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Close to 130 attendees took part in a breakfast seminar we hosted last week. The event aimed at unpacking the CTWD’s ground-breaking research around mental health and well-being issues experienced by FIFO workers.

The diverse crowd at Pan Pacific Perth included mental health professionals, consultants and representatives from the resources industry.

The two lead authors CTWD Director and ARC Laureate Fellow Professor Sharon Parker and CTWD Research Fellow Dr Laura Fruhen spoke at the event. A panel discussion with stakeholder representatives covered a wide range of issues related to FIFO worker mental health.

Professor Sharon Parker said the WA Mental Health Commission-funded initiative came out of a need for high-quality research and definitive results on the significant challenges FIFO workers face.

“Part of the research was really about trying to get clarity; for the workers themselves, for organisations and employers and other stakeholders involved,” she said.

Co-lead author of the report Dr Laura Fruhen presented insights from the research, including protective and threatening factors which affect FIFO workers’ mental health and well-being.

Laura’s recommendations included having even-time rosters, staying in the same room on-site at each shift and a change in the workplace culture around mental health.

Professor Parker suggested CTWD’s Thrive at Work Framework as a benchmark for the experience of FIFO workers.

“It’s the same with FIFO – it’s not enough just to identify who is suffering and sort that out, but we need to go further and address the underlying issues,” she said.

The panel including Tony Wittcomb (Roy Hill Head of Health and Safety), Michael O’Hanlon (Beyond Blue Workplace Engagement Manager) and Glenn McLaren (Australian Manufacturing Workers Union Assistant State Secretary) began by discussing what could make a difference to FIFO workers in the future.

Glenn McLaren suggested the first step is to have a conversation on mental health. FIFO workers tend not to talk about their personal issues, and he encouraged having conversations before working.

“I encourage that not just from the leadership of every organisation, but down at the grassroots level of the workforce,” he said.

Michael O’Hanlon from Beyond Blue commented that there is no “silver bullet” to the problem and a need for an integrated solution.

“Integration of job, home, accommodation, work practices – that’s a holistic, integrated approach,” Mr O’Hanlon said.

Michael O’Hanlon also called for organisations to stand up and lead Western Australia in changing its attitude and “breaking the stigma” on mental health.

Tony Wittcomb from Roy Hill reinforced that it’s about choice.

“It’s providing ways to the individuals in the workforce to make their own choices,” he said.

By its genuine efforts, Roy Hill became a pioneer in making the work environment similar to FIFO workers’ home environment.

Sharon Parker closed the panel discussion in introducing the 3 A’s: accept, act and assess to enable FIFO workers to thrive.

To first accept the findings and move on, initiate genuine actions in response and finally, assessing their effectiveness.

We hope that the presentations and discussions have inspired our guests and will support them in taking the next steps forward around FIFO workers’ mental health.