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Excerpt: In NSW Industrial Relations Commission Cross-examination of Mrs Kerrison on 11 September 2001

Before JUSTICE SCHMIDT.

Cross-examining the Applicant Mrs Val Kerrison by TAFE’s teams including some or all, or more:

Crown Solicitors’ Office Team 7
TAFE legal officers,
QC Richard Kensey,
Barrister Elaine Brus
Peter Cribb TAFE

At Transcript 171-173

KENZIE QC (FOR CROWN SOLICITORS AND TAFE): What was your concern?
VAL KERRISON: My concern was for all students at Kempsey TAFE, if they didn't get their TAFE course, they had nowhere else to go. This incident referred to Ms Hoskins coming to me and saying words to the effect "these students have missed some classes and Rhonda said for you to send a letter dismissing them out of their class" and I said "no, we can't do that".

KENZIE QC (FOR CROWN SOLICITORS AND TAFE): Your concern was because there was nothing in the requirements, TAFE simply couldn't tell people they weren't in the classes any more if they missed?
VAL KERRISON: Not unless it is written into the course, because these are adults we are teaching.

KENZIE QC (FOR CROWN SOLICITORS AND TAFE). So you went to see Ms McGregor, paragraph 66, to make sure that the students' rights and needs were being met; is that right?
VAL KERRISON: Yes.

KENZIE QC (FOR CROWN SOLICITORS AND TAFE). You recall that Ms McGregor said words to the effect "I'll have the letters sent out"?
VAL KERRISON: Yes.

KENZIE QC (FOR CROWN SOLICITORS AND TAFE). Is her Honour to understand from that, that Ms McGregor was saying to you that she would have letters sent out, which told students who had missed classes that they weren't in the class any more?
VAL KERRISON: She said "we do it all the time down below". Down below is how people [sic should be "how some people"] referred to the Djigay centre for adult education.

KENZIE QC (FOR CROWN SOLICITORS AND TAFE). Do you have any idea what Ms McGregor meant by it when she said that?
VAL KERRISON: My understanding was letters to the students to terminate, to tell them that they were no longer in the course. That is what she was referring to.

KENZIE QC (FOR CROWN SOLICITORS AND TAFE). Turn back to paragraph 45, if you wouldn't mind. In paragraph 45 you refer to the financial assistance through Abstudy?
VAL KERRISON: Yes.

KENZIE QC (FOR CROWN SOLICITORS AND TAFE). Including other non-Aboriginal students claiming similar financial assistance through Austudy?
VAL KERRISON: Yes.

KENZIE QC (FOR CROWN SOLICITORS AND TAFE). You are aware that Austudy and Abstudy make, as a condition of financial grants, attendance?
VAL KERRISON: Yes.

KENZIE QC (FOR CROWN SOLICITORS AND TAFE). And it is to your knowledge, the TAFE in the circumstances where people have study grants through Abstudy or Austudy, TAFE would be acting quite appropriately in reminding people who weren't in attendance that they might lose their entitlement if they didn't attend?
VAL KERRISON: Yes.

KENZIE QC (FOR CROWN SOLICITORS AND TAFE). What I want to suggest to you is that what Ms McGregor was saying when she said "I'll have letters sent out" or when she mentioned having letters sent out, she was referring to letters reminding people who were beneficiaries of Abstudy or Austudy of the consequences if they didn't attend?
VAL KERRISON: No, because I am not sure - just let me try and remember back to that time. In the past there had been courses where attendance had been a requirement, some years ago, even in admin services, where it was a requirement that students attend 80 per cent of the courses. It was generally acknowledged that the attendance rate and the number of Aboriginal students just generally, it was an area of concern.

My impression was that Ms McGregor may have been still under the impression that people could have been terminated from their courses if they were attending less than 80 per cent.

KENZIE QC (FOR CROWN SOLICITORS AND TAFE). Okay, yes, but you don't - when Ms McGregor said "we sent out letters to students about absence" --
VAL KERRISON: Yes.

KENZIE QC (FOR CROWN SOLICITORS AND TAFE). - so far as you are aware, you have never seen those letters?
VAL KERRISON: No, I had heard references to them.

KENZIE QC (FOR CROWN SOLICITORS AND TAFE). So for all you know, when Ms McGregor referred to letters being sent out to students, she may have been referring to letters being sent out to students who were the beneficiaries of Abstudy or Austudy?
VAL KERRISON: No, Abstudy and Austudy weren't mentioned at all. It was simply these students hadn't attended and therefore they should receive a letter to terminate them and the reason for that was that TAFE's computer system at that time - I won't go into it, I don't know for sure about the computer system.

KENZIE QC (FOR CROWN SOLICITORS AND TAFE). Okay. You see, all I am suggesting to you, Ms Kerrison is that for all you know, the letters that Ms McGregor was referring to may have been about Abstudy and Austudy?
VAL KERRISON: No, Abstudy and Austudy weren't mentioned. Sending out letters to terminate their continuance, not course, was what was mentioned.

KENZIE QC (FOR CROWN SOLICITORS AND TAFE). So you suggest, do you, that Ms McGregor said well, we can terminate them in the course because they are absent and we send out letters to that effect?
VAL KERRISON: She said to me, "we do that all the time down below".

KENZIE QC (FOR CROWN SOLICITORS AND TAFE). We do what all the time down below?
VAL KERRISON: Send out a letter terminating the students out of the course, by letter from the college.

KENZIE QC (FOR CROWN SOLICITORS AND TAFE). And tell us this, when Ms McGregor said "we do that all the time" do you suggest that Ms McGregor had something to do with the sending out of those letters?
VAL KERRISON: I got the impression she had knowledge of it.

KENZIE QC (FOR CROWN SOLICITORS AND TAFE). You don't suggest that it was any part of Ms McGregor's function to send out any letters to students, do you?
VAL KERRISON: I don't know what Aboriginal courses she was overseeing.

KENZIE QC (FOR CROWN SOLICITORS AND TAFE). You are not in any position to say?
VAL KERRISON: Well, she had been college principal for six months. That was in February, so she had been college principal for eight months. During that time the Djigay Centre would have been operating. Other than that, I don't know. She certainly didn't look surprised by it.