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Education and Employment References Committee
Mental health conditions experienced by first responders, emergency service workers and volunteers

ALLEN, Mr Patrick, , President, Police Association of Tasmania

CASHION, Mr Gavin, Vice President, Police Association of Tasmania

Committee met at 07:58

CHAIR ( Senator Marshall ): I declare open this hearing of the Senate Education and Employment References Committee's inquiry into the high rates of mental health conditions experienced by first responders, emergency service workers and volunteers. I welcome everyone here today. This is a public hearing, and a Hansard transcript of the proceedings is being made. The hearing is also being broadcast via the Australian Parliament House website.

Before the committee starts taking evidence, I remind all witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee they are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to a committee. The committee generally prefers evidence to be given in public, but, under the Senate's resolutions, witnesses have the right to request to be heard in private session. If a witness objects to answering a question, the witness should state the ground upon which the objection is taken and the committee will determine whether it will insist on an answer, having regard to the ground on which it is claimed. If the committee determines to insist on an answer, a witness may request that the answer be given in camera. Such a request may of course be made at any other time. I would also ask witnesses to remain behind for a few minutes at the conclusion of their evidence in case the secretariat needs to clarify any terms or references, and I remind people in the hearing room to ensure that their mobile phones are switched to silent or, preferably, turned off.

I now welcome representatives from the Police Association of Tasmania. I understand that information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses and evidence has been provided to you. Thank you for coming today and thank you for being our first experiment with this interrogation technique of having the sun directly in your eyes.I'm sure the police are very familiar with that strategy already; we'll be watching your pupils very closely. I now invite you to make some opening remarks to the committee, and that will be followed by some questions.

Mr Allen : I'll start off by explaining that I'm actually officially on holidays until I retire later in the year, but I've decided to come back today to be more of a technical adviser to Gavin who is now the Acting President of the Police Association of Tasmania, so I'll hand over to Gav to go on with it.

Mr Cashion : Thank you, Pat. We prepared a brief submission which I'll read through if you like. It might be easier. Chair, we thank you for the opportunity to address this committee. We will not take up a lot of your time today as we're here primarily to support the submission that has been provided by the Police Federation of Australia. That has been done on behalf of all police jurisdictions, and we represent our 1,270 members of the Police Association here today. The Police Association is the industrial union. It represents 99.6 per cent of all sworn police officers in Tasmania. You must be a sworn member of Tasmania Police to be a member of the PAT, and, as such, we are singularly focused on issues affecting police officers. Whilst it may not have been completely necessary to attend this hearing as we fully support the PFA submission, which I understand has been received by the committee, we are here to assure the committee we support your efforts with this inquiry and we stand firm with all other jurisdictions around the country when it comes to the mental wellbeing of our members. Whilst we focus solely on sworn police officers, we also support all first responders from all emergency services and organisations throughout Australia and beyond.

As was mentioned in the Police Federation submission, the role of policing communities has undergone a great deal of change over the last 20 or 30 years. The oath of office unfortunately has not changed dramatically but obligations and accountability of police have increased tenfold. Along with this increase in workload and accountability comes an increase in stress related illnesses. Whilst the job of police officer has changed, the support offered to the officers over that time did not change. Only in recent years have we seen the push toward a proactive approach and preventative measures being put in place to identify the early signs of PTSD and associated mental illnesses. Also, there's been a push to encourage people to speak up and ask for help at the earliest opportunity. That last part is still the biggest issue that's facing police around the country: a refusal in some cases to speak up and ask for help. A great deal of the work that's done by both the PAT and the welfare arm of Tasmania Police is done in the background, silently and in an understanding and caring manner, and this is potentially a double-edged sword in some way, in that the problem still remains hidden as to how many people are actually suffering in the workplace. Unfortunately, there is a cultural clash where the old meets the new. Again, as stated in the PFA submission, the old culture has been historically male dominated and encourages brute endurance and a denial of mental trauma, which leads to a fear amongst police that acknowledging distress will result in damage to their careers. The words 'Go away, drink a nice big cup of concrete and harden up' have been used many times in the past. Pockets of bullying and harassment sadly still exist in society and in workplaces in general. Policing is no different and promotion to a position of power does not necessarily make one an expert in the field of everything, particularly around mental health issues. Merely acknowledging that PTSD and/or work related mental health issues may exist means absolutely nothing if there is no real action to address the issues.

