Nurses Reinstated at Special School

The Canberra Times has reported today that two nurses have been reinstated at a Canberra special school. This is a big win for the students concerned as well as affected Learning Support Assistants and teachers.

After a resolution at sub-branch and then Council level, sustained correspondence with the Director-General and the Minister, Minister Burch announced the backflip on Friday. Congratulations to the members whose sustained activism achieved this result.

On Breakfast With Phil Clark on ABC Canberra, AEU ACT Secretary, Glenn Fowler said:

“We raised this more than two months ago with the Minister and were told she agreed with our position that this sort of work is not the work teachers and LSAs. Despite what’s in the paper today, we’ve seen two months of inaction by a Minister who appears to be paralysed by indecision.”

The nurses at this and other schools supporting special needs students had been withdrawn as part of the Health Access at School (HAAS) program, leaving teachers but predominately Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) to provide complex and invasive healthcare.

Many students require procedures including injections and the cleaning of tracheotomies  and have multiple health issues including seizures, diabetes, oxygen management and personal hygiene. These complex health issues had previously been supported by on-site nurses but the withdrawal of funding from the Health Directorate has left educators to pick up the slack.

Affected members expressed strong concerns about the risks to students and staff arising from non-nursing staff taking on the complex healthcare needs of students.

While these responsibilities were officially voluntary, members have felt pressured to assume them. This is despite no allowances or increased salary being offered in return. No training is required as a prerequisite other than first aid and, of additional concern, has been the lack of clear guidelines about legal liability should something go wrong. Guidelines in relation to supervision of students have still not been completed by ETD or made available to staff, let alone negotiated with the AEU. 

The March 21 meeting of AEU Branch Council passed a resolution presented by Black Mountain Sub-branch calling for the reinstatement of nurses there. That resolution has been acted upon and achieved the desired result.

The office team is continuing to work with other affected sub-branches to ensure the safety, welfare, health and wellbeing of students, and members undertaking this work.


Read more

'Nurses return to special school taking pressure off teachers', Emma MacDonald, The Canberra Times, April 15, 2015



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