Our Opening Address to the NSW Upper House Inquiry

The Injured Workers Support Network appeared before the NSW Upper House Inquiry into the Workers Compensation system yesterday at 9am. 

Though the public hearings are now over it will be some time before the transcripts will be available of our appearance. In the meantime I thought I would publish our opening statement.

A general and heartfelt thanks to our three members who so bravely faced the inquiry with me. 

Thank you for the opportunity to address this inquiry. I am Rowan Kernebone, the coordinator of the Injured Workers Support Network.

Since 2012 we have seen dramatic changes within the workers compensation system. We have seen careers and hopes destroyed, we have seen families broken and we have unfortunately seen too many lives changed for the worse.

Those who stood tall, employed and valued prior to their injury and now treated in the worst possible way by the government, the insurers and their employers.

It is my view and the view of my members that the system has been purposefully broken. The concerns and recommendations of our network can be summarised in one sentence:

The system needs to re orient itself so that its focus is always a return to health.

An individuals recovery and adaption to a health crisis does not form the basis of any KPI’s of the regulator, insurer, company or any employee of those institutions.

Yet in the minds of the working population, the system is fundamentally geared towards a return to health. This is an unfortunate misconception.

The real but erroneous focus of this system is to manage a manila file, labelled for an individual but never is that person’s interests or basic needs considered. Rather it is the minimising of the financial outlay for an insurer.

The behaviour of insurers is beyond inhuman and borders on systemic corruption.

The Victorian Ombudsman identified these practices as a “termination culture” one in which the pressure and profits stem from denying or delaying necessary health and financial support and concentrates the efforts of all professionals involved on closing those manila files as quickly as possible. Commonly referred to in this system as a “return to work”. In reality though this end point allows insures to put their wealth above the health of injured workers. Return to work is an important step towards a return to health; it is not an effective measurement of the success of the system. The legislation allows this misconception to occur.

The Injured Workers Support Network believes that the faith our society and the parliament has in this system does not in any way reflect the work conducted by the insurers and others. Injured workers need the system to re orient itself so that its focus is always a return to health.