Norfolk Online Newsletter FREE content

Buy Local Spending Spree Competition

Friday, June 28, 2019

Please 'contact us' for more information.

Tourist Accommodation Legislation Update

Friday, June 28, 2019

Please 'contact us' for more information.

Standards of Care for Mental Health Services on Norfolk Island: Who Cares?

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Patient Safety and Clinical Quality Program applies to all affiliated health services including hospitals, community health services, and government statutory corporations administered by NSW Health. This program outlines what you might reasonably expect if you are admitted as a patient to any health facility anywhere in NSW. This includes:

  • the best possible care and appropriate treatment for your condition at all times, based on the latest evidence;
  • to be treated with respect and have easy and honest communication with the health professionals and clinicians who have the necessary clinical skills for the work that they do;
  • effective teams who support the clinicians and have access to the resources (including equipment and information) they need to do their work;
  • systems that are designed to prevent inadvertent or accidental harm to you while in hospital.

However, on Norfolk Island, despite our health services being managed and overseen by NSW Health, something went wrong as revealed by the recently released Auditor-General Report No.43 2018–19 (Design, Implementation and Monitoring of Reforms to Services on Norfolk Island).

As revealed, “arrangements established for the oversight of the Norfolk Island Health Residential Aged Care Service (NIHRACS) were inappropriate” (p. 9).

Put simply, according to the Auditor General’s Report, the NIHRACS was inappropriately established outside of the Australian Government accountability framework. Apparently, despite being set up as an entity controlled and funded by the Australian Government, NIHRACS is not “subject to requirements for the governance, reporting and accountability of Commonwealth entities as set out in the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act)” (p. 11-12). The Auditor General’s Report concludes that “It is inappropriate for the NIHRACS not to be subject to the coherent system of governance and accountability established by the PGPA Act” (p. 12).

The report indicates that the Secretary of the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet and “a senior official” signed off on Service Delivery Schedules (SDSs) to “manage, deliver and regulate state-type health services for Norfolk Island” (p. 41), including providing an oversight role for the NIHRACS which was delegated to  South East Sydney Local Health District.

What this means apparently is that the Federal Minister for Health delegated to the Administrator of Norfolk Island and the NSW Department of Health through the Director-General to provide health management services as a “body corporate” and to assist the NIHRACS manager to oversee the implementation of general Australian Government policies. The report does not specific which policies.

However, it appears that reporting on financial performance only (as an Australian Government administered “investment”) is its only line of accountability. The report indicates that NIHRACS is not subject to corporate governance structures and processes that the PGPA Act mandates (p. 43). Most critically, for patient care and quality service delivery, the report states that “there were no performance measures or indicators identified in the Health SDS to monitor service performance” (p. 58).

So what does this mean for Norfolk Island patients receiving services from NIHRACS? And specifically for those receiving services for mental health concerns?

The NSW Mental Health Act 2007 establishes the legislative framework within which care and treatment can be provided for persons with a mental illness in NSW. This Act was amended in 2015. In 2016, the NSW Institute of Psychiatry released an updated Guide Book written to provide mental health practitioners with a clear and practical source of information about issues to be considered and procedures to be followed in providing support and advice to consumers and carers, and preparing for hearings before the Mental Health Review Tribunal.

This document includes minimum standards and protocols that provide a framework of checks and balances to ensure that the rights of people - regardless of mental illness or mental disorder – are protected and they have recourse to appeal decisions, treatment or any proposed interventions. This includes evidence-based protocols to assessing whether someone is mentally ill or mentally disordered after a minimum of three independent examinations. The Mental Health Act Guide Book (2007) can be found online at

NIHRACS delivery of mental health services is still operating under the Norfolk Island Mental Health Act (1996) (personal communication). It remains unknown whether NIHRACS has adopted the NSW standards of care or service delivery guidelines, and what (if any) lines of accountability are in place to ensure that mentally ill or disordered people in our community receive the same standard of treatment as people in NSW (or other parts of Australia for that matter). This includes checks and balances (operational protocols) to guarantee procedural fairness including at the very least ensuring that all relevant evidence and aspects of the consumer’s case is made available for mental health reviews, which (in NSW) must be conducted by Psychiatrists, medical officers, or an “accredited person” (a suitably qualified and experienced mental health practitioner, such as a nurse, psychologist or social worker).