There is a very slow change occurring where new members are attuned to the issues and are putting their hands up at an early stage if they or others are struggling. That's where we all need to be, as it is very obvious that the quicker the intervention the greater the chances of a full recovery and the continuation of a meaningful career. It is a complex issue but reducing the stigma around mental health issues is the best way forward. It is also the biggest battle that we face.

A very good example of the old versus the new is the attendance at sessions conducted by Dr Kevin Gilmartin throughout the state over the last two years. Dr Gilmartin lectures all over the world as the author of Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement, which is a guide for officers and their families dealing with mental health. He's a former US marine and a former US serving police officer for 20 years, and he provides a great insight into how the level of hypervigilance that police operate in has an ongoing effect on police and their families. At Dr Gilmartin's presentations, apart from some inspectors and the commissioner of police, very few from management throughout our state bothered to attend. All members—and, in particular, their families—who did attend gained a very useful insight into how to prevent the onset of PTSD and related disorders and also how to relate to what symptoms their partner might be displaying at any given time.

The areas that we believe are of most importance and relevance to PAT members, and that provide relief and proactive responses to PTSD, include roster reforms—roster reforms that provide a greater work-life balance for all shift workers. These have been resisted historically by police management, as they require more police to run these types of rosters. Better rosters equals more police, which equals more funding. If we were to go down the path of looking at some of these rosters, we believe that the money spent on recruiting more police would be offset in the long term by the reduced sick leave and higher productivity which comes from a happier workforce. Flexible work arrangements have also been mentioned in the PFA submission. These should be available to police in all areas. Sadly, all police officers at this stage can't avail themselves of these flexible work arrangements, for a number of reasons.

Preventative measures, as I mentioned earlier, save money in the long term. Both Pat and me attended a beyondblue conference in 2016. One of the factors that came out of that was the potential return on investment of $2.30 for every $1 that organisations invest in creating mentally healthy workplaces. Some of the local issues that affect us, for example, involve our radio dispatch service area. This area has been an area of high concern for our organisation and Tasmania Police for the last 20 years. The stress levels and conditions that members work under in this area have never been fully addressed. Despite numerous reports and reviews in that 20 years, the problems continue. If ever an area required flexible working arrangements and rostering that was conducive to providing the best work-life balance, it is this one. On page 13 in the third paragraph of the PFA report it states that there is a need for further research into rostering to clarify the benefits of flexible work arrangements. All available information on shift work that the Police Association has seen, and that is widely accepted, indicates that prolonged shiftwork is harmful to a person's health and wellbeing.

There's been a whole industry that has developed in what seems a very short period of time around PTSD mental health conditions in the field of policing. Organisations are being formed and groups are coming out of the woodwork, some started by disgruntled serving and former and former serving members, which is making it extremely hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. Just because you have suffered from PTSD or a mental health condition, or because you have seen what it does to members, it does not make you an expert in the field. We're not referring to organisations such as beyondblue and Lifeline. The whole workplace needs to be involved when it comes to mental health programs and that type of thing. It is our experience that, if early identification and intervention take place, the higher the likelihood of members continuing on with their careers.

Another factor for our members is workers compensation. Our members are reasonably well supported through our workers compensation system that we have in place. However, if you have a long-term illness or condition, the step-down provisions can become a critical factor. As most of us would be aware, when it comes to mental health, they are not a problem that can be dealt with in the short term; they usually go on for a number of months and years.

The conditions that our members are currently subjected to reduce their salary from 100 per cent after 26 weeks on workers compensation. Their salary drops to 90 per cent, from 27 to 78 weeks, and then to 80 per cent thereafter until such time as they return to full-time work. That creates another level of stress for a member who happens to be off on an accepted workers compensation claim.

The step-down provisions are designed to get people back to work as quickly as they can. But, if they have been subjected to an incident that occurred in the course of their duty, we think it's unfair that they should be punished financially for doing their job and serving the community. We've had a commitment from the current Liberal government that they will attempt to provide Tasmania Police with an exemption to this step-down, that if they're injured in the course of their duty. It is a work in progress at this stage and a number of definitions still need to be developed but we're hopeful that, through legislative change, we'll get a positive result for our members.

