Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An Open Letter to NSW Premier and DG Ed

An open letter to the NSW Premier Rees and The NSW Dept. Ed. Director General Coutts-Trotter

To the office bearers,
I write this with no special feeling of anticipation that you will do anything. For me, this is a formality and my expectation of you is so low that I will not be disappointed. I have a burden and it is my duty to prosecute action, which may see justice done for Hamidur Rahman, a year 8 school boy who died from (I believe) negligence of his school in 2002. I was not present at the event, having been (I believe) illegally dismissed from my job, which prevented me from executing my role as responsible adult, a year earlier.
This letter is open because I believe there has been a cover up of my testimony regarding Hamidur by a substantial number of influential people within the ALP, the Department of Education and the free press. In the actual letter, I will name names. In the open letter I will code many names. I recognize that my attempt at privacy is inadequate, but I am not trying to prevent verification of elements of my story and this is not a legal action, but a political one, my legal avenues having been extinguished by what I believe to be corrupt conduct.
I brought my matter before the ICAC who have declined to pursue it. The ICAC advise me that, while my arguments may suggest corruption by individuals, it is not something they feel they could prosecute, the instances being too small. My local member, a state minister, and another minister for my workplace having threatened me did not seem to concern the ICAC. Nor did the (apparent) covering up of evidence before a coroner, the death of a school boy, the bungling of a paedophile investigation or the harassment of a public servant by an (apparent) political appointment to a mid level public service management position.
I brought my matter before the Ombudsman’s office. They advised me that they could not deal with the issue as it involved an employer/employee relationship and they won’t investigate that.
I was nervous about bringing the matter before my local state member as I had felt that a political operator from within the NSW ALP’s Premier’s office (‘Plumbian’) had been the conduit for the political appointment of ‘Hot Coals’. In order to protect myself I approached my federal member (Julia Irwin). Julia advised me to speak to my local member (Joe Tripodi). I organized a meet, and met with an assistant of Tripodi. Julia and Tripodi’s office were privy to all the information I had at the time, which was substantially more than what the Dept. Ed. had ruled on earlier. Tripodi’s problem is that he then threatened me by referring me back to ‘Hot Coals’. Tripodi may have done that out of malice or out of ignorance. That he has subsequently seemed to try to cover it up without fixing it suggests malice.
I have recently read the coroner report and note it is deficient in a number of areas, suggesting wilfulness about failing to address the issues central to my testimony. It may be argued that those with vested interests have misled the Coroner, or that the coroner has turned a blind eye. I believe my testimony is such that the coroner must re examine and address that which it failed initially.
If anyone has kept records they will note I have some twenty thousand words regarding my issue on this case. I kept that confidential with those whom I shared it. In it, I admit to things that could be used to smear me. I did that because I felt that any fair investigation would ask questions that, reasonably, must be addressed.
Regarding my testimony, I note in the Senate answer to my questions that there is no dispute that I warned the school of the threat to Hamidur’s welfare. The answer provided to the senate suggested that a phone call to me ascertained the facts of the issue and addressed them. That is a lie. Here are the facts of my testimony.

One evening in early 2001 at Hurlstone AHS as a casual welfare teacher I found myself the most senior person present at dinner. I had worked three years previously as a residential welfare teacher (live in tutor, the Dept of ed. seems confused in the senate response as to my actual status, but I am a teacher). Also present at the dinner were three other staff members, who while being permanently employed there, were only recent appointments. I understood regular permanent staff and site managers were attending an in-service.
During the dinner, Hamidur Rahman left his seat and approached the staff dining table. This was the first time I recall meeting him. I did not know him by name. He didn’t identify himself. He asked if he could have a clean fork from the teacher’s table. I considered suggesting a clean fork from the student’s table, but merely said ‘no.’ ‘But I have peanut butter on mine.’ ‘Enjoy it.’
“You don’t understand,” He said. “I have a peanut allergy and if I so much as inhale a few particles I could get very sick, or die, and you would get into a lot of trouble.”
John B, whom I believe to have been another staff member present went to get the boy a clean fork and made sure all was right with the boy’s table. John had given up full time work to work at the school as a full time tutor, welfare teacher. I told the other staff that it would be best for me to report it to the head teacher welfare and see if other staff could be informed. We agreed it was a serious issue and none had heard of any students with it before. I reasoned that as the head teacher welfare was already trying to get me dismissed, it was best if I took it to him.
I approached ‘Dick Watcher’ (Head teacher, welfare, boys) at the first available time afterwards. He told me not to spread rumours of the health issues of school children. He identified the boy as Hamidur Rahman. He said that staff had already been informed. He said I could get sued for discussing the welfare issues of students with the public. He asked the Head Teacher Science if it was true about the seriousness of peanut allergy. The HT Science told him that it probably would not be fatal, but would be serious.
I approached the Deputy Principal (JJ, responsible for the boarding school) and asked him about the boy’s peanut allergy. I had intended that ‘Dick Watcher’ would get into trouble if he had lied to me about telling other staff. JJ said the same thing that ‘Dick Watcher’ had about talking about the issue. He assured me staff had been informed.
Later, I saw Hamidur outside the dining room and asked if the peanut issues were over with staff. He said that no one else seemed to know. I apologized to him, and said he would have to speak up for himself, as I would not be working there again. He asked if I had given up. I said ‘no, but I might not be working there ever again.’ He replied he wouldn’t give up and walked away.

