Building Positive Relationships

Humans are herd animals. We like to hang out together, share our experiences and talk through our decisions. Spending time with others can enrich how we view the world, build our confidence, provide emotional support, and can just be plain fun!

Yes, there are certainly lots of individual differences in how much time we like to be with others. But, overall, if we become socially isolated and feel lonely, it has a detrimental impact on our mental health.

The importance to us of enjoying positive relationship is acknowledged by Positive Psychology, where constructive relationships is one of the six elements that support a happy, flourishing life. These six elements, represented by the letters PERMAH (Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishment and Health) are taught around the world to help people lead satisfying meaningful lives.

The six attributes that support a flourishing life don’t just happen by themselves. The integration of them into the way we live can take effort and an ongoing commitment until they become second nature to us to cultivate them on a daily basis.

This is certainly true of friendships. Friendships, indeed any positive relationships at work or outside of it, take time and effort to cultivate. If, in the busyness of life, we continually ignore others or give them minimal attention, don’t make time for positive interactions, and keep to ourselves, then it’s much less likely we will experience positive relationships. On the other hand if we take a moment to greet others, check in with them, share something of ourselves and listen empathetically we are creating the foundations of a strong supportive network.

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It’s time for new New Year Resolutions!

It’s the start of a new year – and, if you are like the 70% of Australians who made new year’s resolutions last year[1], you have probably already made one or two resolutions for 2024. Whatever resolutions you have made there’s one part of new year resolutions it might be worth taking a look at. Are you making the resolution because you want to, or because you feel you should?

Doing something because you want to and because you should are two very different things. Take a moment to notice how a want to feels… then feel a should. A want to probably feels lighter and draws you in. A should probably feels heavier and more rigid. With a should we typically feel the reason we are doing it is to please someone else, with a want to we are typically doing it for ourselves.

Research from the University of Pennsylvania points to fun and enjoyment being a very important part of keeping to any sort of change you are wanting to introduce into your life[2]. If doing something makes you feel good while you do it, you’re more likely to do it again tomorrow. Want to’s are fun, shoulds are plain hard work!

Reconsider that new year resolution you made recently. Will you enjoy doing it? If the answer is a resounding no, then, sorry to break it to you, but you’re chance of maintaining that resolution is not good, and it’s probably a should. That doesn’t mean you now immediately give up on it – but it does mean you might want to re-think it. Back to that research from the University of Pennsylvania, a key takeaway is that framing the same situation in a different way can provide a substantial boost to your motivation.

How might that should become a want to with some fun inside of it? First, own it. If it’s your doctor telling you to lose weight, and you feel you should, then ask yourself what do you need to do to take ownership of this goal so you are doing it for you, not to please your doctor? This might take some introspection and a chat with an AccessEAP counsellor to help you understand what’s going on. Counselling isn’t just for a crisis. It works very well when you want to make a positive change. 

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Keeping Curious

At the start of a new year we often make resolutions to change some way of behaving that we are unhappy with. For example, we vow to exercise more. We then take up a new gym membership, and then…we go once.

So this new year you might want to look at enhancing a particular approach to living that can be applied to pretty much anything – an approach that can be very life enhancing. That approach is to practice being curious.

In the theory of emotion put forward by the neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp, our drive to explore the world and to discover is primarily emotional in nature. So curiosity is a feeling.  

What would it be like to grow this feeling of curiosity? Would you take a short course? Choose a different holiday destination? Maybe even question some of your assumptions about who you are and how you behave?

At the heart of curiosity is paying attention. Sometimes our attention ‘muscle’ gets a bit out of condition. We start taking things for granted. We assume we know what life is about and what our partner or friend is like. We believe that because the way we did something yesterday worked, that it is the best approach for what happens tomorrow.

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2024 Wellbeing Calendar - Q1 Self-care

The AccessEAP 2024 Wellbeing Calendar and Quarter 1 Pack has launched! Making time for self-care within our personal and professional lives can be tricky so we have created the Quarter 1 Pack to help get you started. 

