Board Backs Asylum Seeker Centre CEO
11 March 2016 at 11:19 am
The board of Australia’s largest asylum seeker Not for Profit is standing by its CEO and founder Kon Karapanagiotidis after media reports of mismanagement and bullying.
The self-funded Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, described as the largest provider of legal, health and employment services to people seeking asylum in Australia, has more than 60 staff and 1,000 volunteers helping around 3,000 people annually.
A Fairfax Media report claimed six out of seven senior managers of the ASRC quit last year, including one who lodged a successful Workcover claim for stress and anxiety caused by her employment.
Karapanagiotidis is widely considered one of Australia’s top human rights advocates and has been outspoken in the recent “Let Them Stay” asylum seeker campaign.
ASRC chair and Telstra executive Matthew Tutty said in a statement that the board had carried out its own investigation in which they “found no basis to the claims made against our CEO” and said they would continue to stand by their chief executive.
The ASRC board has confirmed to Pro Bono Australia News that it received a letter of complaint from four staff members which it investigated but said, contrary to the media report, there was “no internal report”.
“Claims in and of themselves do not give rise to them being true,” Tutty said in the statement.
“In particular, we reject suggestions of an unsafe work environment, or the exposure of our clients to risk through negligence.
“Our focus and priority remains to uphold the human rights of people seeking asylum, and the board continues to stand behind the CEO in pursuit of this purpose.
“Kon is a vibrant, nationally celebrated human rights leader and the ASRC is a vibrant and innovative environment where our people work together every day in support of over 3,000 people seeking asylum.”
The ASRC’s financial statements lodged with the charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, showed an annual income of more than $6 million. The ASRC is largely funded by big philanthropic donations, grants, regular donors and income from a social enterprise.
Prominent human rights lawyer Julian Burnside, an ASRC patron, also back the ASRC CEO confirming to Pro Bono Australia News that he had never heard about internal problems at the centre.
“I’ve never seen Kon behave in a way that I would fault,” Burnside said.
“I’m not the least bit surprised that it’s a high-stress environment. By its nature they’re doing work that is very stressful. It’s very hard work, and I think ASRC do an extremely good job.”
He said the ASRC is too important for this sort of distraction.