response you get from a staff member, then by all means ask to have your issue addressed further.

But please be aware – we won’t accept any form of abuse.  Your details will be collected and if necessary, passed on to relevant authorities.

It’s well known that Council is a White Ribbon Workplace but we are taking action to stamp out all forms of violence in our community.

I expect mutual respect and courtesy between staff and members of the public. It is time to stop being silent about the impacts of abuse and violence, whatever form it takes.

Gerard Jose