Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 15 August 2017) . . Page.. 2682 ..
Alongside this policy the government has committed to a plan that outlines what will be done in practical terms to implement the new policy. I am proud to be part of this nation-leading policy and plan in respecting teachers, educators and school support staff.
MR STEEL: Minister, why is the government’s response to occupational violence in schools important?
MS BERRY: It is important because there are few greater priorities in the workplace ahead of making sure that workers return home in the same condition as they left. I am sure that we can all agree that a child has a right to access a high quality education that sets them on the path to getting the most for their future. In our schools the right of a child to an education comes first. It comes equal first. It shares that place with the right of our workers to be safe.
The ACT has a great education system and our community should be very proud of our schools. Our community should also be proud of the ACT government’s approach to inclusion in ACT schools, where all young people are offered access to an education, regardless of their background or circumstances. The government wants to give every student a great education and the chance to a decent life.
Our system welcomes all children, irrespective of their background or behaviour, because the community values each child’s right to an education. With this comes a recognition that some students will show up to school with complex and challenging behaviours that usually stem from things that are going on that are not their fault. Sometimes the behaviour of these children does become aggressive and there have been some instances where school staff have been exposed to occupational violence as a result. This is unacceptable, and the government will not tolerate it. The culture has to change, and it starts with school staff being empowered to not tolerate occupational violence and to report it when it happens.
The government’s education policies are all about putting the student at the centre but this must be achieved in an environment where staff are safe and remain confident in their workplace. Balancing these two issues is complex but the government will not be timid about taking on difficult things.
MR PETTERSSON: Minister, how can the ACT community support the government’s effort to make schools safe workplaces?
MS BERRY: Achieving real and lasting change is how occupational violence will be managed in ACT schools, and it requires the support of the whole community. There are two key areas where I am asking the community to take on this support role. First, our whole community must respect school staff. We must genuinely respect our teachers, educators and school support staff, and do so in the way we both talk to and behave with them. The huge amount of work, time and personal investment in their work must also not be forgotten. As the individual concerns of parents arise, their own interactions with school teachers, leaders, learning support, administrative and facilities staff should remain courteous, appropriate and can never be allowed to drift into perpetrating occupational violence.