Victoria University’s TAFE division, Victoria Polytechnic is tackling workplace bullying among tradies early by offering important bullying-awareness workshops to its apprentices.
Victoria Polytechnic is among the state’s first educational institutes to offer the training, developed by WorkSafe Victoria, the Bully Zero Australia Foundation, and Brodies’s Law Foundation.
Over the past six weeks, carpentry, plumbing, signwriting, engineering, bricklaying, and furniture-making apprentices have participated in the sessions, run by the parents of the 19-year-old girl for whom Brodie’s Law was named.
Since their daughter, Brodie Panlock, tragically took her own life in 2006 after being relentlessly bullied as a waitress at work, Damian and Rae Panlock have lobbied for stronger anti-bullying laws in Victoria. Since 2011, bullying has been made a serious crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Victoria Polytechnic’s senior manager of trades and OHS, Peter Turner said he jumped at the chance to present the workshops to his students because they deliver a powerful message to young students who are just entering the work force.
“We teach them how to identify OHS hazards and workplace bullying and harassment is quite simply another hazard for them to be aware of,” he said.
Rae Panlock bravely spoke of her daughter’s mental, physical, and sexual abuse at work at the hands of her older male colleagues, and how her boss turned a blind eye.
“I get a lot of calls from young apprentices just like you and it guts me to think that this kind of behaviour is still going on ten years after Brodie’s death,” she said. “Banter and jokes can be OK, but not at the expense of someone else.”
Bullying in Victorian workplaces is a significant issue according to WorkSafe data. Of more than 26,000 injury claims in Victoria last year, 3087 were mental injury claims. And, of these, almost 1300 mention bullying behaviour as a cause.
Rae and Damian urged the young trade students to understand their rights and responsibilities at work, which includes a moral and legal requirement to report any workplace bullying that they witness.
Charles Flanagan, a signwriting pre-apprentice, said the workshop opened his eyes to ways to reduce and respond to workplace bullying.
“It’s something we hear about in the news but it was intense to hear about its effects first-hand from people who have been affected by it.”
Note: Victoria Polytechnic is now called Victoria University Polytechnic.