Dr Kate Lemerle, Psychologist

Chrysalis Counselling & Coaching, Norfolk Island


TEL: 52112 or email

Please 'contact us' for more information.

ANAO Audit of DIRDC on Norfolk Island – Is Scepticism Justified? (Part 1)

Friday, June 28, 2019

As a result of the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act of 2015, the Australian Government on 1 July 2016 abolished self-government on Norfolk Island and replaced it with governmental arrangements based on a NSW regional council model, and with substantially reduced powers. The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has now carried out a performance audit to "assess whether the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities has designed and implemented appropriate governance and administration arrangements for the transition and delivery of sustainable reforms to services on Norfolk Island": the Department (DIRDC) being the Commonwealth department with overall responsibility for Norfolk Island through its Territories Branch. The completed ANAO Audit Report was tabled in the Australian Parliament on 31 May 2019. (1)

The Audit Report gives, for the first time and in public, a clear description of the Commonwealth governmental processes undertaken in the implementation of the Act of 2015, including processes involving the transitional administration. Such a description had not previously been available, so for this publication we must be grateful. However many on Norfolk Island, who have been waiting a long time for a fair and transparent account of DIRDC's conduct on the island in recent times are sceptical about the content and conclusions of the Report. Should they be? Well, "No", and "Yes". Here's why.

The ANAO is the national auditor for the Parliament of Australia and the Government of Australia, and reports directly to the Australian Parliament. The ANAO is located in the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio, and ANAO employees are Commonwealth public servants, as are employees of DIRDC. So that despite the independence of the ANAO process, we have one group of public servants reporting on the competence of another group of public servants.

The intra-governmental nature of the Audit Report is easy to see as almost without exception the 113 footnotes in the Report are either explanatory notes on the ANAO's own behalf, or Commonwealth/government-initiated communications, letters, and reports, or those of their consultants and appointees. The former Norfolk Island Government provides source for one footnote, as does the Norfolk Island Regional Council. There is a view that we should not be too concerned with this circumstance – after all the audit is primarily concerned with assessing one Commonwealth agency's performance. However we do need to be aware of the audit's characteristics and limitations.

Public service protocols ensure that public reports by public servants will be in sober tones, with no use of rude, abrasive or emotional language as one might find in say, some independent journalism. So one will not find such crude and direct statements like "DIRDC failed to accomplish what it was responsible for", but rather something like "DIRDC was partially successful in its mission". The over-riding characteristics of public service reports are circumspection and euphemism. There are also other subtle forces working to ensure that such reports resemble blancmange rather than curry. For example public servants tend not to want to rock the boat too much as that might embarrass a minister or two, and could damage their (the public servants') immediate career prospects. Anyone who has watched episodes of the British political sitcom Yes Minister will not find such a circumstance surprising. Some readers of the ANAO Report may well find themselves impatient with this anodyne fare.

Here is a key observation from the Report's conclusions:

The department's advice to the Australian Government presented a range of reform options, which was based on an assessment of Norfolk Island's self-governance arrangements and input from a community consultation process. Elements of the reform design relating to state and local government services could have benefitted from more detailed analysis. (p. 8)

We will consider what the ANAO thought of the "self-governance arrangements" and the "community consultation process" in more detail below, but the final sentence here conveys the blandness within which the Report's conclusions are couched. Here are some further examples:

Roles and responsibilities for the implementation of the reforms were clearly outlined, but the department's prioritisation plans lacked appropriate detail.(p. 8)

Arrangements established for the oversight of the Norfolk Island Health Residential Aged Care Service (NIHRACS) were inappropriate. (p. 9)

That's about as fiery as the Report gets. Whether these and other criticisms in the Report amount to a caning of DIRDC or merely a flogging with a feather duster, is difficult for someone outside the system to tell. But criticisms of DIRDC there are in the ANAO Report, even if self-effacingly expressed.

One major concern with this intra-governmental audit process – at least in the present example – is an acceptance of the governmental view of events, with alternatives or criticisms squeezed out or disregarded completely. (In this regard we have already mentioned the matter of text references.) Here are some other examples.

