Joint media release: Stay Afloat - Seafood industry tackles mental health

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator the Hon Murray Watt
Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, the Hon Emma McBride MP

The Albanese Government is working with Seafood Industry Australia to support the mental health and wellbeing of people employed by commercial fisheries and seafood hauler industries, as well as their families, friends and local communities.

Delivering on an election commitment, the Stay Afloat Program is receiving $1.5 million over two years to help Australia’s fishing community build resilience and manage mental health challenges.

The seafood industry can be especially challenging for workers, who are often isolated from family and support networks for weeks at a time.

Following a successful pilot program in Newcastle (NSW), Lakes Entrance (Victoria) and Darwin (NT), the Stay Afloat Program is being rolled out to 50 seafood communities around the country to help break the stigma associated with poor mental health and build community resilience.

The Stay Afloat Program will recruit industry volunteers, to be trusted advocates to be trained in mental health first aid to provide frontline mental health and wellbeing support. These advocates will identify the signs and symptoms of poor mental health so people can get the help they need quickly and compassionately.

The program will also deliver mental health and wellbeing education to support local community coordinators, GPs and other health professionals to support.

Community Resilience Grants will fund local networks and events to raise awareness, build resilience through community connectedness, and address issues of mental health stigma and social isolation.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Murray Watt:

“Studies suggest the rate of mental illness can be higher for commercial fishers compared to the general population, but only around 1 in 3 are seeking help.

“The Stay Afloat pilot program sparked more than 8000 conversations about mental health in the seafood industry, connected 220 people in crisis with mental health services and saved nine lives.

“The Stay Afloat program is an important way for the Albanese Government to support our fishers and our fishing industry.

“Importantly, the program works both ways - it develops a network of trusted industry advocates who fishers can reach out to for support, while also educating Primary Health Networks about industry pressures so they can offer appropriate support.”

Quotes attributable to Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Emma McBride MP:

“There should be no stigma or discrimination when it comes to seeking mental health support.

“Seafood Industry Australia has worked hard to get the Stay Afloat program up and running to provide appropriate care to its fishers, their families, friends and coastal communities.

“Stay Afloat will help address the specific mental health pressures faced by people who work and live in fishing communities.”

Quotes attributed to CEO Seafood Industry Australia, Veronica Papacosta:

“The $1.5 million grant from the Albanese Government exemplifies the government's commitment to the prosperity and welfare of its seafood industry workers. This funding ensures that Stay Afloat can reach far and wide, offering support to those who make invaluable contributions to the nation’s seafood sector.

"Our industry thrives on the hard work and dedication of our workforce. The national rollout of Stay Afloat reflects our commitment to not only the physical safety but also the mental health of our valued workers. We believe that a healthy mind is the foundation for a resilient and productive industry.

“Through the pilot we saw positive changes in the lives of participants, which affirmed our belief in the program's potential. As we launch on a national scale, we look forward to extending this vital support to even more individuals within our industry.”