HIACF and Julia Gillard

A profound impact

The HIA Charitable Foundation, in partnership with Beyond Blue since 2014, promotes mentally healthy workplaces in an industry afflicted by suicide.


Sarah O’Donovan

In September, former Prime Minister and Chair of Beyond Blue Hon. Julia Gillard AC visited HIA to discuss the importance of fostering mentally healthy workplaces within our industry.

Ms Gillard says a mentally healthy workplace, put simply, is ‘a place where people can work smart, contribute their best effort, be recognised for their work, and go home at the end of the day with some energy left over, with something left in the tank’.

There are many ways to help fellow workers who might be battling an invisible illness, and it’s important to remember the profound impact a small gesture can have.

Sharing our own struggles and stories is one such gesture, which is why HIA has been sharing the stories of those affected by mental illness and suicide in Housing throughout this year.

It’s an unfortunate truth that the construction industry is affected by suicide more than any other industry in Australia

‘Hearing directly from people affected by anxiety or depression, who have thought of – or tried – [taking] their own lives, and yet have found their way back to living, is the most powerful antidote to stigma,’ Ms Gillard says, ‘and often the point at which people recognise that something isn’t right in themselves.’

It’s an unfortunate truth that the construction industry is affected by suicide more than any other industry in Australia, so HIA is doing everything it can to support and educate those in the industry when it comes to mental health.

Between 2001 and 2003, the suicide rate among construction workers was 2.3 times that of other male workers. Between 2011 and 2013, it had dropped to 1.7 times. This is an undeniable improvement, but there’s still quite a way to go in reducing those figures.

The HIA Charitable Foundation (HIACF) and Beyond Blue have been in partnership since 2014. The partnership has facilitated the creation of a number of programs and initiatives, as well as providing much-needed support for a recent nationwide suicide prevention research project.

Julia Gillard
Former Prime Minister and Chair of Beyond Blue Hon. Julia Gillard AC

This research project investigated the public’s understanding of suicide – signs and symptoms to look out for, where to go for support and how to start a conversation about it. The research led to a sector-wide suicide prevention campaign, #YouCanTalk. For the first time, Australia’s leading suicide prevention groups joined forces to equip and support Australians to know the warning signs and have open conversations about suicide with people they are concerned about.

The partnership between HIACF and Beyond Blue has also seen the creation of a wealth of resources and information including webinars and videos which members can access via the HIA website. Business owners can also access Beyond Blue’s free toolbox training talks which equip leaders with the skills to identify and address mental health in the workplace.


It’s hard – maybe the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do – but talking to someone about suicide could be one of the most important conversations of their life (and yours). If you’re worried about someone, simply letting them know you care can make a huge difference.

If you’ve noticed that a friend or loved one hasn’t been themselves lately, if they’re avoiding social situations, seem low or flat, or you just know something isn’t right, it might be time to have a talk.

Research from Beyond Blue shows people who feel suicidal simply want you to listen to them and show you care – you don’t need to be a professional.

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