In relation to the econometric studies carried out by CiE on the Norfolk Island economy in 2014, the ANAO Report states:

A November 2014 report commissioned by the department provided modelling of the economic impact of extending Commonwealth taxation, social security, superannuation and the minimum wage to Norfolk Island. The modelling showed that if Commonwealth arrangements were implemented, the expected ‘higher level of economic activity, increased employment and wages combine to see (nominal) household consumption each year being some $20 million higher than otherwise.’ (p. 24)

This is a deceptive statement because it accepts the conclusion of a DIRDC-sponsored study which was heavily and comprehensively criticised at the time by an independent econometric modelling expert Professor Michael Common, formerly of the Australian National University and at that time at Strathclyde University in the UK. And furthermore there was no mention in the Report of an earlier and similar econometric study by CiE, suppressed by the Commonwealth, which reached a very different conclusion. (2)

Again, in relation to the "community consultation process" carried out on the island in the lead-up to the implementation of the 2015 Act, the ANAO Report states:  

In his report to the Minister on the consultation process, the Administrator stated that ‘there is now widespread general agreement with the JSC recommendations.’ The Administrator’s report, which formed part of the submission to the Australian Government, included dissenting views and commentary from the public meeting for the Australian Government’s consideration. (p. 27)

This merely accepts the Administrator's view of the process, which was against the totality of evidence in the public domain, to the contrary. The Administrator's view was widely discussed and challenged at the time, but never defended. (4) The Audit Report appears to have declined to investigate the truth or falsity of this matter, of which it was well aware (5), choosing rather to ignore the matter completely.

Again in terms of the "community consultation process", the fact that over years DIRDC systematically declined to respond to queries put to them by members of the Norfolk Island public, did not even rate a mention in the Report as relevant to DIRDC's performance.

Well, in responding to these claims of ignore, one view would be that, of necessity, ANAO must of take a circumscribed view of the area it will consider. But there is a problem: Where does that leave the audit assessment when it is made on only a part of the evidence? The fact that "modelling of the economic impact" and a "community consultation process" were carried out by DIRDC is in practice meaningless: what is relevant is the content of those exercises. The constriction of the area of interest that the ANAO was prepared to entertain in its audit, and the steering away from controversy, are problematic because ANAO evidently wants to appeal in its assessment to broad merit but then takes a very limited view of the information it is prepared to accept. The Report provides no indication as to what the legitimate bounds of its exercise are, and without it the Report must be taken as compromised and deceptive.

This article will continue next week when some more general matters will be considered.

Chris Nobbs

(1) ANAO, 2019. The design, implementation and monitoring of services reform on Norfolk Island, Auditor-General Report No. 43, 2018-19, 31 May.

(2)  Common, M., 2015. A Comparison of Two CIE Reports (2006, 2014) on the Economic Impact of

Norfolk Island Reform Scenarios. Also: Nobbs, C., 2015. Norfolk Island Reform Scenarios - Comparing the two CIE reports (2006 and 2014), The Norfolk Islander and Norfolk Online News, 28 November; reproduced in (3).

(3) Nobbs, C, 2017. Australia's Assault on Norfolk Island 2015-16: Despatches from the Front Line, Amazon, pp. 30-33.

(4) For example: Nobbs, C., 2016. Was there ever a majority of Norfolk Islanders in favour of the removal of self-government? The Norfolk Islander and Norfolk Online News, 13 February. Reproduced in (3), pp. 60-66.

(5) Nobbs, C., 2019. Submission to ANAO Performance Audit of DIRDC, 11 November.

Please 'contact us' for more information.

School News

Friday, June 28, 2019

Pink and Grey

            On the last day of school, Friday, July 5, the SRC are hosting a ‘Pink and Grey’ day to raise money for breast cancer and brain cancer research.  Students are asked to bring a gold coin donation and wear either pink, grey or a combination of both.  Students will also be involved in old-fashioned games after lunch to round out the term with some fun.  Thanks in advance for supporting our SRC.

Careers Market

            Our annual Careers Market was again an absolute success, with representatives from university and TAFE on hand to assist students as they firm up ideas about their post-school options.  The special relationship the school shares with the community was very much on show with many recent graduates returning to the school to share their experiences and advice to our students.  We also had a significant number of representatives from local businesses on hand to give students explicit advice about their workplace and the world of work.

            Special thanks goes out to Ro Peterson for her organisation and passion for Careers Education.  The contacts the school has built up over the years really places our students on the front foot as they graduate to post-schooling options.


            Thanks again to Sarah Robinson for her work in outdoor education.  Sarah partners with our Primary School students in the gardens to grow fresh produce, which the students then sell to raise money to invest in donations throughout the local community.  Recently the students received a formal thank you from the Norfolk Island Hospital Auxiliary, as the students have made contributions that have funded residents with a cuppas and ice creams.  Sarah and her crew of echo warriors also have a popular following on our Facebook page with the work they are doing and the difference they are making.  Thanks for us for the valuable learning you are leading for our students!

