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Ministerial Statement Response - Workers Compensation Provisions for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - Review


Rosalie Woodruff MP

Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Tags: Post Traumatic Stress

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, on behalf the Greens, I strongly support this legislative move. It is important we continue to walk down the path of reducing stigma around mental health in the community; from having conversations about emotions to being a more caring and inclusive society. All of us know people or are aware of people in our communities who are suffering from trauma. Trauma can be caused by a range of experiences.

One of the things I have learnt over the last couple of years of speaking to some of the first responders who have met with me and talked about the need for this legislative change, among many other changes we need to make in how we operate in workplaces, is that post-traumatic stress disorder is not something that most people recover from.

I note the minister did make a comment in the statement about trying to act as early as possible so that people are able to recover if possible. It is true that some people do recover and early action is a very important part of that being able to happen. It is the case for many people with PTSD that they do not recover in the way we might think of recovering from a disease where there is never any more symptoms. Most people learn to live with their trauma experience. They learn to be able to cope with the flashbacks or the physical changes that it brings into their life. They learn how to adjust their life to accommodate the trauma they have experienced that will never be able to leave their body.

In addition to a view that many people in society might have a simplistic view, and the old view that we had, was that you experienced post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of an event such as a car crash or a particular war experience or a horrific thing that you had seen. That is certainly a cause for many people. There is a very high rate of people who suffer PTSD who have had those sorts of experiences.

It is also the case that people end up suffering from PTSD because of an accumulation of regular things they are forced to endure watching. Those sorts of things can be everyday acts of cruelty which they see being enacted against other people on a regular basis with such cruelty that it causes the suffering of another person. By having to watch that, by being a counsellor listening to children's stories of their experiences in their family; by working in a place where unjust acts are perpetrated, systemic dysfunction for example in workplaces where you are dealing with vulnerable people and gentle children, lovely animals, beautiful kind people; when you see terrible events happening to people that could be prevented, for some people that is a cause of post-traumatic stress disorder.

It is important that we do everything we can to reduce the stigma of PTSD and other forms of mental ill-health. The Greens asked some questions last year of Mr Hidding, the then police minister, about the first responders and policy work being undertaken. I referred him to the very good work that was done by the Australian Centre for Post Traumatic Mental Health, the University of Adelaide and the New South Wales Black Dog Institute, which were looking at the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD in emergency service workers. That is an independent piece of evidence which he promised to investigate for early responders and emergency service workers in Tasmania. It is pleasing to see today, that this Government is taking the matter of presumption to heart.

I strongly support the move to investigate the review of the extension of this to the private sector. In Tasmania, so many of our essential services have been outsourced to private sector organisations. So much of our mental health work, mental health work with young people and children, the care of vulnerable children, the support for homeless people, family support services, disability services and aged care services, so many of these are not conducted by public sector workers. They are conducted by private sector workers who are doing the work of government. It is important that those people and those services are captured by this legislation.

Ultimately I believe it will extend to those organisations because it has to. If we truly want to set the tone in this community where people understand the reality of post-traumatic stress disorder, the likelihood of it occurring amongst people who are working in particular jobs or particular professions, then it obviously has to include people who are working in trauma counselling, in the everyday protection of young children who are living in abusive situations and families where they need so much of our support.

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