safety for people with autism: improve industrial manslaughter legislation for PwD

John Stanhope, the former ACT Chief Minister, called for national laws on industrial manslaughter. He said:


Second, Australians die in mental health institutions. The Age, for example, reported in September 2011 that 36 people died unexpected, unnatural or violent deaths in Victorian mental health facilities alone between 2008 and 2010 according to Coroner's Court files.

And third, there have been 27 deaths in immigration detention since 2000, with five in the last year, and there is a sense of growing concern about the mental health and treatment of detainees in privatised detention centres.

These deaths are currently dealt with in Coroners Courts and in an ad hoc manner, state by state or territory, and mostly in a highly reactive way. Compensation has to be fought for, and structural reform to prevent further deaths is not guaranteed.'

It is moot to ask if a person dies in the sorts of circumstances I outlined above, ie in circumstances where the detainee has not been availed of services or care of the sort or standard available to all other members of the community and they die and their death is reasonably foreseeable or a consequence of a reckless or negligent failure to provide that service or an appropriate level of care, should someone or some organisation or entity be held accountable for that death. The Government of the United Kingdom thinks so, as do I.

The ACT has now had in operation for a number years an offence of industrial manslaughter. It provides that an employer or a senior officer of a company commits the offence of industrial manslaughter if a worker dies as a result of reckless or negligent conduct of that employer or senior officer that causes the death of the worker or serious harm that later causes the worker to die.

There have been no prosecutions under the Act but it is nevertheless credited with having generated massive cultural change on construction and industrial sites within the ACT and to have a marked impact on work site culture and safety. The legislation was passed following vigorous and cogent representation and argument by ACT based unions, most particularly the CFMEU and Unions ACT. I am certain that all unions operating in the ACT and affiliated with Unions ACT and associated with the industrial manslaughter regime campaign would support it being extended as I have proposed, to people other than workers who die as a result of similarly reckless or negligent behaviour so as to cover a broader range of organisations and companies, including within the public sector and even the unions themselves.

Australia needs this type of legislation.

All Governments in Australia today should consider it as a priority.


Surely, people with disability should also have their health and safety explicitly protected while they are in out-of-home care; this protection should not be limited to workers, people in mental health facilities and people in detention.

Mr Stanhope says "these deaths are currently dealt with in Coroners Courts" ... but the Coroner's Courts don't even get around to finishing inquiries into out-of-home deaths of people with autism. For example, Coroners have not completed reports on the deaths of Jack Sullivan (see and and Stephen Moon, two young men with ASD from the ACT who died in "care" that was funded by the ACT Government.