Board Grievances: Ignored Grievances

rwsqMost members of WIRES and its supporters would be surprised to learn that this large not for profit organisation, with about 2,500 volunteer workers and employees, does not have a dispute resolution policy to deal with grievances made against its Board. They would be disappointed to find out exactly how many complaints have been made and the poor manner by which they have been handled.

The failure to have a policy to deal with complaints by members against the Board or a board member means that Board members can re-stand for election even though they are the subject of unresolved complaints. This gives the impression they are untouchable. At the 2011 AGM all Board members, except one who was standing for the first time, stood and were re-elected to the Board despite being the subject of outstanding grievances.

Go to topGo straight to commentsAdd a commentComplaints have not only been made by WIRES members. There has been at least one external complaint from a guest trainer in relation to a then Board member. It has been alleged that requests for information from a Member of Parliament on behalf of a WIRES member were also ignored.

Unfortunately complaints made by members against the WIRES Board or against one of its members are ignored

Unfortunately complaints made by members against the WIRES Board or against one of its members are ignored, or dealt with by the Board itself. The WIRES State Council (WSC) are not aware of these complaints as they all go directly to the Board Secretary and are marked confidential. It’s no surprise that (allegedly) the outcome of those complaints which are dealt with are found to be unfounded. Essentially the Board is the judge and jury for their own complaints. This is a clear conflict of interest.

It is normal practice in a competent organisation to have in place a process to refer a complaint against management to an independent third party for determination. This removes emotion while establishing the facts. No individual or body can claim to undertake an impartial investigation into itself. Such separation of powers is integral to our common law and the basis of our legal institutions and way of life. Why should WIRES be any different?

When members speak out about what they see to be wrong, or express views in opposition to the Board, they allege that in retaliation they are bullied and intimidated. This includes claims of being threatened with action against them for being in breach of WIRES polices, the Constitution or the code of conduct. The end result is that they would lose their licence to care for wildlife. This creates fear within the membership and an environment where other members are afraid to speak out.

Some members claim that the alleged bullying and intimidation are so severe and relentless that they have no alternative other than to resign from the organisation

An example of this, from information received, is that after challenging the views of a Board member, a member then had 10 complaints lodged against them. Another individual had complaints lodged against them from another branch to which they did not even belong. Some members claim that the alleged bullying and intimidation are so severe and relentless that they have no alternative other than to resign from the organisation. For many people this means giving up their passion of caring for wildlife.

Since July 2010 the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) regulations have changed to limit wildlife rehabilitation groups from being established in areas where one already exists. OEH will not issue any further independent licences. Effectively this gives WIRES a monopoly in wildlife care in NSW. For WIRES and our wildlife the loss of these experienced carers and their facilities cannot be replaced easily. It appears from records available that last year WIRES had approx 1400 members not renew for 2011-2012. This was about half the membership at the time.

WIRES has a provision for internal disputes in the Constitution (2.15 Resolution of internal disputes) but it only covers complaints involving the general membership and Branch Management Committees (BMC). There is no process for complaints against the Board and its members. Under this provision, if a complaint can’t be resolved by the BMC it may go to the Community Justice Centre for mediation. If this fails the final determination is by the Board.

The Associations Incorporations Act 2009 fixes any deficiency in an organisation’s Constitution by its “Model Constitution”. This Model Constitution does provide a provision for an external independent process to deal with complaints made against management. But as the current WIRES Constitution was adopted in 2007, and has not been reviewed, WIRES is not covered by the Act and so WIRES members do not get the benefit of this dispute resolution provision.

Until the Constitution is amended there will be no procedure to deal with complaints against the Board and those complaints will remain unresolved

Information has been obtained that some members of the State Council have been asking for a review of the Constitution for over a year but it is alleged that the Board is stalling. Until the Constitution is amended there will be no procedure to deal with complaints against the Board and those complaints will remain unresolved.

WIRES also has a complaints policy (3.2 Volunteer Respectful workplace policies) but this is in conflict with the Constitution. In particular point number one of the Constitution states that the first attempt at resolution should be via the BMC; but the policy states it is to be an informal discussion between the two parties.

