Dear Senator Vanstone,
I wish to commend the exemplary Public Service shown by the staff at the ACT branch office of the Department.
They were faced with an extraordinarily difficult and complex situation in my case. When they were unable to give me the help I requested, their competence and knowledge of the legislation and administrative rules was so obviously examplary, I didn't consider questioning their decision.
Although not initially able to help, they suggested alternative solutions, and guided me through the whole process, providing forms, photocopying and verifying documents as required, long after office hours and with no expectation of overtime payments. It was a very complex and unusual situation, quite outside the norm.
My experience with another department was not so happy, so I was soon back again. This time, I had the evidence I needed, and again, the ACT branch staff guided me with total professionalism through the process. I had been facing exile from Australia (despite being an Australian Citizen) due to passport difficulties, and they were able to issue an Australian Declaratory Visa for me so I could see my little son on Christmas day here in Australia, and not just over a video link from overseas.
It's not just that I'm immensely grateful - though of course I am - it was the efficiency and consideration they showed. In one case, the officer was unable to get through on the phone to a neccesary section to confirm some information. She tried a total of 9 different numbers before getting the information, all of this outside of office hours on a Friday, when everyone just wanted to go home. She could have given up after one attempt, and many would. But she didn't want me stressing over a weekend.
The whole staff then congratulated me on my patience in this very difficult and unusual situation, where my treatment by another department had been less than helpful, and objectively amounted to discrimination. Despite them having to struggle sometimes with malfunctioning equipment and a plethora of niggling difficulties, it was obvious that morale was sky-high, and they worked as a closely-knit and thoroughly efficient team.
If it was in my power, I'd grant a Public Service commendation to the whole office, and an OOA to the case officer, Sarah Harman. All the time she was going out of her way to help, every time I thanked her, she replied that she was just doing her job.
I have worked with many departments, from Defence to the DVA, DFAT and FACS. I have not seen such exemplary efficiency and humane administration in any of them.
I'm sure you must get far more complaints than thanks, for that is human nature. Please be aware though that this difficult and sensitive situation was handled in an extraordinarily proficient manner, quite outside the norm. The ACT branch office staff deserve recognition for that. They are a credit to the Department, and to the Australian Public Service as a whole.
Zoe Ellen Brain BSc MInfoTech(Distinction)
In some ways, it made the APO's treatment even worse, having something normal to compare it to. Better than normal - with extra kindness and consideration due to my circumstances, not less.