The theme for Quarter 1 is Self-Care, highlighting the following key awareness days: 

  • 24 January - International Day of Education
  • 13 February - Anniversary of National Apology Day
  • 8 March - International Women's Day
  • 20 March - International Day of Happiness
  • 21 March - Harmony Day

Download the Quarter 1 Pack - Self-care
Access the calendar and the Q1 Pack (Poster, Infographic & Activity) via the Employee Portal - https://www.accesseap.com.au/employees/index.php

Q1 Pack + Suggested Training & Services
The calendar along with leader resources and suggested training & services is available via the Employer Portal- https://www.accesseap.com.au/employers/index.php 


If you have any questions, call AccessEAP on 1800 818 728 or reach out to your main contact. As always, our people are here to help support you and your people be their best in life and work.

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Leadership Series - How to promote a socially and emotionally healthy workplace climate

Shari Walton, Organisational Development Consultant

Promote a socially and emotionally healthy workplace climate by adopting specific combinations of leadership behaviours and strategies

Leading a team has always presented challenges and this has only continued to increase recently. With burnout rates going up and new legislation requiring organisations to proactively address psychosocial (emotional and social) hazards, new research suggests leaders can create a safer and higher-performance work environment by developing specific combinations of leadership strategies.

Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, explains that specific combinations of leadership behaviours shape an employee’s mindset, experience, and quality of work. Leaders can better create a psychosocially safe climate by moving away from authoritative leadership and demonstrating consultative leadership and supportive leadership styles combined with challenging leadership.


Consultative leadership encourages employees to support each other and seek each other’s input. Challenging leadership encourages employees to aspire to do more and encourages the expression of creativity, sense of empowerment, and desire to learn and improve. All these factors have a direct and indirect effect on psychological safety.

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Support through the Festive Season 2023

Thank you for partnering with us in 2023. We hope you have a relaxing and refreshing festive season.

Please be assured our counselling and critical response support services remain available throughout the holiday season by calling 1800 818 728. 

Our other services and offices will break from Friday 22nd December 5pm and return Monday 8th January 9am.

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It’s About Time

As we approach the end of the year, some of us may have time off coming up or some of us may be busier than usual. Whichever category you fall into, it can be a great time of year to think about how we spend our time and if that matches how we want to spend our time. 

We all know logically that time is a finite resource.

Yet many of us live as if it can be stretched so that we can fit more and more into a 24-hour day.

So given time is limited, deciding how we want to spend it is important.

  • Do you feel you have choice about how you spend your time? Could you exercise more choice?
  • As well as deciding how you spend your time doing things, what do you spend your time thinking about?

“With our thoughts we make the world” said the Buddha.

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Cultural Competency Training for AccessEAP

Our journey towards cultural competency. At AccessEAP we are committed to developing cultural competency across our business. For us that means providing the best possible experience for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers. By increasing our cultural awareness and knowledge of historical events impacting the nature of trauma experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees today, we offer the opportunity to develop more culturally appropriate EAP holistic support services. In order for us to authenticate our commitment, AccessEAP is investing in the ongoing development of cultural sensitivity within our workforce by offering online Cultural Competency Training for all employees.

Arrilla Cultural Competency Training is the first step in this process aiming to empower all AccessEAP employees to gain knowledge, skills and confidence to work more effectively with Indigenous colleagues, customers, companies and communities, or while working on Indigenous projects or strategies. The training is also designed to improve understanding and the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the wider, diverse Australian community. As we all move towards Indigenous cultural competency, so too will organisations. Although we have a dedicated Culturally Competent Team with a depth and breadth of experience and knowledge we don't purport to all be overnight experts - it will take time. Together, we’ll create a better environment to help Indigenous people thrive, and we’ll enable organisations to benefit from a more productive workforce.

Update on our RAP journey

AccessEAP’s reconciliation journey has progressed with the planning of the Reflect component of our Reconciliation Action Plan, now completed.

Some of the changes we are implementing include:  

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Boost your Physical Fitness

When life gets busy, and our routines get out of whack, it can be tricky to maintain a consistent exercise routine. Wherever you are at, it’s great to think about increasing your physical activity or even to shake things up and try something new.

