Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 11 Hansard (23 October) . . Page.. 4089 ..
making a positive difference to ensure that Canberra remains Australia's most livable city, a very progressive and forward looking city with a very bright future.
MS LEE: My question is to the minister for education. Minister, last week the ABC ran a story about a learning support assistant, with the pseudonym of Melanie, who worked for 10 years in disability education and was an experienced staff member. According to the ABC article, for six months, from the beginning of 2016, Melanie was injured on a weekly basis at school. She lodged 34 incidents of injury to the Education Directorate over this time but says that she received no advice and was assured that the student did not have a behavioural problem. Her injuries included bites and bruises. The only thing offered to her by the directorate was compression bandages to limit the bite penetration. Melanie is now in a mental health facility, having considered suicide, because of the psychological damage this has caused her. Minister why did it take so long for a case like this to come to light?
MS BERRY: It is a terrible thing when a worker gets injured when they go to work. That should not be the case. Every worker should have the right to return home safely in the evening after work. In this case, that has not happened. The ACT government has taken action. We are working very closely with the Education Union and with school staff to ensure that there are a policy and a plan around occupational violence to ensure that all our staff in schools can be safe at school. This is a difficult thing for the Education Directorate and the government to manage because there are two conflicting rights: the right of the worker to return home safely and go to work safely; and the right of the child to a decent education.
What we want to achieve and what all our school teachers and school staff want to achieve is an inclusive education system so that every child, regardless of how they learn, is supported in our schools, and so that our teachers, importantly, get the chance to do what they are passionate about: to provide a great education to our children. So from the very first meeting that I had with the Education Union when they spoke to me about occupational violence, that was the first instruction I gave to the Education Directorate: to take immediate action and make occupational violence and how we manage that a priority. We have done that but, as I said, it is a difficult issue. It requires a mature response, and the Education Directorate is providing that response.
MS LEE: Minister, why didn't you intervene earlier, or were you not informed?
MS BERRY: I did intervene. As I said, it was the very first instruction that I gave to the Education Directorate, following a meeting with the Education Union, to address occupational violence in our schools.
MISS C BURCH: Minister is this acceptable treatment of staff?
MS BERRY: Clearly not, because I have obviously done something about it.
Mrs Dunne interjecting—