Mr Allen : The only thing to add is that presumptive legislation for PTSD has been mentioned in this state. We hope that by having that—and everyone can access it immediately; there'll still be inquiries later into sickness, et cetera—that will really help people to recover and move back into the workplace a lot quicker. The quicker we get hold of them and the quicker we get them back, the more likely they are to survive the whole painful experience. We have had some sad examples of where it has all gone wrong. I just thought I'd throw that in there as well.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Senator URQUHART: You mentioned a proactive approach to assisting police in a push to encourage people to speak out. Is there enough specialised independent support for your members in that area?

Mr Cashion : In the south, yes; in the north of the state, probably no. Good providers are thin on the ground, I guess. On a positive note, as Pat and I both do, we regularly attend graduation ceremonies. I'm sure Pat's noticed, as I have, that the recruits who have been coming out over the last few years are much better prepared for life as a police officer, and are more willing to put their hand up and help a friend out or identify if one of their colleagues is suffering from a mental health issue. It is positive to see that they're all more than happy to put their hand up.

Senator URQUHART: You talked about the north and the south. One of my questions was going to be, 'What about the regional areas?' I know there are a lot of new recruits who get sent into regional areas. How are they supported, if it's much more difficult? What does the association do to try and assist them?

Mr Cashion : Currently, we can't do a lot. We're effectively three full-time staff servicing 1,270-odd members throughout the state.

Senator URQUHART: What needs to be done to assist those in regional areas?

Mr Cashion : A greater spread of welfare officers around the state from Tasmania Police, which they are working towards. They've now got part-time people out in the field. I guess professional help—who do the welfare officers refer them to?—is probably what needs to be addressed.

Senator BILYK: Mr Cashion, could I clarify a couple of things there. To start with, what is the process for someone who suffers or deals with some sort of incident—as in, there's a critical incident.Can you quickly explain to us what the process is for someone who's been part of that incident?

Senator DUNIAM: And is there a threshold for those incidents? I'd be interested in that as well.

Senator BILYK: And the second question I had—again, continuing on from Senator Urquhart's question—was: what makes you say the recruits are better prepared? Is there special training now as to something happening when they're in the academy? What is it that makes you say that?

Mr Cashion : I'll start with the last question. The recruits, when they go through the academy, are now being told about mental health, being mentally strong and being aware. They all get given a copy of this book. The last few batches of recruits who have been lucky enough to see Kevin when he's been down—

Senator BILYK: Sorry, for the Hansard—because it doesn't take photos!—can you tell us what that is?

Mr Cashion : This is Kevin Gilmartin's book, Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement. Through Police Health and Kevin, the police association has received a number of copies. We have a library, which members can borrow them from. We give every recruit who comes in a copy of this book, which has some really valuable information in it. So they're coming out better prepared than police did previously. When we attend the informal sessions with them down there prior to their graduation, they bring in a recruit from the previous course, who's gone out in the field, to speak to the families and to the new recruits about to graduate. They stand up straight away and talk about things that they've seen and how they are not afraid to reach out to their family, and the family should be advised as well to reach out to them and keep an eye on them when they come home. If they're acting strange for any particular reason, that might be why. They will encourage them to seek help.

On what measures are in place, or how a critical incident is managed, if there is a critical incident: what defines a critical incident? It could be a serious crash, it could be a murder, it could be a sudden infant death—anything like that. If the police officer attends, his supervisor will notify the critical incident team. That officer can expect a phone call from whoever's on call in critical incident stress management—CISM. They handle it. They can generally expect a phone call in the first instance to touch base—'How are you feeling? Is there anything we can do for you? Is there anybody we can put you in touch with?'—and then there's generally a follow-up phone call. Does that happen all the time? No, it doesn't. Why doesn't it happen? I don't know. In my 20 or 21 years, I've had two phone calls from CISM. I've attended a lot of incidents. Am I seen as more resilient? I don't know. But, as I said, that's been my experience. They don't call every person every time, and I haven't got the answer as to why that doesn't happen.

Senator BILYK: Seeing someone as resilient is quite a judgemental call, isn't it?

Mr Cashion : That's right.

Senator BILYK: People can still be smiling on the outside but be stressed on the inside.

Mr Cashion : Yes.

Senator URQUHART: Can you talk about what your members' experiences are like when they return to work after they've experienced a mental health condition? What are the processes in place for them coming back to work? What if they're not able to go back out on the job?