Here are some tips to inspire you to get moving:

  • Set a health goal. Write it down and share it with colleagues and friends – this will mean you are more likely to achieve it. Gradually work towards that goal, step by step.
  • Understand your why – what is pushing you to increase your fitness? Could it be deeper than a waist measurement and more like stress management or better sleep?
  • If you take public transport home from work –get off one station earlier and walk home.
  • Take 20 minutes out of your Sunday and plan your week to fit in the exercise. Find a calendar that you can colour code, choose your favourite colour for exercise, and slot in times to get active. This will mean that no other meetings can be booked at that time.
  • Factor in household duties. Think of cleaning your house as part of your exercise regime. Walk to the local shops multiple times a week to get supplies rather than driving.
  • Don’t expect to love doing the “couch to five km” app (for example) straight away. This is a new skill and not something that you may be good at quickly.
  • Find your supports and ask them for specific things – meet you at the park, parent/care for loved ones, not book meetings in your lunch break.
  • Get a routine around your exercise and set yourself up for success. Get your clothes out and make sure your shoes are easily found (you can sleep longer if this is done).
  • Go for a short, sharp 20-minute exercise plan that will allow you some flexibility to keep living your life and the demands in it.
  • If you prefer working out from your home, get creative. Go for a walk and then come home and lift some cans of spaghetti and some large pumpkins for weights. This keeps costly gym memberships down too.

Counselling support can help you set goals and identify when stress and anxiety are affecting your choices and impacting your health. Call AccessEAP on 1800 818 728 to book a session.

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Counselling, what’s it all about?

What Is Counselling?
Counselling sessions provide a comfortable and safe environment where you can talk openly without judgement about what is happening for you. The counsellor does not label you or give a diagnosis. People often use counselling to speak about common life stressors, e.g. relationships or workplace stress or to learn how to reach life goals.

What happens in a Counselling Session?
During the first appointment, the counsellor will aim to hear and understand what is happening in your life and what you may want to achieve from counselling. You decide what you want to focus on in the sessions and the counsellor will work with you to find approaches that may help you. Through counselling, you will receive support as you try new strategies or approaches. The counsellor will never instruct you if you are trying to make a decision about something, however they will discuss your options and help you decide what approach is going to work best for you.

What if I don’t feel a connection or “like” my counsellor?
It is important that you get the greatest benefit possible from your session so that may mean providing feedback and seeking a different counsellor to move forward with.

Making an Appointment
Making an appointment is as easy as telephoning 1800 818 728 during business hours, Monday-Friday 9am-5.30pm AEST. Calls will be answered by our Customer Services Team. 24/7 assistance is also available for urgent counselling. When phoning us for the first time, an employee will need to provide the following information:

• Their name, their employer, and a few contact details
• Whether they would like to book a standard appointment or if they need immediate assistance.
• If they have any preferences in relation to the counsellor e. g., gender, age, specialisation.
• Location preference if sessions are face-to-face*. Phone, chat or video sessions are also available.

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Managing Loneliness

Why is it that we can feel lonely in a crowd? How can we feel lonely when we have so many “friends” on social media or apps? The fact is, feeling connected to others depends on the quality of our relationships and how we think about them – loneliness is perceived social isolation. It is normal to feel lonely sometimes, just as it is normal to feel sad or anxious or tired or hungry. However, loneliness becomes a problem when it causes us distress or impacts our ability to get on with everyday life. Although simply “getting out there” and meeting people may be enough for some, for others this may not be enough. Many people live with chronic loneliness and may require a more considered approach in order to feel more socially connected.

1. Accept that sometimes feeling lonely is a normal part of life. Loneliness is a feeling. As with any feeling, loneliness serves a purpose. Rather than viewing loneliness as something bad, we can interpret it as a signal – it motivates us to maintain or repair our relationships. Once we acknowledge that loneliness is a signal and accept it as a normal part of life, we can then attempt to get on with everyday life despite feeling lonely.

2. Monitor your loneliness in different situations. Keep a diary, recording how lonely you feel at different points throughout the day (give it an “intensity rating” out of 10). After a week or two, you may notice patterns in terms of how lonely you feel across different situations.

3. Recognise the power of thoughts. Reflect on the thoughts that run through your head and how they may influence what you do or how you feel. 

4. Be aware of your own behaviour. If you feel anxious about social situations or believe you need to keep your distance to protect yourself, you may tend to avoid forming new social connections. Even though it may feel uncomfortable, try doing something different – talk to your neighbour, join a club, go to a party, or eat your lunch in the common area at work.

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The year comes to its end… What does it all mean?

