Katherine is the hardest region in the NT to recruit staff for.
Government agencies are privately saying they are finding it impossible to fill many jobs.
Territory Familes is now paying a $15,000 bonus as well as many other benefits for people willing to work in Katherine.
Publicly, they are promising higher salaries, cash bonuses, subsidised or cheap accommodation, relocation expenses, travel costs and even accelerated advancement to entice people to the Top End town.
Private businesses say the same, particularly with professional and semi-professional positions.
While the NT has long found it difficult to lure people from other states to long-term vacancies, Katherine is at the top of the list.
Recruiting and then retaining teachers in Katherine is a constant headache for local schools.
Education Minister Eva Lawler said some of the extra $1 million paid to Katherine schools in the current budget could be used on recruitment.
Teachers already receive generous pay and allowances, travel costs and some, heavily subsidised accommodation.
Territory Families is under the most intense pressure to recruit staff in Katherine.
The NT Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children last year highlighted the critical shortage of qualified staff in Katherine tasked to child protection cases.
“Territory Families identified difficulties in attracting and retaining people well qualified to undertake the work in the Katherine office,” the Commission report states.
“It is not unusual for senior practitioners in the Katherine Investigation and Assessment Team to carry a caseload of more than 100 child protection investigations.
“This indicates that children in Katherine are currently at risk and that more staff are needed to prevent further increases in the number of overdue investigation.”
In response, Territory Families sent staff from other offices to Katherine to urgently reduce caseload levels but those people are long gone.
Child protection ratios are now about 70 to 1, still by far the worst in the NT and possibly Australia.
Territory Families is trying to fill seven positions in Katherine – six Child Protection Practitioners and one Practice Leader.
It is not just the remote location, but the difficulty of the work which potential recruits find daunting.
The child workers attract salaries of $67,210-$95,996, the practice leader is being offered $98,959-$110,829.
Successful applicants are being offered relocation assistance and other benefits but also an annual $15,000 “market allowance”.
“This is the most generous allowance available in the NT,” a government spokeswoman said.
Alice Springs attracts a $10,000 allowance and Darwin $5000.
“The Child Practitioner Market Allowance is in place to acknowledge the sensitive and important work that the child practitioners do as well as mitigate some of the costs of living in a regional location.”
Teachers receive higher salaries and big subsidies accommodation to work in Katherine.
Territory Families is known to be considering the same accommodation benefits used successfully by the Education Department.
“Our Organisational Services area is currently further exploring motivating incentives for staff based in Katherine inclusive of potential accommodation arrangements,” the spokeswoman said.
Staff are offered six weeks paid annual leave and three weeks paid personal leave as another lure.
They are given plane fares to capital cities, family travel help.
“In return for your skills and energy, you will be offered support to grow and develop your career, excellent progression opportunities, the chance to make an immediate impact in the communities you service, and you will be rewarded with some of the best salary and conditions in the country,” their job ads read.
Applicants for the Katherine child protection jobs need a degree in social work “or equivalent” or diploma of Child, Youth and Family Intervention and Vocational Graduate Certificate in Community Services Practice (Statutory Child protection).
University degrees can take 3-4 years, the diploma is being offered through online study for an 18 month full-time course.