Centrelink has 'zero tolerance' for customer aggression following Orange customer's banishment from office

BANNED: A Centrelink client has been banned after they were aggressive towards staff in Orange. Photo: PHIL BLATCH
BANNED: A Centrelink client has been banned after they were aggressive towards staff in Orange. Photo: PHIL BLATCH

After a customer lashed out at Orange Centrelink staff earlier this month, a spokesperson for the department says ensuring staff and customer safety is paramount.

Department of Human Services spokesman general manager Hank Jongen said the government department had “zero tolerance” for customer aggression.

“We have a range of preventative, real-time and post-incident support,” Mr Jongen said.

He said the female customer was told to leave Centrelink in Orange after behaving aggressively on Tuesday, January 3. She has since been banned from entering the building.

“Staff dealt with the situation appropriately by activating the duress alarm and contacting the local police,” Mr Jongen said.

“The service centre was closed briefly for 10 minutes to ensure the safety of staff and other customers in the building. As this is now a matter for police, we are unable to further comment on the details. We deal with almost all 23 million Australians (around 99 per cent of the population), and each day our staff have hundreds of thousands of contacts with customers.”

Mr Jongen said Centrelink considered one instance of customer aggression as “one too many”.

“While the vast majority of these interactions are cooperative, friendly and respectful, customer aggression incidents do happen,” he said.

“It’s a reality of dealing with so many people, especially with many experiencing difficult circumstances in their lives. 

“We take all cases extremely seriously, including restricting the way offenders can access services.

“The causes of customer aggression are complex, but this is a wider issue in society and not exclusive to staff working for the department.”

Mr Jongen said each Centrelink office had monitored alarms, and when required, CCTV and security guards.

”We have a comprehensive program to prevent and equip staff to manage customer aggression. This includes the review of incident management, staff debriefing, staff training, service centre security measures, and security assessments.”