Public servants at ACT Corrective Services have told of the risk of "suicide and self-harm" as a result of years of alleged systematic and widespread workplace bullying in a key department of the government agency.
Community Corrections boss Janet-Lee Hibberd has been stood aside while The Chief Minister's Professional Standards Unit investigate allegations going back at least two years that the division, which has about 90 employees, is a toxic workplace run by fear and riven by high levels of absenteeism, workers' compensation claims, staff turnover and unbearable workloads.
Matters came to a head in late November when a meeting between workers and senior figures in ACT Corrections, attended by more than 10 per cent of Community Corrections staff, heard allegations that complaints about management in the unit had been suppressed for years in an atmosphere of fear of reprisal and punitive measures against anyone speaking out.
It was also alleged that senior figures in Corrections ACT Human Resources received multiple notifications about the conduct of management at Community Corrections from as early as 2014 but did nothing.
Minutes of the November meeting, seen by Fairfax, state that "several staff present disclosed their own risk of self harm as a result of bullying in the workplace."
No findings have been made against Ms Hibberd and a spokesman for the Justice and Community Safety Directorate said the investigation is "ongoing."
The General Manager has been moved to work in another area of the ACT Government while the investigation progresses.
One employee told the November meeting that "he was aware of [a] high risk of suicide and self-harm among current and former staff at ACT Corrections, and the intention was to make a public disclosure to the relevant officer, advising of long-standing bullying, ongoing and imminent risk of harm.
"He disclosed feeling daunted to appear in this meeting today and fears reprisals."
A source close to the investigation told Fairfax that workers past and present at Community Corrections had suffered "astounding trauma".
"The trauma that has been caused to so many people is astounding," the source said.
"There are people with ongoing mental health problems, still seeing psychologists, they were so fearful for their jobs their livelihoods, their mortgages and children's future."
Community Correction manages offenders on probation and parole, offender services, the prisoner employment unit and other corrections activities.
One former staff member told the November meeting they believed the Canberra community was being put "at risk of harm by the ongoing failure to monitor the workload of current staff and keep it at negotiated manageable levels."
A spokesman for the Justice and Community Safety Directorate said staff at Community Corrections had been offered support as the investigation continued.
"A workplace investigation involving Community Corrections is currently ongoing," the spokesman said.
"Staff were briefed last week to discuss the process for this investigation and informed of the support that is available to them while the investigation is ongoing.
"The investigation is being managed by the Professional Standards Unit in the Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate with independent external consultants and is being undertaken in accordance with the Public Sector Management Act.
"It will take some time for the investigation to address the matters that have arisen from this process.
But the directorate declined to answer detailed questions put by Fairfax.
"It would be inappropriate to comment on specific matters relating to the investigation while it is ongoing," the spokesman said.