As much as the Memorial is about remembering those lives that have been so tragically cut short, it is also a place to reflect upon the enduring values of the Australian community. Australia’s achievements in work health and safety are built on values that create a safe and healthy workplace. These values were important historic drivers and continue to be relevant today.
The values that form the foundation of the Memorial are:
- Knowledge (the overarching value for the Memorial)
All eight values are engraved into stainless steel strips surrounding each of the stone columns dedicated to each of the states. Although one value is highlighted for each state, all values are relevant for the progression of health and safety objectives for all workers across all industries in Australia.
Stemming from the eight values imbedded into the Memorial is a first story of sadness and loss that has led to change within Australian communities, our culture and eventually leading to changes in legislation.
‘a story of loss that needs to be heard’
Overarching Value: Knowledge
Translating knowledge and research into practice is a cornerstone of effective work health and safety. Education and research are critical to improving how well we prevent illness and injury, both through harnessing professional expertise and through providing appropriate competencies to people in workplaces.
‘the void in my life’
Australia’s approach to work health and safety is built on generations of Australians who have campaigned for workplaces that treat people with dignity and respect. Our legal framework aims to create workplaces that provide people with meaningful jobs in a healthy and safe environment.
Everyone in the workplace, irrespective of their position, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
Dignity of work refers to the work process and emphasises the intrinsic value of work and the benefit of having satisfying and meaningful work. Dignity also implies that we are able to influence how our jobs are done, raise concerns about unsafe work practices and be treated like a valued member of a team.
‘they chained us up to pull the plough’
People need to do more than just treat and rehabilitate the sick and injured or compensate those who have lost loved ones as a result of work-related accidents, incidents and disease. Sound risk management processes will prevent these from occurring in the first place.
The story of the town of Wittenoom in Western Australia was identified as demonstrating the value ‘prevention’ and the overarching value of ‘knowledge’. During the 1940s, 50s and 60s, Wittenoom was Australia's only supplier of blue asbestos and eventually became known as the site of Australia's greatest industrial disaster. It wasn’t until 1966 that the mine was closed due to growing health concerns from the asbestos mining in the area.
Our growing knowledge of the hazards of asbestos from Australian and worldwide research and experience has led to a multitude of legislative changes, a much wider understanding of the dangers within the community, and a shift in the use of the product in the building industry generally. However, despite all the advances in our knowledge and attempts to prevent the spread of disease caused by the product, there are still individuals being affected as a result of the long gestation period for illness to present itself.
‘a life cut short’
Everyone has the right to have a say about issues that affect their health and safety at work. Workplaces where employees are able to have a say about work health and safety are safer and better able to control risks.
Adequate worker representation is important across all industries. The small coal mining town of Moura in Central Queensland was identified as demonstrating the need for effective worker representation. There have been three major disasters that have occurred on the mining site since 1975 with dozens killed as a result. All the disasters occurred when the site operated as an underground mine. After 1994, underground mining ceased and the area was operated as an open-cut mine.
Giving workers on site a voice to alert management of possible dangers has led to significant improvements and the introduction of safeguards in work health and safety.
‘fear, pain and anguish etched in their tired faces’
Accidents, incidents and disease can be prevented with universal commitment to workplace health and safety.
A prominent and widespread problem that demonstrates the value of commitment from the employer to the employee is the banning of smoking in the workplace. This ban also led to restrictions on smoking in close proximity to building thoroughfares and entrances. The nation-wide law to ban smoking in workplaces has also encouraged some states to take the next step to banning smoking in restaurants and cars carrying children.
‘we can never be complacent’
The spirit of helping and looking out for each other is critical to providing safe workplaces. Teamwork is essential to solving work health and safety issues.
The value of teamwork and helping a mate was illustrated so effectively in the 1975 Lake Illawarra collision with the Tasman Bridge and the subsequent clean up and recovery. The tragedy affected the local community and brought the townspeople together in their grief.
‘things happened so quickly’
Australian workplaces bring together people from all over the world – great industrial ventures like the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme played an important part in creating our multicultural society. People bring their diverse backgrounds and experiences to their work. Preventing accidents, incidents and disease requires recognition of this diversity to ensure we look after the different needs people may have.
The chief engineer of the Snowy Mountains Scheme was instructed to seek workers from overseas to fulfill the immediate need to progress construction on the site. Employment of workers from 32 (mostly European) countries, many of whom had been at war with each other only a few years earlier, had a significant effect on the cultural mix of Australia.
‘we came from other lands to start a new life’
Workplaces, equipment and systems of work that are designed to be safe contribute to healthy work environments.
A tragedy in Australia’s history that highlights the need for good design is the incident during the construction of the West Gate Bridge in 1970 where 35 workers were killed when a large span of the bridge collapsed as a result of poor design and construction methods. A West Gate Bridge Memorial is located near the bridge.
'we are all made from flesh and blood'
A key driver for improving workplace health and safety is family, and this was a key historic source of government engagement in the area. Australia’s first factory inspector, Augusta Zadow, was employed to improve working conditions in South Australian factories and shops, particularly for women workers, so they were better able to care for their families.
Augusta Zadow became an advocate for women working in clothing factories. She was a major contributor to the establishment of the Working Women's Trades Union in 1890 and was a delegate to the United Trades and Labour Council of South Australia. She spoke in favour of women's suffrage and following the franchise of women in South Australia in 1894, she was appointed a factory inspector by the government of Charles Kingston. She inspected factories and monitored working conditions for women and minors.
'I think about her every day'