MATES IN CONSTRUCTION (2014)

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS ( 16:57 :25 ): I move:

That this council notes—

1. The exemplary work of MATES in Construction in its ende avour to prevent suicide in the construction industry and promote health and wellbeing;

2. That MATES in Construction is a federation of inde pendent industry-based MATES in Construction organisations throughout New South Wales , Queensland, Western Australia and here in South Australia;

3. That MATES in Construction aims to raise awareness abo ut suicide, making it easier to access help and ensuring that the help offered throug hout the industry is practical, professional and appropriate; and

4. That MATES in Construction has implemented the following programs to address the tragic rate of su icide in the industry—

(a) an individual case management program which aims to assist troubled workers with an effective plan to address their mental issues;

(b) field visits, which involve field officers going from site to site to advise workers of the program; and

(c) a post-vention program, which provides support wh ere a worker or worker’s family member has committed suicide.

MATES in Construction is an award winning suicide awareness prevention and post-vention program for the construction industry across a large slice of this country. I was very pleased to be at the Suicide Prevention Australia conference in Perth this year to witness MATES in Construction winning an award for their fabulous work.

MATES in Construction was established as a not-for-profit organisation in Queensland in 2008 to address the high suicide rate amongst construction workers. The organisation was brought to South Australia through the drive and commitment of a number of union and industry bodies and receives funding from the Building Industry Redundancy Trust and the commonwealth government. Since its introduction to South Australia, the organisation has:

supported and case managed 154 construction workers,

provided 1,734 construction workers and safety staff with a one-hour general awareness training course,

provided 215 construction workers and safety staff with a four-hour connected training course,

provided 23 construction workers and safety staff with a two-day applied suicide intervention skills training or assist course,

presented training at 40 South Australian building sites, and

continued to respond to crisis calls from construction workers around the state.

MATES in Construction is also currently in consultation with a further 14 sites with the view to providing further training. The organisation does not charge fees for any of its services and offers a very important service to members of all facets of the construction industry.

The organisation does not currently receive any state government funding; however, I note that the Minister for Health the Hon. Jack Snelling highlighted during estimates the work the government was doing in the suicide prevention area by making an example of the work of MATES in Construction. It is interesting, I suppose, that I have been waiting almost five months for an answer to a number of questions about suicide prevention, but particularly one about MATES in Construction, and only today I received an answer on that one about MATES in Construction. It is interesting, I think, to read firstly the question and the answers. On that day, I asked:

1. What involvement has the minister's office or his department had with Mates in Construction in its efforts to lower the suicide rate in the construction industry?

2. Will the minister commit to further engaging with Mates in Construction to assist in its mission to support the mental health of South Australian construction workers who are two times more likely to complete suicide than the average male, and up to six times more likely to die from suicide than from an accident at work?

The response that I have received today from the Hon. Ian Hunter MLC is that:

The Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse has received this advice:

1. The Minister's Of fice was first involved in discussions with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) as they sought to engage with MATES in Construction ( Queensland ) in the development of a similar program in South Australia. The CFMEU had become involved in the development of the South Australian Suicide Prevention Strategy 2012-16: Every life is worth living.

SA Health provides support to Mates in Construction through Ms Lyn ne James, Principal Project Officer Suicide Prevention, Mental Health Unit, SA Health, who is a foundation member of the M ates in Construction SA Board, which established the South Australian M ates in Construction team and provides ong oing leadership.

The SA Government supports the continued funding of M ates in Construction through the National Suicide Prevent ion Strategy funding. Federally funded Suicide Prevention Funding has not b een distributed on a population based model and the SA G overnment urges the Federal Government to consider this and maintain the level of funding provided to M ates in Construction SA.

2. The South Australian G overnment commends the work of M ates in Construction SA and encourages all construction sites to participate in the pr ogram.

The SA G overnment is committed to the program of M ates in Construction SA to reduce the rate of suicide in the construction industry workforce.

I thought it was informative to read that answer because, as it says, the government commends the work of MATES in Construction and is committed to the program to reduce the rate of suicide in the construction industry workforce. It urges the federal government to maintain the level of funding towards MATES in Construction.

What I aim to do with this motion is to get more support for MATES in Construction but also to ask the government to perhaps provide more than just the words in that answer, to perhaps provide more support to the organisation, particularly in relation to funding support, because that currently does not exist. However, I give great credit to a number of members of the government, including the Hon. John Gazzola and the Hon. Steph Key, who I know are very supportive of MATES in Construction, and to many other members of the government who support me in my suicide prevention work but who are also well aware of MATES in Construction.

I think it would be appropriate for the government to do everything it can to support this organisation. I see this motion as a way of providing more information about the body but also as a way of seeking more general support from right across the Legislative Council. I commend the motion to the chamber.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. G.A. Kandelaars.