100% Attendance

            We have 68 students with 100% attendance so far this term.  One more week to go…hopefully all these students can maintain their exceptional attendance.  Great effort.

Melbourne International Comedy Festival – Class Clowns @ Norfolk Island

When the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow comes to Norfolk Island for a performance on August 3, 2019, a fabulous opportunity is available for Year 7-12 NICS students to attend a Class Clowns workshop.

Class Clowns is Melbourne International Comedy Festival's development program for young people around the country. From comedy workshops in schools to a national comedy competition, Class Clowns engages and inspires young funny peeps to hone their potential. With alumni including Joel Creasey, Rhys Nicholson, Aaron Chen, William McKenna and Tom Ballard, Class Clowns truly is a one-of-a-kind experience and a springboard to success!

The Workshop will be run by comedian Xavier Michelides. Xavier has a unique brand of surreal character comedy. He has been an active writer and stand-up comic performing across Australia, travelling to each corner of the country.  Xavier has written for television; he is currently a writer on The Project and has previously worked on Good News Week, You’re Skitting Me and Dafuq? He has also appeared on TV programs such as ROVE live, SBS’s Stand Up @ Bella Union and ABC’s Comedy Up Late.

The workshop will be held from 3.30pm to 5.30pm on Friday August 2, in the Bean Shed and is free of charge. Workshop size is strictly limited so contact Mr English ASAP to be included.

Mark Meehan

            I’d like to formally thank our outgoing School Counsellor, Mark Meehan, for the significant contributions he has made to our school over the last 18 months.  Mark has been a fantastic support for students and their families, and has played a pivotal role in championing a full time School Counsellor at NICS.

            Mark, your dedication to wellbeing and learning is inspiring.  While we are very excited to have Lisa Johnson come on board as our full time school Counsellor, we are equally sad that our time with you ends.  On behalf of the school and the community, I wish you and your family all the very best in your future endeavours.


Over the last few weeks, staff have been working on mid-year reports for their students.  This year we are using a new school management program called Sentral to write our reports.  Sentral is a platform that we introduced at NICS in 2019 with the help of our P&C.  I hope the community like the way reports are set out using this new system.

Reports will be sent out to families prior to the upcoming holidays.  It has been encouraging reading the students’ reports, and I ask that students and their parents take the time to engage in discussion around reports in support of ongoing improvements in learning.

Things coming up Term 2 - Week 10:

  • Wear Pink and Grey – Friday, July 5.

Things coming up Term 3 - Week 1:

  • School Development Day – Monday, July 22 (Staff only).
  • First Day Back For Students – Tuesday, July 23.


Brett Carr

Please 'contact us' for more information.


Thursday, June 27, 2019

The monthly meeting of the NORFOLK ISLAND FLORA & FAUNA SOCIETY will be held at 6pm on Monday 1st July 2019 at the A & H Hall.

New members and visitors are welcome to attend.

Enquires to Marg Christian on 50901 / 22800

Please 'contact us' for more information.

What's on the Week at Anglicare?

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Please 'contact us' for more information.

Christian Bailey Agencies - End of Financial Year SALE

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Please 'contact us' for more information.

Over the Horizon ... by Helen Sampson

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The only guide that covers the pre- European Polynesian settlement of Norfolk Island.

Also included are Polynesian voyaging in the Pacific and evidence of settlement through archaeology.  


Please 'contact us' for more information.

Margaret Christian Bird Finders Tour

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Departs Monday, Wednesday and Friday. (other days by arrangement only) excluding some Norfolk Island public holiday.

Margaret is Norfolks' leading bird expert and she knows exactly where to find Norfolk's unique Native and Endemic bird species.

Join her for a personalised 1/2 day tour Through the rain forest looking for shy and sometimes reclusive fauna and breath taking clifftops to see our migratory sea birds and their rookeries (in season). 

Margaret will pick you up at the Visitors' Information Centre, or your accommodation if centrally located.

Your half day tour starts early to catch the birds, includes a delicious morning tea and visits reserves, the National Park, and private property where the birds hide away.


To view a larger map of Norfolk Island, please "click here".

Please 'contact us' for more information.

Go Back

Recent Posts