Page 732 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 5 April 2022
WHS for volunteers. Can you please explain how the government assists those organisations to ensure that volunteers are not replacing paid employment positions?
MR GENTLEMAN: I thank Mr Braddock for the question. It is an important one as we move forward and we see so much volunteerism occurring across the ACT. Of course, there are issues of pay and work relationships that fall under the commonwealth Fair Work Act. The Fair Work Ombudsman’s website sets out what an employment relationship looks like; it can be indicated by organisational control or an obligation to attend work. Unpaid volunteer work can occur when there is no employment relationship and, conversely, if there is an employment relationship then volunteer work cannot occur and people need to be treated and paid as employees.
The government wants to support those employers that support volunteers across the territory. I can relate to experiences, particularly where volunteers operate within the ESA structure, which you would be aware of, Madam Speaker. This is where we support businesses that support those volunteers that help the Canberra community. There is quite a broad structure in supporting both the businesses and the volunteerism.
MR BRADDOCK: Minister, how does the government ensure these volunteers are treated safely under the work health and safety laws?
MR GENTLEMAN: Again, there is quite a bit of work to ensure their safety, particularly in areas that I look after with first responders. Where we have volunteers working right alongside them we need to make sure that our workplace safety laws are up to scratch and support that volunteerism. You have seen recent changes to laws around workplace hazards, and indeed diseases, where we have supported those people where we can.
MS CLAY: Minister, what is the government doing to encourage Canberrans to re-engage with volunteering post-COVID?
MR GENTLEMAN: In similar ways, I think, to what I have been speaking about with ESA, we have been supporting businesses to support their volunteers to ensure that we can get them the right PPE for the work that they do and ensure that we recognise the important work they do. Indeed, just the Monday before last there was a ceremony at the Canberra Theatre thanking volunteers for the 2019-20 work they did through bushfires, storms and, indeed, COVID. Recognised by me and the Governor-General were 300 recipients. We recognise the Canberra community’s view on how they support volunteers across the territory and we will continue to do that work.
MR PARTON: My question is to the Minister for Education. Minister, I refer to the multiple reports on overcrowding and staff shortages in ACT schools. Today’s report on the Worksafe prohibition states that teachers were regularly taking classes of more than 40 students due to a chronic shortage of staff and COVID-19 absences, with one instance of a class of 75 students supervised by one teacher and one learning support officer. The AEU has said: