WHAT REally HAPPENED to Patrick Filmer-Sankey?
Patrick Filmer-Sankey was my supervisor. He got sacked for allegedly allowing me to bully and harass my staff. In reality, he got sacked for standing up for my civil rights, i.e., for not discriminating against my Asperger's Syndrome. There has been much public outcry in support of him. I take this chance here to give my point of view, because I believe that the Ratepayers have a right to know who their Council wilfully destroyed.
Patrick as a Supervisor
Prior to applying for my position as Curator at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, I had known Patrick for more than a decade -- the museum community around Australia is a very small one. Numerous of my friends had worked for Patrick in the past, and spoke of him with admiration. People described him as inspiring, decent, and fair. Several said they would like to work for him again, and would gladly relocate to do so. So when the Curator position came up, I jumped at the chance to work for him.
My friends were right. Let me give you some examples:
Numerous instances arose with insubordination of my staff at the QVMAG. Every single time, without fail, Patrick's approach was to try to bring about resolution through inclusion and understanding, rather than through mandate. No matter how ridiculous my staff's gripes (e.g., unrinsed coffee cups, my fingernails), Patrick tried to mediate us to a win-win resolution. He repeatedly encouraged my staff to put their complaints in writing so that they could be properly investigated, and he even offered to help. He attended our team meetings at my staff's requests. He dropped everything else everytime any of them (or sometimes all of them) showed up at his office door with yet another whinge. Even when I was exhausted by it all, he patiently encouraged me to stick with it, slowly slowly, gently gently.
The irony of Patrick getting sacked for allegedly allowing me to bully my staff, is that what he actually allowed was for them to bully both of us through their endless gripes, and to fully disrespect his position as Director by distracting from what he should have spent his time and expertise doing. In essence, they took a mile for each inch he gave. I am certain that Patrick did this out of truly wanting to restore harmony in the department, and truly believing, as did I, that sacking them outright would have been harsh, but slowly slowly, gently gently bringing them into line with the new Museum priorities would be the best outcome all around.
When Tammy Gordon wanted to resign in February 2009 and again in August 2009, Patrick patiently and supportively encouraged her to give it another chance. When Judy Rainbird threatened to resign in May 2009, Patrick patiently and supportively talked her out of it. When Craig Reid took many months of unaccounted time off throughout 2009, Patrick was more concerned for Craig's emotional well-being than for forcing Craig to make up the missed paperwork. When Annette Vains submitted a remuneration increase request that was technically unacceptable, Patrick worked with her to bring it to acceptability so that we could give her the raise she had earned. And when Annette wanted to retire but still keep working, Patrick helped her arrange her casual status to best fit her needs. Shortly after all four of my staff benefitted from Patrick's kindnesses and fairness, they turned on him through me.
In the end, Patrick got the sack for defending my staff's right to gripe, and for defending my rights from being bullied by my staff. He stood up for what was right. I ask you, dear reader, how many supervisors have you known who would stand up for their staff, to the point of taking a bullet for them? Patrick is a tremendously decent person, and a damn fine supervisor, and I proudly join the list of his admirers.
Patrick as a Museum Director
Patrick had a strong reputation before coming to the QVMAG, as a person who came into ailing and flailing institutions and rebuilt them to their former glory (or in some cases, dreamed glory). When he came to the QVMAG, Royal Park was on the chopping block, and 30% of staff's jobs were on the chopping block. It was an institution in the red, both financially and in its morale.
In four short years, Patrick saved and refurbished Royal Park to its 19th-century splendour, trimmed staff positions that were external to core business, and revitalised the institution and its exhibitions. He obtained $9 Mil in state and other funding. He brought in new talent with vision and excitement. All of these positive changes saved the institution, but at great personal price - the old staff balked at the changes, and fiercely resisted the Director who imposed them.
Sadly, because of what has happened at the QVMAG, it seems likely that the Museum industry in Australia will lose Patrick Filmer-Sankey. This is one of those moments where I am truly at a loss for words to explain how ghastly this is.
Patrick as a person
Here's the parts that you would never know, because Patrick is not the type of person who would ever tell you. But I will.
Patrick loves animals. He lives on a sheep farm, and each year, he rescues the lambs that would otherwise be culled due to illnesses, injuries, or just being orphans. During lambing season, he gets out of bed at odd hours and rushes home after work, to bottle-feed his "lammies".
Throughout 2010, while in the midst of the sacking scandal, he attempted to nurse a wombat back to health from a severe case of mange. In early 2011, when the wombat sadly died of its infections, Patrick buried it in its burrow.
Patrick is also a loving and devoted father to his 19 year old daughter, who is the light of his life.