In April 2011 an addendum was added to this policy to cover bullying and harassment in more detail but, instead of giving more protection to members, it is alleged that the provision may be used by the Board against members who are asking for change.

Last year Workcover was called into the WIRES Call Centre... allegations of bullying and harassment against staff by management

Last year Workcover was called into the WIRES Call Centre (WCC) because of a complaint made by a WIRES employee. The complaint relates to lack of OH&S polices and grievance procedures, as well as allegations of bullying and harassment against staff by management. One of the actions taken by Workcover was to suggest a policy be put in place to deal with grievances against management and make all staff aware of these. It is alleged that many long term staff have left the WCC due to bullying and harassment by management.

For a long time, the government departments with jurisdiction over WIRES have been contacted for help by many members. ReformWIRES has been informed that following a number of complaints from WIRES members about harassment and bullying by operational management, the Office of Fair Trading wrote to the WIRES Board requesting that it comply with their Constitution and policies.

A request under GIFA (Government Information Public Access) was also made for all communications and complaints made against WIRES to the OEH. The department refused to provide this and replied to the effect that there was too much material to copy (see our Whistle Blower section for more).

WIRES is under the jurisdiction of The NSW Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services (TIRIS). Four other divisions cover different aspects of responsibility and reporting. The Office of Fair Trading is responsible for the registration of organisations and compliance with the Associations Incorporations Act 2009, including the lodgement of the annual reports. The Office of Gaming and Racing covers the registration of charities; compliance with the Charitable Fundraising Act, 1991 and regulations; and approval of contracts of employment of board members of those organisations. Office of Primary Industries: Emergency response to natural disasters, and animal disease outbreaks. OEH: National Parks and Wildlife Service issues WIRES licence authority to hold and rehabilitate native fauna. The OEH policies and laws are: The Code of Practice for Injured, Sick and Orphaned protected Fauna; Rehabilitation of Protected Fauna Policy; and The National Parks NSW Act.

Government departments will not get involved in internal disputes. To cover this each government department states an organisation must have a provision for internal disputes within its Constitution. However the departments do not check the detail of the grievance provisions and here lays one of the major problems.

The reality for WIRES volunteers is that there is no complaints policy and nowhere to turn should the Board refuse to deal with a complaint made against them. This gives volunteers limited choices: to ignore the alleged wrong, or leave WIRES. Volunteers have no rights to have a complaint against the Board or a board member dealt with. If a worker had these same issues they could take their employer to Fair Work Australia or Workcover and the employer would be made to deal with the complaint.

The Board and government departments have failed in their duty of care to the volunteers by not fixing this problem and it jeopardises the future of WIRES. WIRES Board has a duty to respond to allegations made against it in a consistent, prompt and professional manner to ensure confidence and trust with their members, government funders, donors and the wider public.

It is alleged that WIRES has breached its licence agreement with National Parks in not having a dispute resolution procedure for complaints against management but the department is unable to force management to make changes and can only make suggestions. In the end it’s up to the organisation to do the right thing having the best interests of its members and its core mission in mind.

The Board is well aware of these deficiencies and it is minuted in the February 2011 Council meeting “that there is currently no way of dealing with complaints against the Board”. It has done nothing to remedy them. In June 2011 a proposed policy was presented to the Council and Board for an independent body to receive and resolve complaints against the Board. For unknown reasons this section of the council meeting was not minuted. There was no response to this proposal other than it was stated in the July 2011 minutes, in an action item, that the Board would: incorporate some comments into the existing policy, put together a flow chart and email this out to Councillors. It appears that no further action was taken.

It appears to be easier to be elected onto the WIRES Board than to the WIRES management teams. Unlike the Board nominees, others applying to these teams were approved via selection criteria and had to disclose any outstanding grievances against them. This however did not prevent the then current Board members who were subject to outstanding complaints being found suitable by the Board to serve on these teams.

the Council instructs the Board; not the Board instructs the Council

The Chair of WIRES comments in Council meetings that “the Council instructs the Board; not the Board instructs the Council”, and “the Board does not sit in an ivory tower”. While the Board does not practice what it preaches there will always be the perception that there are rules for some, and not for others.

