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Speech: Return to Work (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) Amendment


The Hon. T.A. FRANKS:
I rise today on behalf of the Greens to stand in firm support of this bill put forward by the Hon. Frank Pangallo. There is no denying that our first responders are often faced with difficult and potentially traumatic circumstances during their service for our community.

This bill provides for a rebuttable presumption of a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by first responders and volunteer first responders as work related for the purposes of workers compensation legislation. Reversing that onus of proof in this way is a simple step that our parliament can take to help those who help us. Claiming workers compensation can be a daunting, traumatic, challenging and stressful process in itself, particularly if the claim is related to mental health. I am sure some members will remember that this is an issue that I have raised in this place before.

Post-traumatic stress is a complex condition to diagnose, particularly where it is the result of cumulative exposure to incidents, which can be and is most likely the case for many first responders. We know as well that amending our legislation to include a presumptive clause in a material way, in which we can help those who have experienced significant harm while protecting us from harm, can be done. It is not the first time that this has been done in our state; indeed, I was proud to be part of campaigning, for many years, with others in this place, to win a similar presumptive clause for firefighters to access compensation should they develop certain cancers.

Importantly as well, I note that this bill includes transitional provisions that extend components in this bill to claims initiated before the commencement of the proposed amendment bill, unless that claim has been determined. This is an excellent step to ensure that first responders can have access to workers compensation in a manner that is less stressful for them and in a way that recognises their service and experiences.

Workers compensation laws have a very long way to go before they are fair and fit for purpose in this state, but amendments like these go a long way towards ensuring that workers can access the compensation to which they should be entitled, without undue stress and prolonged uncertainty. I commend the Hon. Frank Pangallo for bringing this bill before the council. As Greens in this place, we will be proud to support its passage.

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