Wednesday, 10 April 2013


by Dave Wheeler
   The title of this yarn is not about anything that has ever happened to me. I'll get to the guts of the story eventually.
   To begin, I had many jobs during my working life which varied in nature; too many to list. Most did not involve working for governments, but prior to my retirement from the full time workforce, which was at the end of 2005, I worked for the ACT Government. The work was not difficult as most positions at most levels within the various public services are unskilled or semi-skilled and require little more than basic computer skills and basic literacy.
   Even though I should have got out earlier than I did and got a more pleasant and less emasculating job,I often brightened my day by shit-stirring and cracking bad jokes. 
   I was to find many accomplices who were also fish out of water. One who comes to mind we called “Mental Mick.” Mick like me spent his formative years on building sites. He told me that being in the public service made him feel like he was in gaol.  I can recall while working with him, watching him yell out to himself as he walked along the petitions that surrounded the desks. 
   The public service is not the ideal workplace for non-snags, but unfortunately the same could be said for many other jobs within the Australian workforce. 
   Having said all this, at times some aspects of my work within the ACT Government were interesting and entertaining, and some could have been depressing had I let them get to me. 
   My last job was in the child protection area of the ACT Government where I occupied an admin position. I had no wish to become a child protection worker and continue to deal directly with the malfunctioning biological machines who abuse and neglect their kids, although  I could not avoid having some contact with them on matters of a practical nature. 
   There were some members of the public we dealt with (The system referred to members of the public as "clients." Why I don't know, because they purchased nothing from us.) who were nice-natured and responsible people but just down on their luck and in need of a helping hand, but most of those we dealt with for any length of time should have at least been sterilised, as they were a waste of space and oxygen. I find the idea of allowing people who have abused or neglected their kids to continue to reproduce grossly immoral. 
    In regard to extreme cases, such as those who sexually abuse kids or who are sadistically violent towards them, they should be rounded up and humanely euthanised to ensure no other kids suffer from their actions and that the cycle is stopped. 
    I would say to myself, “Why are we dealing with the symptoms and not doing what is required to prevent abuse and neglect occurring in the first place?"
   I will of course be compared to Hitler by advocating sterilisation and euthanasia, but Hitler's motivation was to build a super race, whereas my views are based primarily on a desire to protect kids from the actions of dangerous malfunctioning biological machines.
   Part of my duties for part of the day while working in the child protection area involved having my turn at answering the phone. It was not always as easy as most jobs within the public service, because our main line was used for emergency calls as well as general enquiries, which was ridiculous.
   It was the first point of contact for persons wanting to report the abuse or neglect of children, and sometimes callers would be in two minds as to whether they should make the report. I was supposed to put the call through to a child protection worker, but often no worker was available or the caller was on the verge of hanging up, and if I had have attempted to put them through to someone it would have been the last we heard from them. This put me in the position of being morally obliged to attempt to convince such callers they should go through with their allegation, even though I was not required to do so by way of my duty statement. Why I don’t know.
    (I had skills that enabled me to communicate with persons who were in two minds in regard to whether they should report child abuse or neglect. That however, was by no means always the case when other clerical workers were required to be the first to answer such calls. I found this an absolute disgrace, and I often wonder how many kids continued to suffer unnecessarily because indecisive callers hung up on the inexperienced clerical workers who were the first persons required to answer their calls. I don't know if ACT Child Protection has retained that policy or whether child protection workers are now the first persons to answer reports of abuse or neglect. I am also hoping they have a phone line which is not used for purposes other than the reporting of abuse or neglect).
   We often however, got calls unrelated to children being at immediate risk, and one I received along those lines was from a bloke I will call Eric, although he did not identify himself. He sounded as if he was in his late forties, which was a similar age to me at the time, and  it did not take long for us to find a rapport and go into “blokespeak.”
   Blokespeak is a more down-to-earth type of communication that is used between Aussie blokes of a certain type. It does not necessarily involve the use of particular language; it's more of an attitude and understanding which is experienced and shared through conversation. I am not saying it does not occur in other cultures, although Australia does have its unique form.      
    This is roughly how I recall our conversation, which I did my best to record in writing directly after it occurred:
Me- "Family Services; can I help you?"
Eric-"I’m not sure if I’m onto the right place mate; I need some advice." 
