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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 5 August 2021) . . Page.. 2417 ..

The report of a recent vote of no confidence against a member of senior management staff shows that corrections officers feel they are not supported at work. Again, such feelings are strongly associated in the academic literature with feelings of anxiety and depression. Given that corrections officers are calling for onsite counselling and that a high percentage of staff at the AMC report a need for more personal mental health training, it would be of great benefit to all these essential public servants to employ and embed a psychologist within the AMC.

As well as providing counselling after distressing incidents, a mental health professional would also be able to provide training on positive mental health exercises for managing PTSD and depression. The introduction of onsite counselling services for AMC staff would not be a difficult task, and the outcome could be massive, including a decrease in general stress levels among staff and an increase in mental health resilience. This would have long-term benefits for the working environment of the prison and for individual staff members in all aspects of their lives.

In summary, we have evidence that indicates that mental health issues are much higher amongst corrections officers than any other occupational groups. We know that the risk of physical and verbal abuse is more prevalent in a prison environment than most other workplaces. Our corrections officers at the AMC face physical danger on a daily basis which can contribute to PTSD and many feel unsupported by senior management which can contribute to anxiety and depression.

We know through a survey that a high percentage of AMC staff desire personal mental health training. I truly believe that there is a need to take better care of our staff at the AMC. It is hard for us here in this chamber to really know what they go through on a daily basis, so it is imperative that we listen to them when they tell us what they need. They need onsite mental health professionals who can counsel them and provide the training that these essential workers have been calling for for a while. I commend this motion to the Assembly.

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella—Manager of Government Business, Minister for Corrections, Minister for Industrial Relations and Workplace Safety, Minister for Planning and Land Management and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (4.23): Supporting our correction officers has been priority of mine since taking over the corrections portfolio. The role of a corrections officer is often extremely challenging and stressful. As a result, it is a role that requires a higher level of support. Much like first responders, corrections officers face mentally and physically challenging conditions on a daily basis, and much like emergency services agencies, ACT Corrective Services cannot completely remove the risk of exposure to traumatic events. What can be changed and improved, however, is the supports in place for staff, the workplace practices and the culture.

It is essential that staff are able to easily access mental health support at all times and that they are able to look after themselves both physically and mentally following a challenging day on the job. As a government, we are committed to doing everything possible to provide these supports. It is for these reasons the government supports this motion, and I appreciate Mrs Kikkert’s efforts in working with my office in relation to

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