Ruth Matchett

Interviewed by
Danielle Miller
Mar 10 2011
Ruth Matchett
Time Summary Keywords
00:00:06 Ruth Matchett describes her education at St Aidan's Anglican Girls School at Corinda and gaining an honours degree in Social Work from UQ. Upon graduation she took up a position as social worker with the Ipswich Community Health Service. These community health services were an initiative of the Whitlam Government set up as multi-disciplinary teams. Federally funded but state run, the community centres were different in Queensland as they did not contain primary health care. Community Health Services, social work, University of Queensland, Whitlam Government 1972-75
00:02:31 Ruth Matchett describes working in the social policy research unit in the Department of Welfare Services and Sport in a sub-department of Children's Services. She was involved in policy from corrections to child and family welfare and women's issues. She was later involved in funding women's refuges in Queensland and moved from there to funding community organisations. community organisations, social policy, Welfare Services, women's refuges
00:04:58 Ruth Matchett describes how she returned to social work at the Children's Court, which sparked her interest in juvenile justice. Main achievements were practical changes as the government was not interested in legislative change in this era. She discusses her involvement in the Domestic Violence Taskforce and how this led to a higher public profile and involvement in the development of social policy. In 1989 she was taken 'off-line' to develop the Women's Policy Unit when Beryce Nelson (1989) was the Minister. Beryce Nelson, Beyond these walls (1988), Children's Court, juvenile justice, Queensland Domestic Violence Taskforce, women, Women's Policy Unit
00:08:54 Ruth Matchett outlines the role of Minister Yvonne Chapman (1986-87) in establishing the Domestic Violence Taskforce, followed up by Minister Peter McKechnie (1987-89). The taskforce recommendations were adopted by the coalition government under Russell Cooper as premier. She describes the challenge of preparing the recommendations so that they would be accepted by the government. Discusses how the removal of firearms from perpetrators of domestic violence was dropped from the recommendations so as not to create public debate on gun laws and so jeopardise all the other recommendations. She describes this as the boldest piece of legislation in the latter years of the coalition government. Cooper Government 1989, domestic violence, gun laws, Peter McKechnie, Queensland Domestic Violence Taskforce, Yvonne Chapman
00:12:47 Ruth Matchett describes how her experience with Aboriginal and Islander affairs came from contact with the Indigenous community through the children's court and domestic violence. She discusses the approach made to her to act in the position of Director General under the Goss Government leading to her becoming the first woman director general in Queensland. Goss Government 1989-96, Indigenous Affairs
00:15:16 Ruth Matchett discusses acceptance of her as Director General, as the department had had a number of female ministers and it had been branded as a women's area. She discusses instances of sexual discrimation in her career, such as when she was regional director of the Department of Children's Services in Rockhampton, and she had not been entitled to the housing provided for that position, which instead went to her assistant – a married man with children, which effectively put his salary package higher than hers. She discusses lack of merit based promotion in the public service and states that the major change with Goss Government was that the PSMC introduced merit based selection procedures. This allowed talent from outside the public sector to apply. merit based promotion, Public Sector Management Commission, sexual discrimination
00:23:13 Ruth Matchett discusses significant changes to the cabinet processes. Previously there had been no pre-circulation of cabinet submissions to government agencies or even an agenda for cabinet meetings. Cabinet processes became more systematic and thorough and implications of policies were discussed and considered. The Cabinet Secretariat was established with Stewart Tate as the first Cabinet Secretary. The Office of Cabinet, established in 1992, had a greater role in developing policy. Cabinet, policy development
00:29:11 Ruth Matchett discusses land rights policy developments, and states that the legislation was compromised to appease pastoralists and miners. Despite good outcomes for people in the Torres Strait and the Cape especially the Wik people who also benefited from the Mabo decision (native title not related to land rights legislation), the concept of enabling Aboriginal people to claim and then be granted land from Aboriginal reserves and the Deed of Grant in Trust areas (DOGIT) resulted in only modest amounts of land eventually granted. DOGIT, Indigenous issues, land rights, Quinkan, Torres Strait Islanders
00:33:35 Ruth Matchett comments on the qualities of Anne Warner as Minister for Family Services (1989-95) and the priorities of the department including child protection legislation, moving away from the paternalistic approach in Aboriginal and Islander Affairs, new legislation in the disability area, child care, and ageing including the introduction of the Seniors Card. In the first 1-2 years there were 10 major pieces of legislation. ageing, Anne Warner, child care, child protection legislation, disability, Indigenous Affairs, Seniors Card
00:37:40 Ruth Matchett comments that programs in Queensland could not be copied from interstate models, and states that the challenge in a human services agency was to implement policies that worked just as well throughout the state. She comments on the challenge of significant Queensland population increases in this period resulting in the lack of adequate community infrastructure.
00:41:26 Ruth Matchett comments that the Department of Family Services and Aboriginal and Islander Affairs was one of the larger ones (about 4000 staff) with several operations run 24 hours a day including, juvenile corrections facilities and services for people with intellectual disabilities. She discusses working with church and not-for-profit organisations to deliver services. She describes the long tradition of working with government and non-government agencies, and the value of community organisations bringing their own values and processes to the system. She discusses the changes in involving Indigenous people in decision making. The department was a highly unionised workforce. Aboriginal and Islander Affairs, community organisations, Family Services, non-government agencies
00:48:03 Ruth Matchett comments on the decision to move juvenile corrections to Department of Corrective Services in 1994. Discusses implications of establishment of COAG in 1992 and the role of the Commonwealth in the state department. COAG, Corrective Services, juvenile justice
00:51:09 Ruth Matchett discusses the importance of her department area within cabinet, and states that the role of economic development is to enhance the quality of life of the state's citizens with a network of effective social services. She describes the difficulties in securing adequate resourcing. She states that a major change was that the Labor government took up Commonwealth funds unlike the previous coalition government. Cabinet
00:55:27 Ruth Matchett gives her opinion of matters relating to the Heiner Inquiry (former magistrate Noel Heiner) into child sexual abuse at the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre in 1989, that had been set up by the National Party Government under Russell Cooper, and subsequently closed down under the Goss Government with the shredding of material collected in 1990. child sexual abuse, Heiner Enquiry, John Oxley Youth Detention Centre
00:59:29 Ruth Matchett discusses changes made in 1990 to give Indigenous Councils more control, but the subsequent lack of resources. She describes her experience of going to Lockhardt River and discovering the unacceptable situation of lack of affordable quality food. She discusses the amount of money required to remedy problems. She gives her opinion on the Northern Territory Intervention. She discusses solutions to the Stolen Wages issue. DOGIT, Indigenous Affairs, Northern Territory Intervention, stolen wages
01:09:10 Ruth Matchett outlines her visit in 1992 to Canada with Minister Anne Warner (1989-95) and Norma Jones to examine indigenous issues, and her experiences of Inuits and Native Americans and the implications for Indigenous policy in Australia. Anne Warner, Canada, Indigenous Affairs
01:16:50 Ruth Matchett describes how she resigned from the public service in 1995, began a small social policy consultancy and then moved into the university sector and worked at QUT for 10 years. Queensland University of Technology
01:18:25 Ruth Matchett reflects on the Goss Government, and its failure to communicate its direction effectively, compounded by not allowing senior public servants to talk directly with the media. She discusses the role of ministerial advisers. Goss Government 1989-96, ministerial advisers
01:23:43 Ruth Matchett outlines her key achievements including work at the children's court and in domestic violence, and the wide range of unprecedented legislative change while she was Director General of the department.
01:26:43 Interview ends.