The Hon Julia Gillard: Workplaces need to embrace mental health in D&I

Media releases
Topics Mental Health

The Hon Julia Gillard AC, Chair of beyondblue and former Prime Minister, said Australian businesses need to see diversity and inclusion (D&I) through a different lens, with mental health as a key focus. This is critical in a country where one-in-two of us will experience poor mental health at some point in our lifetime and more than 200 people, every day, feel so desperate they attempt to end their own lives.

Delivering Diversity Council Australia’s Anna McPhee Memorial Oration on Diversity & Inclusion, sponsored by Lendlease, in Melbourne today, Ms Gillard said many people experience mental health issues and diversity and inclusion at work need to be seen from their perspective.

In a heartfelt speech, she said, “While some are locked out of meaningful employment, the vast majority of these people work. They value work. They are highly productive. Yes, they may need flexibility, reasonable adjustments, time off from time to time. But who doesn’t? And too often, all employers see is a diagnosis, not the value of the richness of experience these people bring. Too often employers view mental health in the workplace through the lens of deficit and risk,” said Ms Gillard.

Underlining the predominance of mental health conditions in Australia, she urged the nation to think of, “The one in five working Australians affected at any given time by mental health challenges. The one-in-two of us who will experience poor mental health at some point in our lifetime. The one million Australian adults living today with depression. The two million with an anxiety condition. The more than 200 who, every day, feel so desperate they attempt to end their own lives. The eight a day who die by suicide. A terrible figure that is more than twice the national road toll.”

Ms Gillard highlighted programs like Heads Up, which help create mentally health workplaces. She also mentioned The Way Back Support Service for suicide prevention, and the #YouCanTalk campaign to increase confidence when it comes to talking about suicide, saying that while they are achieving results, they needed more support.

She went on to say, “We need to continue to build awareness and change behaviours everywhere that Australians work, live, learn and play; have governments invest more and differently; realise the potential of every dollar by eradicating waste, duplication, gaps and holes; and improve access to high quality services and supports so everyone in need gets them.”

DCA’s CEO, Lisa Annese, said greater workplace inclusion of people with mental health conditions will benefit everyone.

“We already know from DCA research that inclusion is good for business and for employees. Today’s Oration showed that workplaces can do more when it comes to mental health. It’s really all about creating an environment that enables people to manage their lives, and get the support they need,” said Ms Annese.

Chris Lamb, Group Head of Talent & Organisational Development at Lendlease who spoke on the panel at the event said employers have an obligation to understand the impact of their work environment on the mental health and wellbeing of their people.

“As business leaders, we must step up and demonstrate an active and long-term commitment to this issue which goes well beyond policies and frameworks. We are uniquely placed to serve as important role models, significantly influencing the culture of our respective organisations. Importantly, we can also drive meaningful action within our broader industries for safer, healthier and more inclusive workplaces,” said Mr Lamb.

DCA’s CEO, Lisa Annese and panellists from today’s event are available for interview:

  • Professor Ian Hickie AM, Co-Director, Health and Policy, Brain and Mind Centre, The University of Sydney
  • Georgie Harman, CEO, beyondblue
  • Chris Lamb, Group Head of Talent & Organisational Development, Lendlease
  • Sonia Gangi, Registered Nurse working for the Victorian public health sector.

Event materials:

Media contact: Diane Falzon, 0430 596 699, Catherine Petterson, 0419 447 331.

About Diversity Council Australia:

About DCA

Diversity Council Australia is the independent not-for-profit peak body leading diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We provide unique research, inspiring events and programs, curated resources and expert advice across all diversity dimensions to a community of over 500 member organisations. Our members are estimated to employ more than one million Australians, representing around 10% of the Australian workforce.

About Lendlease:

Lendlease is a leading international property and infrastructure group with operations in Australia, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Our vision is to create the best places; places that inspire and enrich the lives of people around the world.

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