As a barrister, procedural fairness, independence and the principles of legal rights and natural justice are firmly fixed in the work of Dr Elizabeth Gass.

It is this knowledge and understanding Dr Gass will bring to the role of Independent External Reviewer within the College.

“There are always, at least, two sides to any story,” Dr Gass says.

“I think it is really important that people can feel confident, ultimately, that if they go through a review or complaints process that it will be done properly and it will be fair to them and to the person or issue they are complaining about.”

Establishing the role

ACEM established the role of the Independent External Reviewer in 2018 as part of its commitment to the implementation of the Expert Advisory Group Action Plan. The key role of the Reviewer is to provide independent oversight of College complaints and whistleblower handling processes, as well as decision review processes under the applicable College policies and procedures, and seeks to ensure concerns can be raised and issues addressed fairly, without fear of reprisal or retribution.

The role does not, however, replace usual College processes whereby notification of complaints, including complaints relating to discrimination, bullying or harassment, are ordinarily made in writing to the Chief Executive Officer and handled through that office.

The Independent External Reviewer Policy which outlines, among other things, the Reviewer’s role, powers and limitations, can be found on the ACEM website. For example, the Reviewer shall provide independent oversight of the operation of the College’s decision review processes. However, the Reviewer shall not participate in the reconsideration, review or appeal of any College decision; rather, oversee the conduct of these processes and provide annual reports to the ACEM Board for its information and consideration, including the making of recommendations to the ACEM Board if applicable.

Getting started

Dr Gass says she will begin her work by undertaking an audit of last year’s complaint and decision review handling matters “to confirm the number, types and outcomes of these matters for 2018”.

“Once I’ve done that, I anticipate I will take a random sample of the various categories and then go through and check whether the prescribed procedures and policies were followed in each case,” Dr Gass says.

The results of this audit will be reported to the ACEM Board.

Balanced decisions

Dr Gass will work closely, yet independently, with the College Chief Executive Officer and staff working within the Office of the CEO to make balanced decisions that are based on policies and processes that ensure procedural fairness and natural justice are afforded  to all who seek to utilise College complaint handling and decision review processes.

“The ACEM Board and the CEO are serious about making sure the role is independent,” Dr Gass says.

“I will call it as I see it based on the evidence.

“I am an analytical person, I would say I am focussed on detail, I like being really well prepared.

“I will carry out my responsibilities to the absolute best of my ability because I am aware that some of the decisions that people can have made against them can have significant personal consequences – financial consequences, career consequences.”

A career in health and law

Originally a physiotherapist, Dr Gass worked in hospitals and private practice before moving into academia, eventually being appointed Professor of Physiotherapy at Bond University. She then turned her hand to law, working as a Barrister for the past decade.

“I’ve always had an empathy with people,” Dr Gass says.

“I am strongly supportive of people’s rights and I have a great passion for people who are disadvantaged, people who are vulnerable.

“I like to believe society can make things better, and I think I have and will continue to contribute to this.”

Contact the Independent External Reviewer

Dr Gass can be contacted via email, [email protected]

For further information on the role of the Independent External Reviewer, please email [email protected] or visit the ACEM website

Download the Independent External Reviewer Policy