Stay Afloat Queensland: New program launches to help Queensland commercial fishers build resilience

Stay Afloat Queensland: New program launches to help Queensland commercial fishers build resilience

Joint media release from the Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities The Honourable Mark Furner, and Seafood Industry Australia

The Palaszczuk Government is backing Queensland’s commercial fishers with a $59,000 investment towards a nationally-recognised resilience and wellbeing program.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities Mark Furner announced the Queensland Government would contribute $59,000 for Seafood Industry Australia’s ‘Stay Afloat’ program.

“Our commercial fishers face an incredible number of challenges as they work every day to put Queensland-caught seafood on our tables,” Mr Furner said.

“I commend Seafood Industry Australia for its outstanding ‘Stay Afloat’ initiative which makes the welfare of our commercial fishers the highest priority.”

Seafood Industry Australia CEO Veronica Papacosta thanked the Queensland Government for the funding, which will allow the organisation to deliver much-needed support to Queensland’s hardworking fishers.

“Research has shown Australia’s commercial fishers experience twice the base-rate of psychological stress than the general population, and this is not okay,” Ms Papacosta said.

“This funding from the Queensland Government will allow us to extend our industry-specific mental health pilot program, ‘Stay Afloat’ into Queensland, building on our three existing locations in New South Wales, Victoria and Darwin which are funded under the Australian Government’s Mental Health Program.” 

‘Stay Afloat’ Program Manager Jo Marshall said the specialised program is designed to connect fishers with existing services while creating networks of support on the ground in their fishing communities.

“Our group of trusted advocates will provide industry with information and referrals to local support services, and coordinate activities to build awareness of and reduce the stigma of mental illness within their communities,” Ms Marshall said.

“So far, our pilot program trusted advocates have recorded more than 500 interactions with industry, so we know the need for this type of service is there.

“We understand the pressures our fishers face are unique to industry, and a third of fishers who were suffering psychological stress said they hadn’t reached out for support because they didn’t feel health professionals would understand the pressures of the fishing industry.

“Whilst it is incredibly important we find immediate and appropriate support for people in crisis, we will equally be working towards providing people with a better understanding of prevention and wellness activities. Just like our physical health and wellbeing, our mental health and wellbeing can be cared for in an effort to prevent illness.”

Queensland Seafood Marketers Association President Marshall Betzel welcomed the expansion of the ‘Stay Afloat’ program to Queensland.

“The Queensland Seafood community has faced its fair share of hardships over the last few years, from the impacts of Covid-19 to floods and drought, you can see it’s taking a toll on people. I am glad this program has arrived,” Mr Betzel said.

“Like seafood communities across Australia, there is stress and anxiety related to the variable nature of the industry, uncertainty about future regulation changes and access to fishing grounds.

“Fishers are an incredibly tough bunch, and we know many don’t know how to recognise or start to address their mental wellness.

“Talking about mental health isn’t always the easiest conversation to have, but it is an important conversation to have. We need to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of poor mental health, and start building a network of support.”

The ‘Stay Afloat’ program has been developed to help break the stigma associated with poor mental health within the commercial seafood industry, develop a network of trusted industry advocates who fishers can reach out to and find support, and educate primary healthcare networks about industry pressures.

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For information about ‘Stay Afloat’, visit  www.stayafloat.com.au.

If you, or someone you know needs help contact a crisis helpline:

  • Lifeline – 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636
  • MensLine -1300 78 99 78 
  • If there is immediate danger please call 000 or visit your nearest hospital emergency department.