Funding boost for Midwest and Pilbara workplace mental health program

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The WA Centre for Rural Health (WACRH) of The University of Western Australia will use new funding from the Mentally Healthy Workplaces Grant Program to engage in a ‘Leading Thriving Workplaces’ initiative in the Midwest and the Pilbara.

WACRH, and other successful recipients of the grants (South West Aboriginal Medical Service, Juniper and People Diagnostix, and Pivot Support Services) will share $500,000 funding per year across four years as part of the McGowan Government’s grants for initiatives that promote and support positive aspects of work and worker wellbeing.

UWA lecturer Ms Julie Loveny, who has more than 30 years' experience as an educator, facilitator, and social worker, will lead the mentally healthy workplace intervention for WACRH. Ms Loveny has considerable experience in mental health, leadership and organisational development with a focus on psychological safety.

Ms Loveny and her team will work intensively with two health and human services (HHS) organisations in Geraldton and one in the Pilbara for three years, with opportunities to share the learning and interventions with others in the fourth year.

“Research shows that health and human service workers are at significant risk of burnout and mental health issues and according to Safe Work Australia, also have very high mental health related workers’ compensation claims,” Ms Loveny said.

“In Western Australia, the demands on this workforce have increased with the community transmission of COVID and borders now being reopened.

“In working with HHS organisations across the Mid-west and the Pilbara we’re also acutely aware of the ongoing challenges to recruit and retain capable staff, including leaders in regional areas where the workforce turnover can be high.”

Ms Loveny delivers workshops to improve mental health in the workplace and the evidence-based Dare to Lead™ program which will be a key part of the Leading Thriving Workplaces initiative. WACRH is rurally based and has worked closely with many HHS organisations and has the experience and knowledge necessary for the four-year project.

“The learnings from this initiative will help inform how health and human services can build positive work practices and cultures and best support, attract and retain staff in the regions,” Ms Loveny said.

“It’s a great outcome for our regions, linking very nicely with efforts around the Community Respect and Equality initiative in Geraldton and Safe and Respectful Pilbara,” she said.