Call for support for grieving families backed

A LAUNCESTON academic involved in a world-first study on workplace deaths has backed a mother's call for increased support for grieving families.

Mowbray's Peggy Barker lost her son Richard in an industrial incident at BIS Industries' Bell Bay factory last year.

Mrs Barker said she and the family felt isolated and unsure about how to deal with the tragedy.

Unlike South Australia and New South Wales, Tasmania does not have a support group for victims of workplace deaths.

University of  New South Wales professor Michael Quinlan said Tasmania would benefit by establishing one.

The Launceston resident is collaborating on the Sydney University study Workplace Death: Improving Support for Families.

The unique study was prompted by a pilot project looking at institutional responses to workplace deaths. 

Professor Quinlan said it found families, particularly children, suffered ``quite profound emotional effects'' on top of severe financial stress. 

``People never really get over it . . . our interviews suggest people adapt but they don't ever get closure,'' he said. 

``It is left with them for a very long time.''

Immediately after the deaths families are often overwhelmed by the processes that follow an industrial fatality.

Professor Quinlan said there were good reasons for these bureaucratic responses, such as a coronial inquiry, but it often left families feeling very isolated. 

He advocates the creation of information sheets ``spelling out'' exactly what families should do in those circumstances and keeping victims in the loop about investigations.

The ability to make victim impact statements to the coroner, which occurs in some other states, was also beneficial. 

Invaluable to many victims are support groups that provide ``a human face'', advocate on their behalf and are listened to by governments. 

``The families I think want justice, they want some sense that something positive is going to come out of it so a death like that won't happen again,'' he said. 

``It's also quite reassuring for them to find out that other families, that have experienced the same thing, are going through the same issues.''

Professor Quinlan said something Tasmania did right was having all workplace deaths investigated by the coroner. 

Unions Tasmania Kevin Harkins has also called for a support service for industrial death victims to be established. 

Mr Harkins said it should be the role of Worksafe Tasmania to deliver the service. 

The government which recently axed the workplace relations portfolio could not be reached for comment. 

For more information about the study visit

South Australia's Victims of Industrial Death support group can be found at or contacted on (08) 85246879.

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