The NSW Wildlife Council on their website under Conflict Management Guidelines advises that the best way to minimise complaints is to avoid them in the first instance. There are 6 points listed to help avoid disputes and it is interesting to consider them in relation to WIRES.

1. Their Constitution is up to date.
No, WIRES constitution 2007 has not been reviewed to rectify obvious errors and very little has been done on this since an agenda item was brought to Council a year ago.

2. Rules, policies & procedures are documented and accessible for all members.
No, all polices are not accessible to members.

3. Policies are reasonable and are developed with appropriate consultation.
No, these are farmed out to Management teams or created by the Board with little consultation. They are not up to date and the Policy for Proxy Voting was not amended until 2011 to conform to the 2007 Constitution. It has been alleged that the validity of all elections held between 2007 and 2010 could be challenged because of this failure.

4. The association’s rules and regulations are administered fairly and equitably.
No, policies and the Constitution are not always followed and new rules are made up ad-hoc and not adopted in accordance with the rules. There are examples of members being dealt with by procedures outside the rules and regulations, the best known case being the way the Board used a private investigator to investigate members and dealt with unspecified complaints against them in secret.

5. Members are given appropriate opportunity to raise valid concerns and issues, and to be heard without being harassed or victimised.
No, there are complaints by members who have spoken up and have then been ignored, victimised and bullied by management until they leave.

6. Decision making processors are fair and transparent.
Not always, and the employment of the private investigator and the dealing of complaints of defamation are examples.

Often the most successful option of solving disputes is external mediation. ReformWIRES has learned that WIRES had agreed to mediation and this was organised to take place in June 2011. It involved members of 7 WIRES branches with Volunteering Australia. To the disappointment of these members, two days before it was to go ahead, the Board pulled out without explanation. It is understood that the Board has done nothing to resolve these issues.

There is a history of complaints against the Board which starts from its very inception. As far as it can be ascertained these complaints have one thing in common: none of them have been resolved and no Board member has been held accountable.

Over the next few weeks we will be featuring some volunteer’s complaint stories in the Whistle Blower section of this site.


# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored Grievancesmurt 2012-03-12 10:52
I agree with mouse totally. Just keep away from them and do the best you can, for a peaceful life.
Sonja Elwood
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored GrievancesSonja Elwood 2012-03-09 23:55
If private investigators are involved I hope publicly dontated funds are not being spent to support this. That is against the law and has happened before many years ago in WIRES history. THere are alternatives to being a member of WIRES, that’s why there are so many other wildlife groups in NSW.......where did they all come from? History is repeating itself it would seem...
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored Grievancesguest 2012-03-10 22:01
Yes Sonja public money was used to pay for this investigator. The problem now is that if you live in an area where there is only WIRES you have no options, there are no new groups or general licences being issued.
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored Grievancesmargaret. 2012-03-15 21:31
There was at least $20,000 of donors money spent without authority from the members or the WSC. They admitted to $20,00 in the article done by the Sydney Morning Herald so it could have been more. What has happened before?
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored Grievancesguest 2012-08-16 00:37
No Sonja there are no alternatives in many areas of nsw. Thats the problem. They have a monopoly which is why they can bully and act like savages.
The White Hat
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored GrievancesThe White Hat 2012-02-18 09:45
Dispute management
30. DECCW does not have the authority under the NPW Act to investigate or intervene in any of the following matters regarding fauna rehabilitation groups that it licenses:
- Disputes relating to a breach of the group’s rules.
- Disputes between members or a member and the group.
- Disputes relating to the internal management of a group.
- Disputes involving the conduct of a general meeting or the process by which members of the committee are elected.
- The validity of the appointment or removal of a public officer.
31. DECCW does have the authority under the NPW Act to investigate and intervene in the following matters:
- Suspected offences under the NPW Act and Regulations.
- Suspected breaches of licence conditions.
32. If a dispute arises between a member and a licensed rehabilitation group, attempts must be made to resolve it within the group’s rules. If the matter remains unresolved after the rules have been utilised, the parties may wish to employ a professional mediator or seek independent legal advice. The NWC has produced Conflict Management Guidelines which provides more information on these issues.
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored Grievancesguest 2012-03-02 20:28
So The White Hat what you say is that there is no power in the government to deal with or intervene in alleged breaches of the WIRES Constitution and policies by management, the failure to bring in a democratic electoral system, the changing of the rules to allow members to be elected to the Board who have been rejected by their branches, the refusal of the Board to provide its minutes of meetings to members, the preparation of minutes of council meetings that do not accurately say what was said or decided or which denigrate dissident members,allegations of harrasment, bullying, victimisation and unfair treatment of members with different political views, allegations of mistreatment and cruelty of animals and breaches of the licence and decisions to prevent members who have particular skiils and experience from being included in management teams. No wonder the Board shows no inclination to change or deal with complaints against it when it knows that no one can force them to.
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored GrievancesAlice 2012-02-01 22:07
This article talks about Conflict of interest, and they are everywhere. Here’s a few:The Board can be on a management team (actually 2 Board members are from Management teams), husband, wives or partners can be on the same management team, Board members partners are on management teams, Board members approved their own partners to be suitable for management teams, Board approved fellow Board members to be on management teams, a NPWS employee is on the Council and Board, WIRES paid staff are on the Council, management teams and hold both positions on the Wildlife Council.
Just how deep does this rabbit hole go?
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored Grievancesguest 2012-01-22 22:16
Those involved in this site have been very brave to bring this and other things about managment in wires out into the open. You should be very concerned that there is a private investigator after you.
Its scary
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored GrievancesIts scary 2012-01-25 18:29
I believe that you have to give up basic freedoms when you join Wires. You can’t associate with who ever you like and you will be dealt with differently if you mix with certain members or are a member of a certain branch. You can’t say or write what you want to and you will be dealt with if you write anything critical of the board, policies or Wires. You are supposed to defend it even when you believe there is something wrong and want to protect another member or the animals. There is no whistleblowers legislation to protect you and it seems no government office like the ombudsman, ICAC or the Privacy Commissioner has the power to get involved. If you want to do something to get change you risk a lot. Yes guest even being investigated by a private eye.
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored Grievancesguest 2012-01-31 09:19
Its like being asked to be part of a conspiracy to keep things that are wrong hidden. You really get into trouble if you try to bring it out into the open to get help. This is bad when it comes to trying to protect animals which are being treated badly and not good when trying to get a fairer deal for the members. A bmc was investigating the care of animals by a member and the board just moved the member to another branch.
not impressed
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored Grievancesnot impressed 2012-02-01 06:45
That might be the member who helped the board with its pursuit of members using a private investigator. It looked like she was given her own branch, even though she lives outside the area.
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored GrievancesGuest 2012-02-01 20:47
and she loves this site. Very strange.
The Beak
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored GrievancesThe Beak 2012-02-01 16:56
Dear Its Scary.
You cannot go to National Parks or what ever they are called this week it goes in the bin doesn’t even get to management. FACT. And Fair Trading will give you the flick. FACT
Guest and the team have been building a brief for more than a year. The way to get the information from wires is on Oath. FACT. Some members of the Board do not know what is going on behind their back. Unfortunately that is no excuse . They should know!
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored GrievancesTHE BEAK 2012-02-02 09:37
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored GrievancesDianna 2012-01-22 18:33
All the above is true - I have experienced it first hand - when can we go to the media?
It’s time
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored GrievancesIt’s time 2012-01-23 08:01
It is easy to go to the social media - share the link on facebook
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored Grievancesguest 2012-01-22 07:33
It seems to work like this;
Plan A - ignor the complaintant they will go away eventually
Plan B - if complaint doesn’t go away try to boot them out
Plan C - if this doesn’t work refer to plan A
a guest
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored Grievancesa guest 2012-01-24 07:58
Some complaints are so old and they might just be waiting for the members to leave, be expelled or die before they agree to a dispute resolution process to sort out the members complaints against them.
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored Grievancesguest 2012-01-22 07:27
This should not be allowed to happen. If it was BHP the story would be all over the newspapers. As it is a charity and there are no shareholders no one seems to care. But what do the donors and members who keep wires going say.
white ant
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored Grievanceswhite ant 2012-01-21 20:28
It would seem they may have something to hide, otherwise you would just mediate the issue and get over it.
Lazarus 2 Risen
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored GrievancesLazarus 2 Risen 2012-02-01 18:04