Mr Allen : To start off with, they go through a return-to-work program. They're gently introduced back into the system. Some will come back and be quite fine, and, straight away, they're back out there doing what they were doing before and they survive quite well. Otherwise, they're gently introduced back into the system.

Senator URQUHART: What does that mean? Just explain that.

Mr Allen : It's a return-to-work program. They might start off with just a few hours a week; a couple of hours a day. Firstly, they will go into the workplace and start to get to know people again; it can be quite difficult to go back into the workplace. Then there'll be a lift in duties. They may well go back to non-operational duties, to start off with. The fear around that is, if that goes on for too long, they may never come back to operational duties. They're very closely monitored with a provider. They work through a provider for a workplace return, basically. Do all of them survive that? No.

Senator URQUHART: In terms of the non-operational stuff, if you want to be a policeman or a policewoman, part of your goal would be to be out on the beat doing what police do rather than sitting behind a desk. Do you find that you have members who are reluctant to say, 'I've got a problem,' because they would then fear that they may not be able to continue with their careers as they designed them to be?

Mr Allen : Yes, there is a level of that. I was one of those people.

Senator URQUHART: How high is that?

Mr Allen : It sits quite high. As I said, I was one of those people who wouldn't come off the front lines. I wanted to stay there and wanted to get back as quickly as possible if anything happened. You do worry about the fact you may never get back out there again.

Senator URQUHART: So does that stop people then from identifying?

Mr Allen : Yes it does.

Senator URQUHART: And what is the level of that?

Mr Allen : It's really hard to say because we don't even know what the level is, and nobody can say. Tasmania Police can't say. Nobody can say what level of PTSD or other mental health issues exist in Tasmania Police. It is impossible to judge.

Senator URQUHART: So how do we fix that, by identifying that?

Mr Allen : We fix it by removing stigma. That's the big thing and that's got to start with Tasmania Police. That's got to start with management. It's got to start at the bottom. The recruits are starting to work out what it's all about. It is a huge cultural change. They're trying it. It's too slow, in our view, way too slow. It needs to speed up. This is not just Tasmania; you will find the whole country will be saying pretty well the same thing. It's just got to be identified earlier and dealt with earlier and get everyone back earlier. The goal should be to get people back to work. Some people won't, and we've got to separate those people with some dignity because they are going to try and hang on.

Senator URQUHART: So with those people who don't, what about when a police officer retires? Is there enough support both leading into retirement and once that officer has actually retired? Because I'm sure there are people who retire from the police service because they have a mental health issue that you may not particularly know about, but is there any support for officers that retire early?

Mr Allen : There is a retired officers' branch. They have a good support network but it could be better.

Senator URQUHART: Is that based all around the state?

Mr Allen : Yes. In fact, there's a branch in Queensland of retired Tasmania Police members. I don't think they are doing too badly, to be totally honest. But there's not enough help to transition out of work to start off with—there never is. There is no support to transition out of work. And when you've been a police officer for all your career, all your life, it can be a big change. We do have people leaving with problems—there's no doubt about it—because they do get identified later and then it's actually just too late. So not enough of that goes on—there's no doubt about it. And as I say, the one big thing is, if people have got to go early then we need to be able to transition them out with dignity, and that's where we definitely fall down. The union cannot do a lot to get people out of the job with dignity but there are certainly no programs in place. There's nothing that I know of—unless it has started recently—to transition people out with dignity. It's always spoken about. The commissioner and I have had these conversations but talk is just talk.

Senator URQUHART: But nobody ever does anything. You talked about the roster reforms and the cost. What costings have you done on roster reforms? And can you provide more details on how many additional police you would need for those roster reforms, including opening up those flexible work arrangements. You can take that on notice.

Mr Allen : I can take that on notice and I undertake to provide that as soon as possible.

Senator URQUHART: My last comment on that is I understand there is quite often a cost to things.

Mr Allen : There is.

Senator URQUHART: But if you measure the human cost, there is no cost. So I'd be really interested to see what those costs would be in terms of the roster.

Mr Allen : I couldn't agree more and we will provide that.

Senator PATRICK: I have a couple of questions that follow on from that. Has the Tasmanian police force ever done a survey of its members in relation to mental health issues?

Mr Cashion : I would have to say yes.

