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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 24 October 2018) . . Page.. 4142 ..

seriously. Our teachers cannot work effectively with students if they do not feel safe in their work environment, and we cannot attract and retain the best teachers in our system if staff do not feel adequately supported and protected in our schools.

Every work environment comes with some level of risk, but there is an obligation on every employer to ensure, as far as practicable, that their workplaces are safe and that those risks are mitigated. Schools are no exception. We must also recognise that those teachers who do the crucially important, and often very rewarding, work of teaching students with complex needs are often subject to a greater level of risk. I think the examples outlined in the work safety report underline that.

As the minister for education mentioned yesterday, there are often two sets of competing rights in these situations: the rights of the staff member to be protected from occupational violence and the right of the student to access a quality education. These rights are both important and can both be met if the right supports and strategies are in place. But meeting that balance can be very challenging; the practicalities of it can be very difficult, given the variety of situations and sometimes the unpredictability that can be attached to some of those behavioural issues.

The Greens believe that no-one should feel unsafe or be injured at work, and we must be better at managing those risks to prevent these kinds of incidents in the future. We recognise that the findings of the WorkSafe ACT report are concerning and warrant strong action. At the same time, we also need to recognise the range of improvements and investment around occupational violence that have already been implemented, as outlined in the enforceable undertaking agreed between WorkSafe and the Education Directorate.

While the undertaking outlines over $7 million worth of investments that have already taken place, it also recognises the need to do more, with an additional $2.37 million committed for further activities. The majority of this investment relates to the full implementation of the directorate’s new occupational violence policy and management plan. The activities under this plan include strengthening risk assessment processes; more and better work health and safety training, with specific training on occupational violence; improving communication and reporting systems; and enhancing sensory spaces in schools to support students with complex needs, to enable de-escalation of potentially violent situations.

There is also a commitment from the minister to share the learnings and resources of this work with other jurisdictions. I think this is a recognition that this is a challenging issue for all schools and the outcomes of this process may be able to help others to improve their processes in this space.

While Ms Lee’s motion raises an important issue, and one worthy of debate in this place, it does fail to recognise the significant amount of work that is already underway and the directorate’s commitment to further improvement. I listened very carefully to Ms Lee’s speech, and she did a thorough job of highlighting the problem, but in her entire set of remarks I did not hear one single comment on what might be done to rectify those problems.

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