MOTIONS; World Suicide Prevention Day

October 21, 2019

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (12:46): The 10th of September marked World Suicide Prevention Day, a day which we observe to raise awareness and to commit to action to prevent suicides in our communities. Suicide is an issue that no doubt directly affects many communities and families across the nation. Recent statistics by the ABS have found that last year alone 3,046 deaths by suicide occurred. Suicide rates amongst males are three times higher than for females. To put these figures in perspective, that's eight people dying by suicide each day in Australia. These numbers make it remarkably clear that we must work together to develop an integrated and coordinated response to this very concerning issue.

On this note, I'd like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the tireless efforts of an organisation called MATES in Construction. It's an undertaking and it's worked in this sphere, and I pay particular respect to a good friend of mine, Brad Parker, who is the CEO of the New South Wales division of MATES. I pay respect to his dedication and commitment to leading the charge against suicide in construction. MATES in Construction was established in 2008 with the support of employers and the trade union movement to address high levels of suicide in the construction industry. It was formed in direct response to a report commissioned by the Australian Institute of Suicide Research and Prevention. The report found suicide rates in the construction industry were up to 2½ times higher than the national average. The research also revealed some very confronting facts. Every year, 190 Australians in the construction industry taking their own lives. This means that we are losing one construction worker to suicide every second day. Research also indicates that most men in these industries tend not to speak about their feelings and emotions with their colleagues at work, pride being the main barrier. But also they found that a second problem was people being prepared to seek out support. Given that I have two sons, Nicholas and Jonathon, both working in the construction industry, this area is pretty close to my heart. MATES in Construction's program is based on the notion that suicide is everybody's business. In order to see a sizable improvement in the building and construction industry, we must not shift the responsibility solely to mental health professionals; rather, we must ensure that everybody in the industry is playing their role.

For workers in the construction industry, suicide appears to be part of the reality of working in that industry, which is dominated by tough working conditions, very strict guidelines, time constraints and a highly transient workforce. MATES in Construction recognises that the program must be aimed at providing both training and support. Without both, the results would be insufficient. According to MATES, to do only training, without pathways, is potentially dangerous and to do support without raising awareness is simply another employee assistance program.

The MATES in Construction program delivers general awareness training to workers on site, firstly to raise awareness that there are problems with suicides in the construction industry and also to alert workers to the contributing factors and warning signs that they should look out for amongst their fellow colleagues. The next step is to provide support through clear pathways of help, with case management processes being an integral part of ensuring that workers in need of support are connected with the appropriate help. On-site visits by field officers are also conducted to support a site and its workers, ensuring their presence until the site is closed.

As have many of my side, I have had the opportunity to attend training sessions with MATES in Construction. I did one at one of my local construction sites and got to see firsthand the grassroots work that they are undertaking to improve mental health and suicide rates in the construction industry. As I said, MATES in Construction is supported by all major employers in the industry, as well as by the various unions operating in that space. I encourage every member to get behind this great organisation. Make an arrangement to attend, as I did, a training session on a site. You'll get to see the absolutely instrumental and groundbreaking work being undertaken by this organisation, which is making a difference for the better in our industry.