Senator PATRICK: How recently was it done and how well was it answered? Was there a report or any public airing of the numbers to identify the problem or to quantify the problem?

Mr Cashion : To be honest I really can't remember. I could probably safely say, knowing cops, that if the department sent out a survey about mental health, most of them wouldn't do it. They wouldn't be satisfied that the information was going to be not used against them later; they're just cynical.

Senator PATRICK: A couple of years ago, when the AFP management's attention was drawn to the issue through a number of media articles, they went to an external provider to survey, and you're saying no-one's done that, so I get what you're saying.

Mr Cashion : Historically, beyondblue did one which went national. In the department there's a project that's currently underway. They're doing some work in that field now. So things are being done now that haven't been done in the past.

Senator PATRICK: Is there a strategy in place for the police force to deal with this issue? Once again, I'm just modelling off what the AFP have done. They surveyed, they got an independent report and they've now put in place a strategy to deal with it. Is there a formal strategy in place?

Mr Cashion : Yes.

Senator PATRICK: Is it public?

Mr Cashion : Yes.

Senator PATRICK: So when the police attend this afternoon we should be able to—

Mr Cashion : Yes, they should be able to address you on what that project is doing.

Senator PATRICK: In terms of support, obviously providing a book to people is a good start. But I presume there's more support than that in terms of welfare officers and psychiatrists. What's the level of support that exists within the police force or is available in terms of professional services, notwithstanding that Dr Gilmartin has been providing information?

Mr Cashion : There is a police psychologist. Julie Spohn is the police psychologist. They have full-time welfare officers—one in the north and one in the south. They have part-time welfare officers across the state as well. There are external providers. So, if you're not confident to go to the police one, they can refer you to another one. I'm not sure how many are used in the north. I know there's one down in the south who is very well regarded.

Mr Allen : There are five statewide.

Mr Cashion : So I hope that answers that question.

Senator PATRICK: Another thing that the AFP are doing is having a safe place arrangement where police understand they can go and it's not going to get passed through to career managers and so forth. Do they have any set-up like that?

Mr Allen : To a certain extent. CISM keep their own records et cetera. But what's happened recently is Tasmania Police have decided that the welfare officers have to start making notes on everything. That's got out amongst the troops and that is now not seen as a safe area. If you can't go to someone and talk to them confidentially, you can go to a psychiatrist or psychologist. They have professional obligations. But our welfare officers don't and they are subject to discipline and orders from the police service, and so I can see that failing. I know—and I'm sure others are well aware of this, even some in this room—that the police service have really wanted to start to look into CISM and get more control over that. Police services operate on wanting to know everything. It is just the nature of the beast. It's my nature as a cop. I want to know everything I can. It's just the nature of what we do. But it's a very dangerous game to play because people are going to be reticent to come and talk to you. So there are a few problems in that system. There may be others who disagree with that, but that's what I've been getting off members and even the welfare officers. One in particular is saying, 'I can't do this job if we're going to keep having to make notes on everything we do.'

Senator PATRICK: Obviously there are clinical reasons for taking notes. It's really about the transfer of those notes.

Mr Allen : It's where they are, how they are held and how they can guarantee the—

Senator PATRICK: Surely that's a problem that's resolvable if—

Mr Allen : I would have thought so. I would have thought the program could resolve it, but they haven't—or at least they haven't to any satisfaction that I can see so far. They'll disagree with that, but that's the nature of the beast.

Senator PATRICK: Another thing that was evident with the Federal Police when Megan Palin, a journalist, ran a number of stories and there were whistleblower accusations was that the culture was such that there was a belief that, if you reported or spoke about a police operation to someone externally, even when seeking help, you would be persecuted. Because of the nature of this—and you described it yourself—you start off as a young recruit with perhaps no particular view about mental health and, by the time you get through years of policing, you are this tough character that you're supposed to be. So the culture really needs to be driven from the top down. It can't work from the bottom up. There have been issues. Commissioner Colvin was praised by AFP officers, but they said that the next level down was really problematic. Would you care to share any thoughts in relation to that for the Tasmanian police?

Mr Cashion : I'd say that's pretty accurate.

Senator PATRICK: So the commissioner is quite pro fixing the problem but when you go down to the next level—

Mr Cashion : Yes, it's hard. Culturally that's the problem.

