Ben and Rebecca Legge are a rare breed of foster carer. They're young with no children of their own. Mr Legge is a public servant well-versed in managing people with trauma, and Mrs Legge is a primary school teacher.
Until recently, they were caring for children placed with them by Canberra's only foster care agency, Barnardos.
Mr and Mrs Legge said their good relationship with Barnardos deteriorated when they began to ask for greater support and better healthcare for the children in their care.
The family did not feel the children were getting what they needed to grow into healthy adults.
The problems resulted in the termination of the placement by the Legges, they said, after they felt they were being unfairly treated and it was affecting the welfare of the children.
"We ran out of options," Mr Legge said.
Barnardos is the lead placement agency in the ACT. In NSW a variety of agencies provide the service, meaning if a foster family is unhappy with who they're dealing with, they can change to a different agency.
Barnardos denies claims of bullying.
The Legges will take a stop-bullying action to the Fair Work Commission to try to have the situation resolved, but they're only able to do so after an extraordinary decision by the commission found Mr Legge, as the applicant, was a voluntary worker.
Prior to this, Mr and Mrs Legge went through the Barnardos internal complaints management system. They were not satisfied with the outcome. Mr Legge also wrote to the ACT Human Rights Commission.
A Barnardos spokeswoman said carers could use internal and external mechanisms to raise concerns.
"If they are not satisfied with the organisation's response, they can raise their complaint with an external oversight agency, which includes the Human Rights Commission and the Public Advocate of the ACT," the spokeswoman said.
ACT Public Advocate Jodie Griffiths-Cook, who falls under the banner of the Human Rights Commission, said the types of inquiries her office had received from carers had been those wishing to understand the system better, and those seeking assistance to obtain information.
She said significant concerns could be brought to her and they would be looked into directly.
While the Fair Work Commission decision emphasised the voluntary worker definition was specific to Mr Legge, it could have flow-on effects for all carers in the ACT.
A Barnardos spokeswoman said the ruling was clear in that the decision only related to the applicant and not to foster carers more widely.
"Commissioner Hampton did not make any determination that the applicant had any workers rights other than this, he stated clearly that this determination is not to be applied more generally either within the Fair Work Commission and is not binding on other jurisdictions," the spokeswoman said.
"It is important to understand that this decision only allows an applicant to lodge a stop-bullying order application. This was not a decision on whether bullying had or hadn't occurred in this instance."
The ACT Foster Carers Association has for years been calling for all foster carers to be classed as workers and therefore afforded workers' rights.
Vice-president and long-time foster carer Judy Gleeson said the current system in place to address carer concerns was inadequate.
The association has been calling for work health and safety rights since at least 2013. Since that time, a carer wellbeing subcommittee was formed within Barnardos to help address the issues, but Ms Gleeson said it was not working as it should.
A Community Services Directorate and Minister for Children and Young People Rachel Stephen-Smith said they would monitor the Legges' case and consider any implications that may arise as it proceeded.