Comcare is the Commonwealth workplace health and safety regulator, and was granted its authority under the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 and the Work Health and Safety Act 2015. Inspectors, deployed by Comcare, make recommendations for workplace improvements. Comcare can also prosecute employers who are not meeting their obligations, as set forth by legislation.
The scheme was developed for Commonwealth employees who were historically and generally office workers, and does not have the same entitlements found in workers compensation schemes in the states and territories. Despite this, there have been moves toward expanding Comcare to other, more dangerous workplaces. The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) has fought to ensure that workers compensation laws remain strong and resisted the expansion of Comcare.
Comcare is one of the only government agencies with oversight of immigration detention facilities, especially those offshore, as these are all Commonwealth workplaces. The ALA wrote a comprehensive report, Untold Damage, outlining our concerns regarding how Comcare carries out its duties in relation to immigration detention in 2016.
The report makes recommendations about how to keep both workers and other people (including people seeking asylum and refugees) safe in immigration detention facilities. It has also played a role in ensuring that the urgent health concerns that exist in many of these facilities are seen as workplace safety issues, as well as humanitarian tragedies. You can find more information on our work in relation to immigration detention and treatment of migrants here.