Australia

Morale tanking at Tasmania’s racing watchdog amid staff exodus

Tasmania’s racing watchdog is without a manager, vet and several stewards, with a union warning workers and the industry will suffer without intervention from the government. 

The Office of Racing Integrity (ORI) sits within the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) and is supposed to provide oversight to the state’s three racing codes.

More than 20 people — including two this week —have left the small office since 2018, including regulatory veterinarian Adam Richardson, the agency’s operations manager and several stewards and investigators.

Current and former staff have told the ABC the office is dysfunctional and morale has hit rock bottom.

“These people do a really important job,” Community and Public Sector Union assistant secretary Tom Lynch said.

A staff member says in the “short time I have been there, I have seen several staff resign because of the issues and the way they were treated”.(

ABC News: Siobhan Heanue

)

One staff member tried to raise the alarm with the department in June after resigning their position.

In an email sent in June, obtained by the ABC, the person said they had been asked to perform and assist with duties above their skill set and work shifts up to 15 hours without a break.

“I often get put in jobs that I have not been trained to do and have just had to use my own knowledge to fulfil these roles,” they wrote.

Political adviser Justin Helmich, a former policeman, will become the Office of Racing Integrity’s general manager and director of racing in September.

Two policemen have held the role since 2018. One has moved into a new role in the department and the other went on leave this week. 

Mr Lynch said staff were crying out for consistency and that the department and Racing Minister Jane Howlett needed to show leadership.

“We’re part of a racing industry in Tasmania and what we do in Tasmania reflects on other states and territories, so we need to have the highest levels of standards there and unfortunately that has been slipping in recent years.”

A DPIPWE spokeswoman said work was underway to address the issues. 

“There are some vacancies within the Office of Racing Integrity and the department is working to fill these roles,” she said.

“The department is aware that some staff had raised concerns about ORI and the department is working with staff to respond appropriately.”


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