Chapter 1

Introduction

1.1
On 27 March 2018, the Senate referred the following terms of reference to the Education and Employment References Committee for inquiry and report by 5 December 2018:
(i)
the nature and underlying causes of mental health conditions experienced by first responders, emergency service workers and volunteers;
(ii)
research identifying linkages between first responder and emergency service occupations, and the incidence of mental health conditions;
(iii)
management of mental health conditions in first responder and emergency services organisations, factors that may impede adequate management of mental health within the workplace and opportunities for improvement, including: i.e. reporting of mental health conditions,
(iv)
specialised occupational mental health support and treatment services,
(v)
workers’ compensation,
(vi)
workplace culture and management practices,
(vii)
occupational function and return-to-work arrangements,
(viii)
collaboration between first responder and emergency services organisations,
(ix)
post-retirement mental health support services, and
(x)
resource allocation; and
(xi)
any other related matters.1
1.2
On 18 October 2018, the Senate granted an extension of time to report until the second sitting Wednesday in February 2019. Subsequently, on 29 November 2018, the Senate agreed to a reporting date of 14 February 2019.2

Conduct of the inquiry

1.3
Notice of the inquiry was posted on the committee's website. The committee also wrote to key stakeholders to invite submissions.
1.4
The committee received 161 submissions, as detailed in Appendix 1, and held seven public hearings:
18 July 2018 in Brisbane;
31 July 2018 in Hobart;
29 August 2018 in Adelaide;
30 August 2018 in Fremantle;
5 September 2018 in Melbourne;
25 September 2018 in Sydney; and
7 November 2018 in Canberra.
1.5
A list of witnesses who gave evidence at the committee's public hearings is contained in Appendix 2.

Background to the inquiry

1.6
This inquiry came about as a result of an individual first responder, Ms Simone Haigh, reaching out and relating her experiences.
1.7
The committee received a considerable volume of evidence directly from first responders, the bulk of it made public. This evidence, given both in writing and verbally at public hearings, gives the committee and the wider community a rare glimpse into the daily realities faced by first responders, people who spend their working lives engaging with confronting situations.

Notes on references

1.8
References to the committee Hansard are to the proof Hansard. Page numbers may vary between the proof and official Hansard transcripts.

Acknowledgements

1.9
The committee thanks submitters and witnesses who contributed to this inquiry, in particular individual first responders who demonstrated great courage by coming forward with their own personal experiences.

  • 1
    Journals of the Senate, 27 March 2018, p. 2948.
  • 2
    Journals of the Senate, 18 October 2018, p. 3999.

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