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Union calls on Government to take immediate action to address principal wellbeing and safety concerns

Media release: Union calls on Government to take immediate action to address principal wellbeing and safety concerns

Today’s release of the 2022 Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey shows that ACT school leaders face the highest rates across Australia of physical violence and threats of violence.

“Sadly, this result does not come as a surprise,” said AEU ACT Branch President Angela Burroughs. “What it reveals is a lack of effective action by the ACT Government.”

“In April 2022, the AEU presented the ACT Government with the results of the ‘People at Work’ survey that was completed by a majority of AEU Principal members. People At Work is a survey designed by Australian work safety regulators and run by Safe Work Australia.”

The People At Work survey of ACT public school Principals found that:

  • 37% of Principals reported being bulled in the last six months, primarily by parents and community members.
  • 69% of Principals reported experiencing work-related violence in the past six- months, including being sexually assaulted, physically assaulted and intimidated.

“In response to these findings, the AEU called on the ACT Government to:

  • Conduct focus groups to better understand the underlying factors causing these work safety risks
  • Communicate results to school leaders and senior managers in the Education Directorate
  • Create an action plan based on consultation with Principals to address the work safety concerns
  • Conduct ongoing monitoring and review by conducting the survey again after a period of time and tracking results.”

Ms Burroughs said, “It is clear that these measures have not been effectively implemented.”

“We know what the problems are. It is time to stop talking, and start acting.”

“Today, the AEU has called on the ACT Government to immediately implement a 10- point action plan including:

  1. Regularly conduct the Safe Work Australia validated People at Work survey for all staff and implement its recommendations.
  2. Commit to direct consultation with all staff, including through their relevant unions, rather than the current practice of engaging work safety consultants.
  3. Treat Principals as a work group for WHS Act purposes and enable them to elect their own health and safety representatives.
  4. Commit to fully and centrally funding measures identified in occupational violence risk assessments, rather than requiring that Principals find space within limited school budgets to make their schools safe.
  5. Provide clear guidance to schools on suspensions, including clear policy settings for when suspensions should generally occur.
  6. Implement immediate improvements to the suspensions process, including ICT systems, which are causing excessive workload for Principals.
  7. Ensure that work safety processes, including occupational violence risk assessments, are appropriately tailored to the needs of all staff including those in leadership positions.
  8. Provide clear advice to the community that violence towards front-line workers in our schools will not be tolerated.
  9. Ban parents who have been violent or abusive from attending school sites.
  10. Clearly communicate reasonable expectations of schools to the ACT community.”

Ms Burroughs said that, “The ACT Government is big on reassurance and commitment to supporting Principals in their safety and wellbeing, but light on action. We cannot wait any longer. Our members deserve respect and they have a right to be safe in their workplace. We have not seen a plan from the ACT Government that addresses Principal safety and wellbeing concerns. That is why we have put forward this ten-point plan, and request that it is immediately implemented.”

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