Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Financial Services and Superannuation
Senator The Hon Kate Lundy
Senator for the ACT
Senator Doug Cameron
Senator for NSW
A tribute to the hundreds of Australians who die from workplace incidents and diseases each year has been unveiled in Canberra today.
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten opened the National Workers Memorial at Kings Park on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in an inauguration ceremony on International Workers’ Memorial Day.
“The National Workers Memorial is a place of reflection and acts as a reminder of the importance of staying safe at work,” Mr Shorten said.
In Australia each year on average, up to 300 people are killed at work and an estimated 2000 people will die from industrial diseases caused by exposure at work.
“That’s nearly 300 workers, mainly fathers and sons, who do not come home from work each year,” Mr Shorten said.
“All employers and workers have a duty to ensure that when somebody leaves their family for the start of each working day, they can expect to return home safely.”
The memorial features eight columns, which represent the contributions and sacrifice of workers from each state. The concentric rings on the pavement represent the ripple effect on family and the community of work-related deaths.
Designed by Sydney-based architecture firm Johnson Pilton Walker, the memorial was constructed with $3 million in Australian Government funding committed in the 2011–12 Budget.
Chair of the National Workers Memorial Steering Committee Senator Doug Cameron said the memorial will honour those who have died building the nation and serve as a symbol of our determination to be a country where the workplace is free from hazards and disease, from which everyone returns home safely each and every day.
“By dedicating this memorial we say as a nation that we remember those who have died as a result of their work. We say that the contribution made by each and every one of them was important and we honour them, their families and loved ones,” Senator Cameron said.
Senator for the ACT Kate Lundy acknowledged the significant steps that had been taken, sometimes against all odds, by Australian and international trade unions over many years to reduce the prevalence of injury and death at work.
“My working life started in the building and construction industry where we still see one of the greatest death tolls in Australian workplaces,” Senator Lundy said.
“The work of our trade unions to keep workers safe continues in earnest every day, of every year. The Gillard Government at the same time, continues to strive for better harmonisation between the states and territories to achieve the best results.
“This memorial provides both a place where the families, colleagues and friends can reflect on those they have lost unjustly through workplace death, and also remind us of the work we still have to do.”
Mr Shorten said the Gillard Government would continue to work with the states and territories to achieve harmonised work health and safety laws in every jurisdiction.
“We have worked hard with state and territory governments, work safety regulators, business groups and unions over the past four years to achieve a new legislative framework to replace the nine different work health and safety systems that were in operation,” Mr Shorten said.
“With seven of the nine jurisdictions committed to harmonised laws, almost two-thirds of Australian workers now have the same protection—regardless of where they live and work.
“We will continue to work with Victoria and Western Australia and urge them to introduce legislation so workers in those states can benefit from the national laws.”
Mr Shorten’s media contact: Sam Casey— 0421 697 660
Senator Lundy’s media contact: Angie Drake— 0408 092 016
Senator Cameron’s media contact: Phil Morgans— 0419 421 826