Access Canberra reopening plagued by queues, violent incidents and possible staffing issues

Lottie Twyford 11 November 2021 90
Tuggeranong service centre

A violent incident where staff were subjected to threats last week meant Tuggeranong Service Centre had to close for two days. Photo: ACT Government.

As was seen after last year’s post-lockdown reopening, Access Canberra Service Centres across town have been overwhelmed by a large number of customers coming in to sort out what they couldn’t during lockdown – establishing registration for their new cars and getting an ACT licence are among some of the top issues.

However, after this year’s reopening, there are suggestions employees have been told not to discuss staffing issues openly, while the Tuggeranong Service Centre was closed for two days after staff members were subjected to violence on multiple days last week.

A spokesperson for the ACT Government said the closure of the centre on Friday, 5 November and Monday, 8 November was to allow time for follow-up support of the team at the Centre who were ” subject to unacceptable occupational violence, and repeated threats of personal violence on Wednesday and Thursday last week”.

A spokesperson for ACT Policing said no charges have been laid in relation to a man attending the Service Centre.

However, he was arrested on Wednesday because he was already subject to an outstanding arrest warrant. The man subsequently returned to the Centre on Thursday and was again removed by police.

During the closure, and after consultation with the team, a review of safety arrangements was undertaken at the Centre.

“Every worker should feel safe and respected at work and it is incredibly disappointing that due to the actions of a member of our community, this was not the case for the team,” the spokesperson said.

“Access Canberra apologises for the inconvenience the closure may have caused for those who were planning to visit that centre; however, the safety of the teams and our customers at Access Canberra is a priority”.

READ ALSO: The Vital Signs for Canberra are strong, but report says not everyone in our community is OK

During the closure, security guards remained at the centre to redirect community members who arrived to find their nearest alternative Service Centre.

“Access Canberra would like to remind our community that all our frontline workers must be treated with respect for undertaking the important work they do to support our community. Any disrespectful, aggressive or violent behaviour is not acceptable and may be referred to ACT Policing when required,” the spokesperson added.

They said the majority of Canberrans had been patient and understanding during the busy time.

Tuggeranong Service Centre reopened yesterday at 9 am (9 November). Service centres in Woden, Belconnen and Gungahlin also reopened, while the smallest centre, in Dickson, is only currently completing Land Titles transactions until February next year.

Asked if this was due to reports of staffing pressures, which staff have been allegedly told not to talk about, the spokesperson said, “this temporary service change was made to support COVID safety requirements at the site and workforce priorities across the agency”.

“Due to high service demand and associated service delays, the community is also reminded that most transactions can be completed online or by phoning Access Canberra on 13 22 81,” the spokesperson said.

READ ALSO: Spike in racist incidents prompts call for easier reporting procedures

Asked specifically about the reasons behind the long queues being experienced at each centre, the spokesperson was able to provide several reasons.

Primarily, service centres being closed meant there was a backlog of services. Also, many of the transactions which could not be completed online during lockdown are “complex in nature or require additional support, which means the time of transactions is longer”.

The spokesperson said that queues outdoors are also longer than usual because fewer people are allowed in the Service Centres due to capacity limits.

“Physical distancing to support staff and customer safety also means that not all counters can open and the number of people who can wait inside a centre is reduced to ensure compliance with current Public Health Directions and density limits,” they noted.

Anyone with non-urgent transactions to complete is asked to delay their visit to a centre at this time. None of the centres are accepting cash payments.

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90 Responses to Access Canberra reopening plagued by queues, violent incidents and possible staffing issues
Jo Gray Jo Gray 8:47 am 13 Nov 21

I went yesterday and all the staff at Woden were amazing!

Michael Ilsley Michael Ilsley 11:51 pm 11 Nov 21

Badly run and operated, dont blame frustrated punters.

    Rara Boyd Rara Boyd 8:28 am 13 Nov 21

    Michael Ilsley frustration doesn’t give anyone a right to assault or abuse staff.

