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2.3 Staff Supervision

Last Modified: 12-Jul-2017 Review Date: 01-Jun-2019

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Legislation


​To support regular, high quality individual supervision in residential care that supports children living in residential care to have much improved life chances; protects children from abuse and neglect and supports family and individuals at risk or in crisis to manage their lives and keep themselves and their families safe. 

Managers should discuss the Sanctuary philosophy that underpins our work in residential care and identify the seven commitments of non-violence, emotional intelligence, open communication, democracy, social responsibility, social learning and growth and change. The supervision procedure should be performed in line with each of these commitments.

Practice Requirements

  • ​​​All staff must receive a minimum of one formal individual supervision session every six weeks with their line manager or supervisor. 
  • Staff new to a role or the Department must, as part of their job or position orientation, receive more frequent individual supervision. 
  • More frequent individual supervision must also be provided in circumstances where the supervisor deems it to be necessary. 
  • Supervision should be underpinned by the four functions (managerial, development, support and mediation). 
  • Supervision must include discussions on service delivery, managing workload, working in a culturally secure manner and performance management, and building emotional and psychological health and resilience. 
  • Reflective practice, appreciative inquiry and a ‘questioning approach’ must be used to explore assumptions, fears and decision making in residential care practice. 
  • Opportunity to debrief from critical incidents is critical to residential care practice. Residential homes must develop mechanisms and access to resources for dealing with stressful situations. This type of support is essential for the wellbeing of staff, attainment of optimal performance and retention of workforce. It also supports the Sanctuary commitment to growth and change takes place and vicarious trauma is minimised. 
  • Supervision processes must be used to identify excellence in residential care practice standards and to celebrate positive outcomes for the children in their care. 
  • Supervisees and supervisors must discuss and agree to a Supervision Agreement that meets the needs and requirements of both. 
  • Staff must plan for supervision. 
  • Individual supervision must be recorded in the Supervision Record template and uploaded to the Performance Management Tracking System. 
  • Assistant Directors Residential Care must regularly review their district’s Performance Management Tracking System to monitor that staff are receiving regular supervision.​​


  • Supervision overview
  • Focus areas
  • Types of supervision
  • Preparing for individual supervision
  • Consultation
  • Confidentiality
  • Dispute resolution
  • Recording supervision
  • Supervision overview

    ​Supervision is an essential part of supporting staff and promoting good service delivery. All staff must receive regular supervision, with the focus and content varying to reflect the person’s position. Consultation is not supervision and should not be recorded as such.​​


    Focus areas

    ​There are four key focus areas that supervision in case practice/service delivery needs to address: 

    1. Managerial function 

    (a) Service delivery planning 

    Progressing service delivery work through supervision should involve: 

    • maintaining an overview of the status of all residential care work the supervisee is involved with reviewing issues and canvassing strategies in current residential care work 
    • making decisions and providing direction to progress residential care work 
    • collectively practising and reflecting on aspects of residential care work, and 
    • reflection to improve upon and embed culturally secure and competent practice. 
    • The Department’s practice frameworks including the Residential Care Practice Manual provide the main reference points for reviewing practice. 

    (b) Managing workload 

    Supervision provides an opportunity for both supervisors and supervisees to review work load issues. 

    • Supervision provides the opportunity to discuss and identify strategies to support staff in managing the work, including setting task and identifying staff who can assist. 
    • Where residential care workers do not feel that supervisors are addressing their workload issues, they can raise their concerns through the Department’s dispute resolution process. 

    (c) Managing for performance including administrative requirements and accountability. 

    Supervisors should provide feedback to the supervisees about their work performance at each supervision meeting. Supervisors identify, communicate and manage performance issues, and provide opportunities for supervisees to improve their work performance in a reasonable timeframe. 

    Managing performance through supervision should involve: 

    • providing positive feedback on work performance 
    • clearly identifying and communicating areas that need improvement 
    • identifying steps that the supervisor and supervisee can take to address issues or concerns, and 
    • providing support to assist improvement in performance. 

    Where a performance concern is identified, the supervisor must address it in supervision and record it in the Supervision Record. Where performance concerns are not able to be addressed in supervision meetings, the supervisor may need to consider a performance improvement process. 

    2. Development function 

    The most effective learning occurs in day-to-day work. Supervision supports learning through encouraging critical reflection, skills practice and problem solving on real cases. Collectively these strategies drive continuous learning and improvement. 

    Learning and development should focus on a range of issues depending on the individual’s needs and include: 

    • working relationships with children and other professionals  specific aspects of therapeutic care 
    • specific individual and team learning goals 
    • 70:20:10 learning strategies, and 
    • bringing it all together through reflective practice. 

    Issues raised as part of Reaching Forward, supervision and managing for performance can be used to inform learning and development needs. 

    Supervision discussions should track the progress of specific tasks and learning and development requirements identified during the annual Reaching Forward session. 

    3. Support function: Building emotional and psychological health and resilience 

    Residential care work carries inherent stresses, including the vicarious trauma of working with vulnerable and at risk children. Anxiety may arise through the potential danger for children and working with uncertainty. Supervision is a primary means of addressing the stress and anxiety of the work. 

