Centrelink general manager Hank Jongen has vowed to personally follow up on any cases of homophobia or incompetence in staff handling of gay and lesbian cases.

Responding to a story published in Sydney Star Observer on July 22, Jongen offered to intervene in certain cases.

I heard about complaints [of homophobia] in the early stages of the campaign and I’d be really interested hearing from people if they’ve had more recent experiences, because if this is still happening I’m really disappointed to hear it, he told Sydney Star Observer.

If people still have concerns, they can contact me directly. I’d urge people who have had these experiences to contact me because I will investigate them. If there are any examples of underlying homophobia then that is something that would be of great concern to us, he said.

Jongen gave assurances to people concerned about outing themselves to a government agency.

People have no need to fear outing themseves with Centrelink. Core to all of our work -” not just in relation to these changes -” is the protection of people’s privacy and the confidentiality of information, he said.

He said legislation prohibits the use of information for any purpose other than Centrelink’s stated objectives.

We are particularly alert to the fact that people in small communities may have some concerns. We’re also attuned to the fact that particularly older gays and lesbians -” people in their 70s and 80s -” have been, because of society’s attitudes, forced to live in the closet all their lives and are now concerned about outing themselves.

Those issues have been central to the training we’ve provided our staff and people should feel no fear about breaches of their privacy and confidentiality.

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