Ms Senior … before colleagues blew the whistle over her inappropriate relationship with a prisoner
A prison psychologist struck off after relationships with two sex offenders was once known as a beer-drinking ‘rocker chick’ – until she was seduced by a jailed pack rapist who did push ups to impress her.
The extraordinary story of Joanne Senior’s final days in New South Wales prisons can be revealed after Daily Mail Australia exposed she is now working with children as a school counsellor.
Seven years ago, Ms Senior, then 30, from Sydney’s south-west, was a well-educated specialist psychologist from a ‘good family’ who had a promising career ahead of her.
She rose quickly through the ranks at work and was appointed the acting manager of a therapy program for medium-to-high risk offenders at Parklea jail.
‘She would say, ‘do you want to go and debrief’ (after work) … she’d have a beer or a red wine,’ said a source with knowledge of an official investigation into Ms Senior.
‘She liked rock, Marilyn Manson, she was a rocker.’
No one could ever have predicted what happened to her next.
Ms Senior now …. following her ban from psychology, conversion to Islam and starting of a new job as a counsellor at the Malek Fahd Islamic School, which is currently investigating her
Ms Senior began not just one, but two relationships with convicted sex offenders she had met behind bars.
She allegedly visited one rapist – a member of Sydney’s notorious Skaf gang – in jail twenty-four times and even moved into his mother’s house for months.
At some point, she converted to Islam and allegedly told the prisoner, who can only be known as H, that she planned to change her first name to Aisha for him.
They exchanged promises of love and marriage and her colleagues questioned her over a suspicious band on her ring finger.
In the end, the scandal cratered her career.
‘Intimate’ body language, push-ups and tears: The tell-tale signs something was up with Joanne Senior
Bilal Skaf was the ringleader of the gang H was apart of which raped a number of young women in Sydney in August and September 2000. Nine men were eventually convicted, including Joanne Senior’s lover ‘H’
Ms Senior’s body language toward Skaf gangster H in early 2011 was the first troubling sign for Parklea prison guards.
H was 17, a minor, when the notorious gang he was apart of shocked Sydney. He was one of nine gang members who raped a series of young girls over four weeks before the city’s 2000 Olympics.
H was serving 14 years behind bars for orally raping a girl, 17, in a Greenacre park and for indecently assaulting another teen, 14, on a train.
Behind bars, H was described by Ms Senior’s colleagues as a ‘muscly fella’, ‘not booksmart, but street smart’.
H would do push-ups in front of Ms Senior in an apparent bid to impress her, the source claimed, and staff noticed they spent a lot of time together.
‘Body language is a big thing in jail.
‘But the body language from her behalf and from (H) to her was terrible.’
Parklea prison: Colleagues including a prison worker noticed ‘terrible’ body language between Ms Senior and H (stock image of a raid at the prison above)
Then came several red flags, most of which were eventually used as evidence against Ms Senior by Health Care Complaints Commission prosecutors.
(Ms Senior) was observed crying during the DVD
A prison guard spotted the psychologist apparently weeping during a screening of H’s brother’s wedding DVD
A prison guard told the NSW Civil and Administrative tribunal that Ms Senior spent ‘unnecessary’ time with H and seemed emotional in his company.
When H was allowed to watch a DVD of his brother’s wedding in April 2011, he reportedly sat ‘very close’ to Ms Senior.
The prison guard said she saw Ms Senior ‘crying during the DVD’, the tribunal heard.
Ms Senior also reportedly attended a ‘birthday party’ H hosted at the jail that month. H had personally chosen 10 inmates to attend, but other psychologists in Ms Senior’s team felt uncomfortable about the ‘party’.
Then there was what may have been an engagement ring. A prison source told Daily Mail Australia they quizzed Ms Senior after she appeared at work wearing a band on her ring finger. The source claimed Ms Senior quickly dismissed questions about it, allegedly saying ‘it’s nothing!’
Skaf gang shock… Joanne Senior (above) began working as a school counsellor at Sydney’s Malek Fahd Islamic School in 2019, more than three years after she was banned from practising as a psychologist
In later years, witnesses who testified against Ms Senior were forced to listen through a series of secret calls she had made to H in jail.
During the calls, she told H ‘I am in love with you’ and ‘I am going to marry you’, the tribunal heard.
Ms Senior allowed him to address her as ‘sl**’. And at one point, Ms Senior even moved in with H’s mother.
When witnesses blew the whistle, Ms Senior was suspended by Corrective Services NSW in February 2012, and later resigned.
In her defence, Ms Senior claimed to the tribunal that she felt ‘remorse’ for what she had done and denied organising H’s birthday party.
She claimed her relationship with H only truly started in July 2011. And she sought to rubbish the two principal witnesses who gave evidence against her.
The prison guard, she claimed, had made a lesbian pass at her and was angry she Ms Senior had rejected her. The other whistleblower, a psychologist, had ‘bullied’ her, Ms Senior claimed.
Ominously for Ms Senior, ultimately the tribunal accepted both witnesses’ evidence as credible.
Banned from psychology, a new job and marriage to a second rapist inmate
Ms Senior was banned from practising as a psychologist, or as a counsellor, for three years
‘Reprehensible’. That’s how the tribunal ended up describing Ms Senior’s conduct with H in a scathing 2015 judgment.
Ms Senior was reprimanded in the ‘strongest possible terms’ and found guilty of serious professional misconduct.
She was banned from practising as a psychologist, or as a counsellor, for three years.
Her career, in prisons at least, was certainly over. And her relationship with H fell apart.
But Ms Senior went on to marry one of his fellow inmates, who she had also met in prison.
That inmate was also a convicted rapist and can only be known as ‘M’ for legal reasons.
The pair are believed to have married in 2013, while he was on parole. They live together on the same property as Ms Senior’s parents, in south-western Sydney. He is believed to work as a tradesman.
Ms Senior began working at Malek Fahd Islamic School in Greenacre at the beginning of 2019
That was thought to be the end of the story until Daily Mail Australia revealed this week that, with her ban from psychology having lapsed, Ms Senior was working as a school counsellor at Australia’s largest Islamic school.
Ms Senior began working at the Malek Fahd Islamic School, in Greenacre, in Sydney’s south-west at the beginning of the year. The independent college has 2,500 students.
Ms Senior’s appointment to the school’s counselling team of four staff was announced in the school newsletter in February, with Ms Senior using her husband’s last name.
The school alleged Ms Senior had not told them about her past until she was approached by Daily Mail Australia last week.
‘The school last Thursday became aware for the first time of certain details about a staff member’s previous employment,’ a school spokesman said in a statement.
Ms Senior was told not to attend school during the last day of term on Friday.
The spokesman said: ‘The details of the matter are being investigated and any action deemed appropriate will be taken.
‘The school’s priority is the welfare and interests of its students.’
The school’s investigations continue.
HOW HAVE PRISONS CHANGED SINCE JOANNE SENIOR?
In a statement, a Corrective Services NSW spokeswoman said things have changed since the Joanne Senior incident.
The agency has researched and developed ‘world first’ standards of clinical supervision practice to help psychologists keep proper boundaries in jail.
The jail system has adopted findings from a 12 month study of relationships between psychologists and inmates into its policies and procedures.
‘All prison psychologists have been provided with additional training to support the delivery of high quality offender management,’ the spokeswoman said.