Scruffy Chloe Scruffy Chloe 8:46 pm 10 Nov 21

Emmy Lloyd this may explain it

    Emmy Lloyd Emmy Lloyd 9:10 pm 10 Nov 21

    Scruffy Chloe I do get that the poor uggers but still.........

Kel Senior Kel Senior 8:35 pm 10 Nov 21

Can they open on Saturdays until Xmas or something to help? The hours are very limiting!

Angie Carey Angie Carey 8:32 pm 10 Nov 21

No excuse for aggression. However the provision of seats and a numbering system that can be seen from outside the office would be helpful.

Karyn Cunneen Karyn Cunneen 7:03 pm 10 Nov 21

Yes, the queues are long and the wait feels longer. But when you consider they have 3 months of backlog work, have lost staff during lockdown, and are now told to operate with OTT COVID precautions (close to 1 person per 20sqm), it wont help to abuse the person on the counter.

Let's keep it kind Canberra!


Heather Gordon Heather Gordon 5:10 pm 10 Nov 21

I went to the Tuggeranong one at 08.30 am only to be told it was closed so toddled off to the Woden one. I was there for a disabled parking card. The staff were wonderful, although I was waiting outside I was offered a seat inside and didn’t jump the queue. Everyone I saw was very polite and patient even though it was a long wait. A salute to all the staff.

Heather Rattenbury Heather Rattenbury 4:39 pm 10 Nov 21

I don’t understand why they where closed during lock down.. they could have had covid safe procedures.. what time have been over 2 hrs at some shop fronts.. but it’s not the poor staffs fault, getting violent with them is not helping

Stan Vizovitis Stan Vizovitis 2:40 pm 10 Nov 21

You can't do everything on the Internet and not everyone is tech savy and half the time the systems don't work or through you out

Linda Gemmell Linda Gemmell 2:14 pm 10 Nov 21

Dragan Danilovic me renewing my licence yesterday

jwinston jwinston 2:08 pm 10 Nov 21

Why can’t these places stay open for longer hours (split shifts for the employees) so that people who work can get what they need up til, say, 9pm.

Chris Emery Chris Emery 1:39 pm 10 Nov 21

What a good time to close the shopfront in Braddon.

Al Frahri Al Frahri 12:50 pm 10 Nov 21

Access Canberra shopfronts are frustrating places for sure. Having a concierge check your paperwork before sitting down to wait is a great thing though. Its a shame that some adults act like spoiled children and throw tantrums when they feel inconvenienced, the rest of us just wait patiently till we can get the hell outta there.

Colin Gillie Colin Gillie 12:30 pm 10 Nov 21

ACT Government why have the opening hours been decreased? Your effectively making more people come into contact with each other. Wouldn’t it make more sense to increase hours so there’s less people there at any given time of day?

Jonny Williams Jonny Williams 11:01 am 10 Nov 21


Marija Trninić Marija Trninić 10:36 am 10 Nov 21

ACT Government improve Access Canberra services!!

Mistake and mess you created in my case I am trying to resolve for 3 months!!

It is just not acceptable as it is lately!!

Fiona Lester Fiona Lester 10:29 am 10 Nov 21

Absolutely no excuse for violence, ever.

The staff at Tuggeranong have been rude and unhelpful on the occasions we’ve been in there.. especially to my 16yo during lockdown who was forced to try to navigate the system without parental help due to Covid rules. It’s not hard to be polite to customers and treat them with respect too.

Julie Williams Julie Williams 10:08 am 10 Nov 21

Why must people be violent ffs! Life is too short to be punchin on in an access canberra outlet. Wtf is wrong with people?? I swear we are devolving into Neanderthals

    Rod Riguez Rod Riguez 11:38 am 10 Nov 21

    Julie Williams welcome to the age of the self-entitled nobody.

Amanda Devaus Amanda Devaus 9:58 am 10 Nov 21

There is no excuse for that behaviour.

Lisa Nichols Lisa Nichols 9:52 am 10 Nov 21

Everyone coming out their lockdown caves and forgotten their manners. Disguisting behaviour.

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