Modern Times: Lest we forget?

While we honour those who fall in service to Australia abroad, we should think about those who die in service of the nation at home, writes Andrew Hunter.

We should never forget those who serve. Our commemoration of their courage and sacrifice should also remind our political leaders the decision to go to war is the highest responsibility of the office they hold. The families of our soldiers, sailors and air force personnel deserve to know that their loved ones will not be put in danger unless the nation’s security requires it.

Family members of those who have fallen in defence of our country have the support and compassion of the entire nation. Legacy is a visible, well-supported organisation that exists to care for families of those who served our country. The trauma of families who have lost servicemen is acute and enduring. Some comfort may be gleaned by knowing that the nation appropriately and regularly renders homage to this sacrifice.

Freedom and security have been won by the sacrifice of many. Our homes, our office buildings, our roads, and the infrastructure on which our modern economy has been built has also come at a significant cost. The grief felt by families of workers who have died on site is no different to that of the families of our fallen diggers. And our political leaders are as accountable to the families of workers, who deserve to come home once their working day is over.

Legacy recognises that the families share the risks taken by each serving Australian. Such sacrifice is sometimes necessary to preserve the sovereignty and security of the nation. Popular support for its mission is absolute, the impact it makes significant. If only Legacy had a greater voice when decisions are made to go to war.

Unlike the sacrifice made in combat, deaths in workplaces are needless. The union movement, which fights for safer workplaces and lends support to grieving families, is demonised by those who see their interests threatened by the regulation that protects workers and their families. Yet the grief of a mother who lost her son in battle is no different to the father who lost his daughter on a worksite.

An organisation specifically for family members of workers who have died on worksites, able to increase awareness of the extent of this problem and the lasting effects, would make a significant impact on industrial relations. The voice of workers’ families is too often absent when regulation is debated. If profit and productivity reflect the immediate concerns of one constituency, the impact of unnecessary loss through a workplace accident is lasting. Big data is not mined to identify situations likely to lead to unnecessary accidents and devastated families.

There is no glory when a concrete panel ends the lives of two workers. There is no greater good when an inexperienced rigger is crushed by a crane. There is no national interest served when an unsupervised and inexperienced worker falls to her death. And their sacrifice is not currently given voice by a grateful nation, nor heard in public discourse smitten with the need for productivity and growth.

If the idea of war repulses, a skyline littered with cranes suggests a city in perpetual evolution and progress. Workers who bring buildings that become workplaces, houses that become homes, resources that become energy should be guaranteed a safe workplace. Their families should not endure sleepless nights or unquiet days hoping their loves ones return from the job.

Grieving families should not be made to pay the price of workplace productivity. To give workers a beauty their lives deserve, we must insist upon a safe workplace. Anything less would be to ignore the ongoing impact of accidents that still happen with determined consistency.

@andrewhunter__

Adelaide In-depth

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