Australia set to open its National Workers Memorial

NWM HERO SHOT 2For several years Australia has been designing and constructing a National Workers Memorial.  This weekend, on the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, Australia holds its first national remembrance day at the new memorial on the banks Lake Burley Griffin in Australia’s capital city, Canberra.

The memorial has been coordinated by the National Capital Authority who has established a website for this memorial. The website will have live coverage of the inauguration ceremony at 11.00am AEST.

The intriguing part of the inauguration ceremony is that speeches are limited to around 5 minutes, if that, and the focus will be on the memorial and its significance.  Political statements may occur off site or prior to the event but that is the case with every event that includes politicians.

The inauguration is a public event and Canberrans are encouraged to attend but the committee has also invited a good cross-section of workplace safety advocates with representatives from

It would be good to see official representatives of the Safety Institute of Australia, the National Safety Council of Australia and Safety In Workplaces Australia and others at this ceremony.

It is noted that Safe Work Australia is holding the National Safe Work Australia Awards in the early evening of April 29. It makes sense to coordinate such an event with the workers memorial day but at previous awards nights  the significance of the day has rarely been acknowledged.  A minute’s silence would be quite telling.

The purpose of Australia’s memorial is

  • “serve as a reminder of the importance of workplace safety and the need to continue to work together as a nation to improve health and safety performance and prevent work-related incidents, accidents and disease
  • honour and pay tribute to all of the working Australians who have lost their lives to work-related accidents, incidents or disease
  • provide a place to reflect and remember the sacrifice of all such workers who have lost their lives
  • recognise and celebrate the vital contribution and significant achievements of Australian workers in building this nation
  • provide a focal point for International Workers’ Day held 28 April each year.”
Dean Mighell, ETU, addressing the Workers' Memorial Day rally in Melbourne 28 April 2010
Dean Mighell, ETU, addressing the Workers’ Memorial Day rally in Melbourne 28 April 2010

Several Australian States should emulate locating their workers memorials in apolitical locations.  Victoria’s memorial is located in the grounds of the Victorian Trades Hall, a contentious location which encourages topical political statements from union representatives (as pictured right) about workplace safety and even, in the past, sloganeering for upcoming elections.   The focus of any commemoration should be on those we have lost and a dignified ceremony can be just as motivating as any political rallying.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia
Categories Cameron, community, death, government, grief, OHS, politics, safety, Shorten, Uncategorized, unionTags

4 thoughts on “Australia set to open its National Workers Memorial”

  1. I have just returned from Canberra, the last 2 days have been a whirlwind of emotion. Saturday I was able to sit at the Worker\’s Glade on my own for around 15min, the silence broken only by the workers adding the finishing touches and the magpies.
    I will never be able to put into words how I felt being able to see and touch the Memorial, to know the stories that have been woven into the very fabric of it, the heartache reflected there and the lost dreams of lives ended in such ways that are so very preventable.
    I don\’t know how many tears fell as I sat there, nor do I know how many more tears will continue to fall.
    What I do know is that today when the final words were spoken and the Memorial was dedicated to the lost loved ones, that I felt a peace that I had not felt before.
    I tied the gum leaves I had taken from my brothers memorial tree and tied them to the piece of rosemary so that my token of rememberance contained every meaning every hope every broken heart that is felt within the Deceased Workers Memorial Forest.

    I spoken with Minister Shorten for a few moments after the ceromony and told him that we as a Nation now need to put an educational Trst fund in place for the children of deceased workers, because as a Nation we owe it to the children to give them the best future possible.

    My hope is that Minister Shorten took my statement seriously, because I see every day children who are going without when there is no need for that to happen.

    For now I urge everyone when they go to Canberra to make their way to the Workers Glade, stand within the Pillars and feel the strenght of resolve to make every workplace a safe place for everyone to be.

    And when you come to Adelaide I will be more than happy to walk with you through the Deceased Workers Memorial Forest.

  2. ..and then there are those of us who have been in the grips of recent struggles with grief and loss, people fighting to put one foot in front of the other … trying to understand how this system works. I can think of 20 families who have buried a loved one that would have loved a chance to see this memorial unfold. Good on you Rosemary.

  3. As I sit here in my home office in Adelaide tonight, my mind racing over a myriad of events all in their own way leading to my small involvement in the National Deceased Workers Memorial.

    The best place to start is sadly with the death of my brother in a workplace incident in 1969, he was just 16yrs old. I watched my parents being torn apart because it was my parents who owned the small transport business, and it was my Dad who was driving when my brother lost his life.

    My own workplace injury many years later lead me to being a community advocate for injured workers.
    It breaks my heart to know how many people go to work and never go home again.

    In 2000 Work Injured Resource Connection Dedicated a small Memorial Pillar here in Adelaide to the lives lost here in South Australia.
    At first the Pillar was in Pennington Gardens, it was a place to go to grieve and to reflect.

    Then a chance converstation lead to the establishment of The Deceased Workers Memorial Forest in 2003 now all these years later the Memorial Forest has over 220 trees and ground covers to remember the lives lost at or due to work.
    I planted the first tree in love and memory of my brother John.
    The Memorial Pillar now stands in the Deceased Workers Memorial Forest.
    It is hoped that soon Work Injured Resource Connection will have the funds required to build the Memorial Wall there to finish that section of the Memorial Forest.

    When I was invited to be a small part in the planning of the National Deceased Workers Memorial I was surprised and I was humbled, it was not something that I ever thought I would be asked to contribute to.
    Then just over a year back I was invited to Canberra to see the winning entry -The Workers Glade- and to stand on the very spot where the Memorial now stands. The tears flowed at the enormity of all of it.

    In just under 12hrs I will board a plane to Canberra, and get to go through the practice programme for the actual Dedication.
    I carry with me the wishes and the love of many many people and the hopes of families who have lost loved ones.
    I also carry with me gum leaves from the tree I planted for my brother, it seems fitting that a part of him also be present in Canberra.

    My hope and my request is that everyone who goes to Canberra go to see the Workers Glade and takes away from it the knowing of just how important workplace safety is and of the many broken lives this Memorial represents.

    I concur with Kevin, each State and Territory needs to have a non-political Memorial, I know when people ask me to walk them through the Memorial Forest they are amazed that there are no political names anywhere to be seen.

    Yours in service
    Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson
    Work Injured Resource Connection

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