Mr Allen : It falls away as it goes. I will quote an example. I'd like to do that, if it's okay, Chair. It is subject to a coroner's case. I understand we are under parliamentary privilege. I'm not going to use names or anything like that. In 2016 I and the welfare officer were dealing with a police officer who had serious mental health issues and an addiction to prescription drugs because of it and because of a previous injury. The process got that convoluted at the end that, even though the welfare officer had seen him in the morning of this incident, he was later that afternoon stood down. Nobody got a welfare officer involved. Nobody got us involved. He hopped in a taxi, went to Launceston and eventually, unfortunately—he had a beautiful young wife, but no children, thank goodness—took his own life. That was all because process had to be followed. It's all because one person made a decision to go and do it anyway. The people who had to do it were under orders and had no choice. They had to go.

There are processes in place now. We've come up with them now, but it's too late for this man. That's how convoluted it can all get. It just takes one process-driven person to go, 'No, we've got to do it this way because the process says to.' Then you've got a person taking their life. That sort of relates to your question, doesn't it? That's what occurs. Lower down it gets all confused. Hopefully it's not as confusing now. We have come up with protocols. I hope they continue to follow them. I get very emotional. I'm so sorry about that. It's a sad time.

Senator PATRICK: That's understandable.

Senator O'NEILL: I can hear your concern, Mr Allen. My concern on hearing your evidence this morning is that you're describing a profoundly toxic workplace.

Mr Allen : No, I wouldn't say 'profoundly toxic'. What I'm describing is that things get lost as they go down from the top and things get lost as they come up from the bottom. We're a big organisation and in every organisation you have different levels of empathy and sympathy. You've got the old with the new, as Gavin described before. I wouldn't say that the workplace is toxic. In this regard, it was just sad and stupid. It should never have happened. Fortunately, that type of event is a rarity.

Senator O'NEILL: Mr Allen, I appreciate your loyalty to your colleagues and I honour the service that everybody has given to the state, but I'm coming in with fresh eyes and I'm hearing about processes and systems that don't support people, I'm hearing about cultures old and new on a collision course, and the collateral damage seems to be people and their lives. I want to go to some of the evidence that you just gave to Senator Urquhart. You said that people leave and you find out later—often it's too late. What exactly do you mean by that, Mr Allen?

Mr Allen : It's too late. They're out of the job. There's nothing we can personally do in relation to it. Should the department do something post somebody leaving? Perhaps. I don't know.

Senator O'NEILL: So it's the lines of responsibility once people leave—there's a cliff edge and that's it.

Mr Allen : When I leave in December I'll be forgotten on 1 January. That's the way this job works. That's the way of a lot of employers too. I'm not being loyal, because, let me tell you, I'll turn like a mongrel dog on anyone. I mean that quite seriously. What I'm saying is that it's not a completely toxic workplace. 'Toxic' is a really harsh word. There are just not processes in place. There is a failure to actually recognise to put processes in place to help deal with this stuff. This is Australia-wide; it's not just here. I talk to my colleagues all over Australia all the time. This problem occurs all over Australia. So 'toxic' is harsh. I'm not going to say 'fair' at this stage.

Senator O'NEILL: Widespread certainly?

Mr Allen : Widespread, yes.

Senator O'NEILL: We've been getting the same sort of information in other places. Mr Cashion?

Mr Cashion : Yes, you're right in that historically we've both come through what you could describe as a toxic system. It is getting better. It is on the improve, but—as Pat used an example, I suppose I could use one too—Tasmania Police have historically pigeonholed people. If you've suffered either a work related mental health issue or just a work related injury they pigeonhole you. So your only real choice was: 'You go frontline operational or you'll sit on the front desk at inquiries or we'll find you some filing to do in the back room.' They were basically your three options. New South Wales police, a few years ago, had a trial program running in one of their local area commands where a visionary superintendent decided, 'Rather than look at what my police can't do, I'll look at what they can do.' You might be a former detective who'd gone back to uniform and you were suffering some form of injury, but you still possessed all of the skills you obtained while you were working as a detective for 10 or 15 years. So rather than just stick you in a back office doing some filing or on the front desk answering the main phone calls, they'd send you back to the CIB where you can use the skills that you've got taking statements, helping with interviews, preparing search briefs, preparing warrants and doing all that sort of stuff, which is meaningful and valuable work. So the department, the organisation, get a benefit and you get a benefit, and it gets you back to work quicker.