    Managing the work on an ongoing basis requires staff to be emotionally and psychologically healthy and resilient. Building emotional and psychological health and resilience is a core focus of supervision. Supervision needs to have a deliberate focus on managing the stress and anxiety of the work, which includes: 

    • sharing the anxiety inherent in residential care upwards through the organisation (with the supervisor during supervision, who in turn will advise director(s) as necessary) 
    • providing emotional support, and 
    • identifying and practising strategies to manage stress and anxiety, including considering referrals to the Employee Assistance Program. 

    The Corporate Health Framework, Wellness@Work, outlines the Department’s approach to build and maintain positive workplaces, and practical strategies to support staff to look after their own wellbeing. 

    4. Mediation function 

    This aspect of supervision relates closely to the managerial function, and therefore it is provided by the supervisor. Mediation can include: 

    • managing workload 
    • discussion of resources and supervisee issues, complaints and disputes between team members (before commencement of formal complaints and grievance processes), and 
    • advocacy and support on behalf of the supervisee to relevant parts of the organisation. 

    The following tools (in related resources) may be useful for supervisors: 

    • Supervision – case planning sample questions 
    • Supervision – promoting reflective practice 
    • Supervision – experience, reflection, analysis and actions sample questions. ​

    Types of supervision

    ​Group supervision 

    Group supervision involves multiple staff, with all participants actively working on aspects of practice demonstrating a commitment to social learning. 

    The supervisor should generally lead group supervision, although other staff may also facilitate this mode of supervision.

    Individual supervision

    ndividual supervision must be provided by the supervisor and includes formal scheduled supervision sessions and informal unscheduled discussions. 

    Individual formal supervision should be used to discuss: 

    • residential care work 
    • management of workload 
    • strategies to decrease the stress and anxiety of the work 
    • strategies to increase opportunities for supervisee to move from working in a culturally aware way, to a culturally secure way 
    • periodic detailed assessments for learning and development, and 
    • performance concerns. 

    All staff working with Aboriginal children must have access to ongoing supervision to increase their cultural competence. The purpose of this is to provide the best possible service to clients and community by building the worker’s knowledge, skills, insight and wisdom in working with Aboriginal children. 

    The following prompt questions may assist and guide this discussion: 

    • How might our views of culture affect our relationships with children and families? 
    • Might we sometimes advantage some children and families and disadvantage others? 
    • Do our interactions with families show that we respect and value them as they are, or ‘as we would like them to be’? 
    • Does our environment reflect a genuine knowledge about the cultures of the children in our care? 
    • How can we share stories and understanding about Australia’s First Peoples and about others who have journeyed to this place? 

    Cultural supervision

    This is an important element for Aboriginal staff. The purpose of cultural supervision is to build cultural safety for Aboriginal staff by acknowledging the impact of colonisation, managing bi-cultural relationships, and reflecting on the way in which residential care work can impact on Aboriginal staff. 

    Cultural supervision recognises that some aspects of cultural support and connection can ONLY be gained and shared between Aboriginal people, and that cultural meaning, tradition and ways of doing things will be different from mainstream norms and belief systems. Whilst this is an important aspect of supervision for Aboriginal staff it does not replace individual supervision.


    Preparing for individual supervision

    ​Supervision agreement 

    The development of a supervision agreement provides the opportunity to discuss and agree to the formal supervision requirements (responsibilities, structure and recording). The roles and responsibilities of supervisee and supervisor are clarified and reviewed as needed. If the supervisee and supervisor cannot agree on the requirements of supervision, the supervisor should discuss and develop strategies with their line manager. 

    This agreement should be regularly reviewed, at least annually as a separate task from the Reaching Forward session. Examples of circumstances where a review of the supervision agreement is warranted include: when the supervisee’s role or location changes, or when there is a change of supervisor. 

    Refer to Supervision agreement template in related resources. 

    Clarify responsibilities 

    Supervisors and supervisees must have the opportunity to clarify individual responsibilities within their supervisory relationship. This should include a discussion of prior supervisory experiences and their value. 

    The responsibilities of supervisors are, to: 

    • provide individual six weekly supervision. 
    • prepare for supervision - by considering ’what is working well’ and ‘what are we worried about’ relating to the areas of work performance and managing workload 
    • tailor the four functions of supervision to the supervisee’s experience and needs 
    • collaborate, delegate or refer, where appropriate, to other professionals to provide other forms of supervision 
    • create a safe supervisory relationship where Appreciative Inquiry is supported 
    • provide clarity to the supervisee in relation to role, responsibilities and accountabilities 
    • provide opportunities for group supervision, where appropriate 
    • discuss the cultural lens required in practice to meet the needs of Aboriginal children 
    • discuss and agree to a supervision agreement, and document the supervision process 
    • manage disagreements and disputes appropriately 
    • provide opportunities for learning and reflection, and 
    • check the Performance Management Tracking System has been updated. 