Me-"What sort of advice are you after mate? If I can’t help you I’ll see if I can redirect you to someone who can."
Eric-"Because you’re called Family Services I thought I'd try you first. My problem's of a very sensitive kind and I don’t know who to turn to, as it’ll affect the welfare of my kids. I've never discussed it with anyone before."
Me-"Does it involve any kids being at risk of abuse or neglect mate?"
Eric-"No mate, I don’t think they’ll ever be at risk of abuse or neglect, but it does involve their welfare. They’re happy at the moment, but I have some concerns for them in the longer term."
Me-"I doubt we'd be able to help you mate, but if you can briefly give me more details I can put you onto the appropriate people?"
Eric- "Well, I have a son to a woman I got pregnant a few years ago and my wife doesn’t know about it. The woman's now threatening to force me to pay maintenance through the government. I've been paying her plenty of maintenance without my wife's knowledge but she now wants to make it official even though she'd get less than what I've been paying her."
Me-"No, we definitely can’t help you on that one mate, particularly since no kids are in immediate danger or long term risk. Hold the line and I’ll see if I can find someone I can direct you to who may be able to give you some advice."
Eric- "I don’t want to see a counsellor mate; most of them are fucked in the head themselves and wouldn’t know if their arses were on fire. They usually get into the job because they’re fucked in the head. What do you reckon I should do mate?"
Me-"I’m not supposed to give advice mate; all I can do is try and steer you onto someone who can."
Eric-"That’s okay mate, just let me know what you think as another bloke. I realise it’s not part of your job and if you do advise me you’re not representing who you work for. I know the score; I work for the government. It's just that you're more likely to have some sort of clue than I have because of where you're working."
Me-"Okay mate. Run your problem past me in greater detail and I’ll see if I can help you."
Eric- "Well, I’m fairly high up in the public service, and a few years ago I had to go away for work with a younger woman I was working with. When we had to bunk down for the night she came to my motel room and came onto me. I swear it was all her. She pushed herself onto me!"
Me- "And a standing cock has no conscience!"
Eric- "Yeah that’s right mate. It was the biggest mistake of my life. I only gave it to her once and I knew I'd made a blue as soon as I’d done it. And she got pregnant from just that one session!" 
   "I would have left my wife years ago but because we've got kids I’d never mucked around on her until that night. If she ever finds out about it she’ll leave me and take the kids, and I love my kids. They also need me because she's a psycho at the best of times and not fit to bring up kids by herself, and nobody wants to see their kids suffer."
    "I can understand why those navy wives don't like their husbands going away to sea with female sailors. It's not natural for blokes to be put into situations like that. What would you do if you were in my position mate?”
Me-"The first thing I’d do if I were you would be to make sure it’s your kid, and you can do that with a DNA paternity test. If she’s not prepared to let you test the child I would be very suspicious about it being your kid, particularly if she only had one rogering from you." 
  "If it does turn out to be your kid you can try and appeal to the morality of the woman to do the right thing for the sake of the kids you have with your wife." 
  At that stage DNA paternity tests were not as common as they are now. Our work had begun using them and I had just had to code an invoice cover sheet and get approval for the payment of a test that had been done on one of the subhumans we were dealing with at the time. He was not sure if he was the father of the kid he and his wife had been neglecting and abusing. The test had cost about $800.00.
Eric- "I can try but I can’t see her caring as she's a bitch. How much is the test mate?"
Me-"It’s about $800.00 mate. It may be the best investment you make in your life. The only other advice I can give you is to seek advice from as many people as you can, including legal advisers, because so far you've only sought it from me, and you don't know what someone else may come up with. Maybe you can make some sort of confidential legal contract with the woman. I don't know."
Eric-"Thanks mate. I’ll take your advice on all counts, but I can’t see this having a happy ending." 
Me- "No worries mate; I hope it does have a happy ending for the sake of your kids. See you later."
Eric-"See you mate. Thanks again."
  I am not giving my personal opinion on the morality of anyone involved in this yarn and I am hoping I will not be thought to be doing so. I'm just reporting the conversation I had with Eric as I recorded it and attempting to give some sort of insight into the sorts of conversations I had while answering the phone during the time I worked in the child protection area of the ACT Government. 
Dave Wheeler