Senator O'NEILL: Is that the practice now, here in Tasmania?

Mr Cashion : No.

Senator O'NEILL: So innovation is happening but it's being squashed by prevailing practice and attitudes.

Mr Cashion : I've spoken to numerous commanders and assistant commissioners about this and they all say, 'That's a really good idea,' but it never seems to get any traction.

Senator O'NEILL: Because nobody's advancing on the back of those things, old culture sounds like it's being rewarded. I have one final question about the referral to psychs. You said there were five psychologists. Are they private psychologists or are they government funded psychologists?

Mr Allen : I think some of them are private. They've all got their own practice.

Senator O'NEILL: So they're all private. In terms of their capacity to keep everything discreet and manage it as a professional health relationship with the police person, ultimately, there should be a firewall there, shouldn't there?

Mr Allen : There is, because they've got their own—they've got to keep what they get, basically, if they're spoken to.

Senator O'NEILL: So why isn't the model of that applied to the welfare officers to provide that privacy?

Mr Allen : Because we fall back on that document called the Police Service Act. They're police officers, so they're subject to lawful orders, and a lawful order is that you will make notes on this person. Nobody else can access them, allegedly, but you will make notes. But people can access them. I know the system. It's a system called IAPro, and that would take a lot of explaining. I can commit to sending you something in relation to how it goes

Mr Cashion : IAPro is basically a disciplinary system.

Mr Allen : It's been seen as a disciplinary system forever. They make their notes on there. Allegedly, only they can access them, but a state service manager can access them and, obviously, the commissioners would have access to that. It's just a nonsense that they're told to do it. However, they're subject to the Police Service Act, and I understand that they can't do anything but do what they're ordered to do. I know one of them is being quite a rebel and not making that many notes.

Senator BILYK: You mentioned—I think it was you, Mr Allen, I'm not quite sure which of you, sorry—about the fact that you've got concerns with roster reform and that not everyone can manage it. I'm just wondering if you can talk to us about the benefits of maybe shorter shift times, the whole rostering incidents, and how that can affect people's mental health.

Mr Cashion : Rostering reform is more about—the old system of 24-hour rostering was seven days of afternoon shifts, seven days of night shift and seven days of day shift. That was how it worked. Sadly, for the last 25-odd years Tasmania Police have been operating under the model where—day shifts and afternoon shifts people can handle. It's the seven nights of night shift that people are required to do which has the impact on them long term. So what we're looking to do is shorten up—it's not about working less hours but about working less days. You come to work and you do more hours at work. It correlates to more time off.

We had one of our country stations at New Norfolk, where I worked prior to coming into this role, and we introduced a roster up there. Primarily, I was quite selfish, it was for my benefit because I live 45 minutes away from New Norfolk, so I had an extra hour and a half travelling every day. When I was doing seven nights of afternoon shift, I constantly felt I was in the car travelling either to or from work, or I was at work. After about 12 months that became quite a drain, so we devised a roster to change it. We work 10-hour shifts: we do two 10-hour day shifts, two 10-hour afternoon shifts and we have four days off. So, we basically work like the firies: four on—

Senator BILYK: Is that why there are no police in New Norfolk at night now?

Mr Cashion : There are actually more police. This is the thing: there are actually more police there, because—

CHAIR: Let's not open this box.

Senator BILYK: I know of a couple of businesses that have been burgled, and they've had to go to Bridgewater.

CHAIR: Let's not go there.

Mr Cashion : But, anyway, it's better for the people and it's better for the community. That's what we're about with the rostering: it's doing your hours at work. You're required to work 38 hours a week on average, so you do your 38 hours in the least amount of days and then you have the days off to recover. The fallback with these rosters is, as I mentioned, you need more people. It's not a great deal more when it comes to numbers; you just need a couple to fill in the gaps. It'll work on day shift, non-24-hour shiftworkers who work no later than 2 am or 24-hour shiftworkers.

CHAIR: Unfortunately, we're now out of time. Mr Allen and Mr Cashion, thank you very much for your presentation to the committee today.

Mr Cashion : Thank you for the opportunity.

Mr Allen : Thank you.

CHAIR: We'll now call on the Council of Ambulance Authorities and the Volunteer Ambulance Officers Association of Tasmania.