Department officers share insights

The Northwest Regional team of Field Officers and Senior Approvals Officer Catherine Lee, share their experiences supporting services on Bundjalung country impacted by flooding.

Image: Field Officers in the Northwest Regional team (L-R): Claire Herbert, Claire Sheehan, Rebecca Kidd, Melanie Sutton, Joan Schubert, Nicola Thorp, Rebecca Garvey, Kerri Mitchell, Debbie Anger, Megan McArthur, Sharon Cox, Jim Bradbury.

With 400 services affected by flooding in the Northern Rivers region, services have faced significant challenges due to damage to premises, staffing issues and even problems with connectivity, in addition to the ongoing impacts the flood has had on the wider community.

During this time, the Department of Education’s Northwest Regional and Approvals teams have worked closely with services through processes, such as temporary relocations, staffing waivers and increases in enrolment places to support children’s health and safety and allowing them to reinstate suitable physical environments.

The Northwest field officers have reflected on how to best approach services severely impacted by flooding and how to support them noting in many cases, the damage has been severe. To address these concerns, they focused on listening to the needs of the sector and collaborating with colleagues such as Catherine Lee, a Senior Approvals Officer, to provide ongoing flexible support.

“Some services have had limited access to documentation or have had issues with internet or phone connectivity,” Catherine said.

“We've been able to work around these issues by lodging applications on behalf of services or waiving documents, which has allowed applications to be fast-tracked for approval.”

Field Officers have also adapted their normal ways of working by providing support over text messages to services facing connectivity issues.

This collaboration has strengthened existing relationships and allowed services and officers to work together to support continuity of education for children in the region.

“Some of our officers have worked in this region for many years and have a strong professional relationship with the services and educators, this has allowed us to be consistent in our approach,” the Northwest Regional team shared.

“As a team, we want to see the children in the region return to a familiar and safe learning environment with the educators they know and trust, as soon as possible.”

As they support services to get back on their feet and work through the recovery process, the Northwest Regional team’s advice to services is that there are no silly questions, and they are always available to help.

“We would like to acknowledge the resilience of the services impacted by the recent events, we’re so proud to be working in such an extraordinary area whose courage has shown through every day of this crisis, and we would like to thank the teams who have stepped in to support our Hub during this time,” the Northwest Regional team said.

We really appreciate the positive feedback that we have received from services and peaks acknowledging our support. We are proud to be of service.

Image: Catherine Lee, Senior Approvals Officer, Approvals and Services
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