A year later Hamidur was at his year 8 camp at Yanco Ag HS. He was doing an activity with his classmates, and he was challenged by his teacher to lick peanut butter from a spoon. That teacher had apparently never been warned by either ‘Dick Watcher’ or JJ about the issue. More disturbingly, for me, knowing that ‘Dick Watcher’ is a ‘game player’ is the possibility that the situation may have been set up by ‘Dick Watcher’ to see if the child would lick the peanut butter or refuse to, and if the child would get sick as a result or not. ‘Dick Watcher’ had been highly manipulative when I had worked at the school, and such a scenario seemed in keeping with my understanding of his character. The child died in seconds.

I note in the coronial investigation, the Head teacher Welfare (Boys) was never questioned about the boy’s peanut allergy, nor the Deputy Principal with responsibility to the boarding school. I note that staff claimed never to have known about the issue.

I chose not to involve myself in the coronial inquiry, but I was in two minds and approached my site manager, Pat M, for guidance. I hadn’t wanted to involve myself because of the appearance of wanting to get back at that workplace for the illegal dismissal. I figured enough staff had been on hand who knew of the boy’s issues that I would not be needed. I was not present at the death of the boy. I did not know the boy very well, and was not certain that he was the boy who had approached my table that evening. I thought that ‘Dick Watcher’ and JJ would be put through the cleaners and that after, I might revisit the issue of my unfair dismissal. Reading the coronial report, I now question the impartiality of the coroner and the appropriateness of the coroner attributing any blame to the parents.

Following the death of Hamidur I began blogging. The Department of Education had told me that they would ignore my complaints about my unfair dismissal and a faux referral to Healthquest (the referral was real, but the reasons given were faked) as they felt I was a pest, a serial complainant. I was advised by my lawyer that so long as I did not slander, I could write about my issues online. I began blogging after the department advised me they would be ignoring me. I asked the Department legal adviser why I was being ignored, and I was told it was because of Hamidur. I pointed out I had nothing to do with his death, and was asked by the officer if he could quote me on that. I said yes.

Harassment was something I’d grown used to at my workplace, but it grew worse, and things began happening from unexpected quarters. Healthquest had me labelled as ‘disabled with no special provision.’ Students would tell me that they knew people at Hurlstone who were discussing me with their brothers and sisters. A year 7 girl was verbally humiliated and denied counselling by one of my abusers who seemed keen to trump up an allegation. A class of my Math students had marks deducted from their trial exams, while students in other classes kept theirs.

I had been assured by the local Director of Schools that my referral to Healthquest had not been part of an abuse racket, but was for my benefit. At the end of 2005, that Director of Schools swapped with Glenfield, where Hurlstone is, and I was expecting to be able to broach the issues I had with the incoming Director of Schools, Bruce S, whom I’d met in 1992 at my first appointment and whose wife was Head teacher of English at Hurlstone. Instead, Bruce was shouldered aside at the last moment and ‘Hot Coals’ was appointed. This appointment occurred a few months after I had some email with ‘Plumbian’ following my non-appearance at my high school reunion. Plumbian had expressed the view that my conservative politics blog was not appropriate

‘Hot Coals’ ordered me to delete my blogs using the false instrument of the 2004 teacher’s code of conduct. ‘Hot Coals’ claimed not to know anything about me except that I had maintained these blogs. I was threatened with dismissal. When I complied, a month or two passed and I was issued with another instruction for another blog. No reason was given on the first two requests. A trumped up allegation was made on the third. I feel that ‘Hot Coals’ was protecting himself from an allegation of excessive executive force.

Wishing to end my workplace harassment, I contacted the Minister of Education through a local member (Ninos Khoshaba). The result was a telephone call which did not ask for any information about my allegations. The result of the phone call was that I felt forced to resign to bring my issue before the public without encumbrance of the 2004 teachers code of conduct. I was told by Today Tonight that I could work with them if I did not involve a Current Affair. I approached Julia Irwin, who directed me to Tripodi .. and Today Tonight refused any further correspondence and a local paper (The Champion) began questioning me on my ulterior motives.

I am now unemployed since July ’07. I worked at a few places on a casual basis, but found I was being smeared. I have found out that I have been black listed by ‘Hot Coals’ and I have not had any work recently and seem unlikely to get any locally. I have had to take the step of being declared unfit to work so as to access my superannuation, and at the age of 42, with a Masters Degree in Education, I am taking those steps. In all likelihood I will soon lose my unit where I have lived since ’02, the first place I bought. But I’m not fighting entirely for myself. For some seventeen years I was harassed at my workplace and did not complain. But a child has died and I think it is time someone gave that child a voice.

n.b. In their refusal letter to me, the Ombudman said they had talked with ‘Hot Coals’ about my issue. He made the claim to them that he had addressed my complaints on several occasions. To my knowledge, this is not true, but others may know more about this. According to Department testimony to the senate, ‘Hot Coals’ has never had cause to address any of my complaints.
More can be found at Ben's story
Facebook page for Justice for Hamidur Rahman
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