Legislative Council: Thursday, June 16, 2022


MATES in Construction

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY (14:57): My question is to the Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector. Will the minister update the council on steps the government is taking to support mental health in the construction industry?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:57): I thank the honourable member for his question. The building and construction industry is certainly an engine room of the South Australian economy and for decades has provided good careers to South Australian workers, while building our state for the future. Unfortunately, this success has come with some sobering developments in the mental health of the construction industry workforce.

Research reveals that every year, 190 Australians working in the construction industry take their own life. Construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than an accident at work and young construction workers are two times more likely to take their own life than other young Australian men. The construction industry has responded to these appalling statistics by proactively working to improve mental health in the industry and to provide valuable support to construction workers.

MATES in Construction is an industry-backed research-based suicide prevention and support program, which has been operating in the building and construction industry since 2008. It provides a national program that helps to deliver services to workers who need help and support. Its work includes raising awareness of suicide, raising awareness of suicide prevention, connecting workers to the best available help and support, and partnering with researchers to inform the construction industry about best practice around mental health.

The MATES in Construction program recognises that many building and construction workers find it difficult to discuss mental health with colleagues at work. The program works to break down some of the social barriers to raise awareness about mental health issues. MATES in Construction is supported by industry partners from across the building and construction industry, including both large employers and the construction workers union, the CFMEU.

Regrettably, in October 2019, the previous government cut funding for this important program. Prior to this, MATES in Construction was providing all construction apprenticeships in the state with the Life Skills Toolbox training for free. I'm proud that the new Labor government has committed to reversing these cuts to this important program and is restoring the $60,000 a year funding for the MATES in Construction program over the next four years. It is a small amount of money, but it does a huge amount of good.