The following article by Tara Miko appeared in Toowoomba’s newspaper The Chronicle and has been referred to The Pen. Josh Park-Fing’s story deserves to be told. Attention also needs to be drawn to the fact that work for the dole programs can lead those involved into dangerous work situations that cause injury, or like in Josh’s case, to death and this may be a result of using the unemployed as a cheap source of labour, where normal safeguards do not apply. There needs to be a proper inquiry into these programs and whether Centrelink is guilty of neglecting its duty of care needs to be examined. Failure to act is not good enough.
A national campaign pressuring the Federal Government to release a report into the death of a Toowoomba teenager is gaining momentum.
Josh Park-Fing, 18, died when he fell from a flatbed tractor trailer and struck his head while engaged in a Work for the Dole program at the Toowoomba Showgrounds on April 19 last year.
Contracted by workplace employer NEATO, Mr Park-Fing died in Toowoomba Hospital of critical head injuries and the government investigated the circumstances surrounding his fall and death.
But the Federal Government has failed to release the report, with the Australian Unemployed Workers Union launching a petition and protest event to see the results made public.
Union president Owen Bennett has called on Federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash to release the report which he said was in the public’s interest.
“Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash indicated that an investigation would be carried out into the tragedy and report would be released within a month,” he wrote on the change.org petition.
“Eleven months on and the Park-Fing family, Josh’s friends, and the general public are still waiting for the report into this tragedy to be released.
“Furthermore, immediately following the tragedy, the AUWU made a (Freedom of Information) request for the government’s Work for the Dole risk assessment conducted for the Toowoomba site.
“This request has also been rejected by Minister Cash because it contained information that could harm NEATO – Josh Park-Fing’s job agency.”
Mr Bennett claimed withholding “this crucial information” was a cover-up of the teen’s death and the dangers of the Work for the Dole program.
“This is a national disgrace,” Mr Bennett wrote.
“The Turnbull government must take the necessary steps to investigate this program and ensure the safety of all Work for the Dole participants before another serious injury or death occurs at Work for the Dole.”
The AUWU has organised a grassroots “phone bank” event encouraging people to inundate the minister’s office with calls to release the report.
The petition, started yesterday morning, has received more than 430 signatures.
A spokesperson for the minister’s office told BuzzFeed News the matter was still being investigated by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.
“It would be inappropriate for the department to release the report or put matters on the public record before Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has completed its investigation,” the spokesperson said.
The ALP and the Greens have also back calls for the report to be released. However, if you find yourself in an accident similar to Josh’s, you may want to consider looking for a work injury law firm local to you. They could help you make your claim strong, legally. They might also be able to ensure that, in the unfortunate event that a family member dies whilst working, their story isn’t covered up like the death of Josh Park-Fing.