White Ant
To late now to mediate the opportunity was accepted then declined. It will not be on offer again. To much has been invested
We have managed to cut one from the pack.
Friends come and go. Enemies compound.
The Goodies get holidays and replacements for refreshment. The Bad don’t.
white ant
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored Grievanceswhite ant 2012-02-02 14:58
Lazarus 2 Risen
That’s really unfortunate and totally appauling that mediation has not been completed or forced to clear up and find a resolution to these grievances. These problems will just keep going around and around and get worst as animosity builds. Definately not a good look to decline mediation!
It’s time
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored GrievancesIt’s time 2012-02-04 21:55
If there is truth that the Red Haering is/was a WIRES member as other posts indicate then the Board can act with impunity - because they can be confident their Man in the Department will be there to support them at every turn.
a guest
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored Grievancesa guest 2012-02-09 14:03
From enquiries I’ve made it seems that he wasn’t ever a member of WIRES but there is a lot of “talk” out there of a friendship and meetings between a WIRES member and this public servant.
# Guest 2012-02-04 00:23
Was it the managment or staff who refursed?
# guest 2012-02-04 15:07
It could only have been the Board as members were getting themselves prepared for the mediation and there was a feeling of relief that complaints that had been hanging around for a long time were finally going to be discussed and resolved.
A friend
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored GrievancesA friend 2012-01-21 20:22
Your absolutly right most of WIRES polices have not been reviewed since the 1990’s and most still have the SMC (State Management Committee) instead of WSC (WIRES State Council) even though this should have all been updated when the Constitution was changed. It’s now nearly 5 years later and they are still not updated to comply.
Regardless of whether polices have been updated they are also not on the intranet for all members to access.
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored Grievancesgrasshopper 2012-01-21 08:27
Thank you for this article it only confirms by beliefs. I was an euthanastic volunteer who particpated in recsue, caring, BMC and donated money to my branch and WIRES head office (but not anymore). I was not judged by my own merit or given a chance for that matter but judged by who I associated with. I was victimised, verbally attacked at meetings, ignored, undermined and defamed.
I don’t care who is on the Board, Council, Management team, BMC or Council all I ask is that they have the skills and time to give the position justice, are fair with decisions and nobody is above the rules.
It appears that this managment are unable to do this and are more worried about having a title rather than actually doing the job.
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored GrievancesDoppy 2012-02-01 18:09
Non of the members i know would want the title that management have with members.
an eagle
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored Grievancesan eagle 2012-01-21 08:18
The provision in the model constitution which Wires members are deprived from using because the constitution has not been amended or this provision adopted is
10 Resolution of disputes
(1) A dispute between a member and another member (in their capacity as members) of the association, or a dispute between a member or members and the association, are to be referred to a community justice centre for mediation under the Community Justice Centres Act 1983.
(2) If a dispute is not resolved by mediation within 3 months of the referral to a community justice centre, the dispute is to be referred to arbitration.
(3) The Commercial Arbitration Act 1984 applies to any such dispute referred to arbitration.
This straighforward process gives an independent means of a member having his/her complaints against the board or a member determined by a fair and due process.
# RE: Board Grievances: Ignored Grievancesmouse 2012-01-21 07:35
Thank you for the site and your endeavours to right the wrongs
I have experienced all the bullying slander and that these people can deal out and Yes the Goverment Dept alows them to continue to do so WHY the big question But I stay to care for the animals costing on average several hunderds of $ a month Does that money I donate to care each month get accounted for NO because if you even think of claiming you get even more problems so like the real lovers of wildlife we shut up so the animals dont get hurt or euthanazed

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