    The responsibilities of supervisees are, to: 

    • prepare for supervision by updating the case plans and their supervision record for discussion, reflecting on ’what is working well’ and ‘what are we worried about’ relating to the areas of work performance and managing workload 
    • participate in individual six weekly supervision 
    • communicate learning and development needs 
    • identify opportunities for group supervision and where other roles or professionals can be of assistance, in order to meet the four main functions of supervision 
    • provide and receive constructive, respectful and useful feedback, and 
    • update the Performance Management Tracking System (supervision section). 

    Refer to Supervision record template in related resources. 

    Structure of supervision 

    As part of developing the supervision agreement, the supervisee and supervisor should also discuss: 

    • details of time, place, frequency and location of supervision 
    • purpose of supervision 
    • individual responsibilities 
    • existing natural hierarchy of family structure/gender/age and cultural influence (this is particularly important where Aboriginal staff are involved) 
    • recording arrangements (for example, who does it, where is the record kept and who may see it) 
    • how feedback will be given, and 
    • the boundaries of confidentiality. 


    The agenda could include the following: 

    • matters the supervisee wishes to include 
    • matters arising from previous supervisory sessions 
    • reviewing residential work through discussions, reports and observations 
    • providing positive feedback and areas for development on work undertaken 
    • agreeing future action plans 
    • concerns and issues in relation to the management of work load 
    • discussion of the development of the supervisee’s skills, knowledge and experience 
    • identification of the supervisee’s development needs, and steps to address these needs 
    • cultural competence and/or the need for cultural supervision (for Aboriginal staff) 
    • time for the supervisee to reflect on their experience of, and feelings about, their work 
    • opportunity for the supervisee to give feedback on their experiences and expectations of supervision, and 
    • ongoing performance concerns and expectations. 

    Discussion should include circumstances where interruptions to supervision will be permitted, for example, unplanned priority work, illness, emergencies and/or leave arrangements. In these circumstances a revised date must be set. 

    Informal discussions and coaching 

    The supervisor will respond to urgent requests for informal discussions and coaching. These may be face-to-face discussions, via video conference or by telephone.



    ​Consultation is a day-to-day activity that is part of residential care work and supports staff learning and emotional wellbeing. However, it is not supervision, and the occurrence of frequent consultation should not be cited as having constituted supervision. 

    Informal and formal advice sought from the supervisor on an ad hoc basis should occur frequently and will usually be in relation to seeking an immediate approval for personal learning or support. 

    Formal and informal consultation with specialist colleagues such as psychologists, senior practice development officers, Aboriginal practice leaders, and education officers occurs on a needs basis to inform therapeutic residential care.

    Informal consultation and debriefing with colleagues can enrich experience and learning. ​



    ​A mutually respectful relationship forms the basis of quality supervision. The supervision process and confidential exchange of information is essential to this. . This is particularly important for information about performance or personal issues that may be impacting a staff member’s ability to perform their tasks. This may include indirect trauma resulting from exposure to the complexity of department work, working with children’s anger, grief and loss, or generally working in residential care. 

    There may be circumstances where the assistant director or other relevant staff may need to be made aware of information arising from the supervision process. In these cases the employee should be advised and the matter discussed before the information is shared. 

    When the employee transfers to another group home, the new supervisor has access to their supervision record.​


    Dispute resolution

    ​Staff and supervisors are expected to discuss issues proactively and openly, and resolve them within the supervisory relationship. Where issues remain unresolved, discussion and resolution should take place with a relevant senior manager. For further information staff should refer to the Department’s formal Workplace Issue and Grievance Resolution process as set out in Administration Manual entry Workplace issue and grievance resolution.​


    Recording supervision

    ​​There are two types of recording: 

    • service delivery matters, and 
    • matters other than service delivery decisions and work performance and managing workload. 

    Service delivery matters 

    The supervisor’s decisions about service delivery must be recorded clearly on the case file for legal and quality assurance purposes. 

    Matters other service delivery decisions 

    Matters other than service delivery decisions must be recorded in Supervision Record (in related resources) and uploaded to the Performance Management Tracking System

    Information recorded could include: 

    • the frequency and focus of the supervision 
    • key information shared 
    • decisions, advice and actions (other than service delivery decisions) 
    • learning and development needs, goals and progress 
    • mutual feedback about the experience of supervision, and
    • any safety or personal issues that are relevant to the supervisee’s performance. 

    The supervisor should record this information and the supervisee should co-sign. If there is disagreement, this should be noted in the template. This information should be used when reviewing and planning the annual Reaching Forward session. 

    Where performance concerns are being addressed through supervision, supervisors should complete the relevant documentation, such as the Performance Observation Log or the Performance Improvement Action Plan. 

    Performance Management Tracking System 

    District directors must regularly review the Performance Management Tracking System to monitor that staff are receiving regular supervision. 


    Supervision records must be stored on the Performance Management Tracking System. 

    The documents should be added on a monthly basis and are only accessible by the case manager or service delivery staff person and their supervisor. 

    For further information refer to the Performance Management Tracking System User Guide in related resources.


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