As the year comes to its end, we might be planning get-togethers for friends and family, perhaps thinking about what this year has been about, and starting to think about what we want for the year that is coming. For some, it’s a time to celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, or the summer or winter solstice (depending on which hemisphere you live in). Whatever we do, or not do, there is something significant about us reaching the end of a year – that point in time where we come to an ending and then re-start, where January 1 marks the re-beginning of a journey that will take us all the way through to the end of December again.

For thousands of years, humankind has marked significant social and natural events through ritual. Rituals are symbolic events, often participated in by large groups of people. They are ways to create meaning. At this time of year, you may want to spend time reflecting on what all the activity, the interactions, and the effort of the past 12 months means to you. Do you look back over the year with a sense of ‘well, that was good’, ‘thank goodness that’s over’, or some combination of both? Do you want to live the same ways in the coming year, or do you want things to be different? And if you want things to be different, what are you going to do so that you create something different? 

So we at AccessEAP invite you to take a moment to reflect – perhaps create your own small ritual. You could light a candle, sit in a favourite chair, go to a place in nature which you find particularly peaceful or beautiful, and take time to think through what this year has been like for you, and what you want for yourself in the year to come. If we are always involved in doing, it’s very hard to break out of the existing patterns of our life. If we make time to reflect and consider, it creates a gap, a small space of new possibility where we can insert a new thought, experiment with a new way of being and behaving, make change so we move in a different direction. When we do that, something different will happen. It can be an experiment we run within our lives.

So try something new, something that inspires you a bit more, that moves you towards something that you will be proud of. A way of being, that when you look back from the vantage point of approaching the end of next year, you can say ‘that was good!’

Wishing you a restful, replenishing and reflective time as this year closes and the next begins.

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First Action Plan 2032- 2027 - National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children

The role of organisations in helping to end violence against women

Marcela Slepica, Director, Clinical Services

On October 17th 2022 State and Federal governments released the National Plan to end violence against women and children. This 10-year plan includes a framework of actions to end violence against women and children in one generation. It highlights how all parts of society including governments, businesses and workplaces, media, schools, and communities must work together towards a shared vision of ending gender-based violence.

The statistics are very confronting. 1 in 5 women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15, 1 in 6 women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a current or previous cohabitating partner since the age of 15 and 1 in 4 women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or previous cohabitating partner since the age of 15. The rates are higher for certain groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women1.

To address these staggering figures, the National Plan has 4 domains: Prevention, Early Intervention, Response and Recovery, and Healing. The government has now released the First Action Plan (2023 2037). The First Action Plan provides a roadmap for the first 5 year effort towards achieving the vision of the National Plan. It sets out the initial scope of activities, areas for action and responsibility with respect to outcomes, and outlines how they will make the commitments set out in the National Plan a reality. Read more about the First Action Plan and the ten action items they are committing to implement here.

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Leadership Series - Prioritising the people side of change

Shari Walton, Organisational Development Consultant

Prioritising the people side of change will help to create a psychologically healthy work environment where employees feel comfortable asking for help, sharing suggestions informally, or challenging the status quo without fear of negative social consequences. An effective team values psychological safety as much as physical safety and performance standards.  When this is the experience of individuals and teams, organisations are able better to innovate, leverage the benefits of diversity and adapt well to change. A psychologically healthy workplace is a precursor to adaptive, innovative practices, which is very much needed at the individual, team, and organisation levels in today’s rapidly changing environment.


Staying in your comfort zone can feel calming and reassuring in the short term, but it’s not a long-term solution for success. Challenging the status quo can support transformation, alleviate anxiety, broaden horizons and minimise stress.

Recent research suggests that organisations can foster a healthy and successful workplace by supporting and developing leaders to demonstrate specific leadership behaviours that help their employees thrive through change.

Some examples of positive leadership behaviour include:

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Support Act & Ausmusic T-Shirt Day 2023

This November Support Act is partnering with triple j, the Australian Recording Industry Association and other key partners for Ausmusic T-Shirt Day. It's a great way to show support for Australian music - and the people who make it. The day will be held on Thursday the 30th of November and will help raise funds to provide crisis relief and mental health services to artists, crew and music workers who are doing it tough.

"Ausmusic T-Shirt Day is an annual day of fun and awareness, to celebrate Aussie music and raise urgently-needed funds for music workers in crisis. We deliver this through short term financial support; funeral support; mental health prevention, education and training programs; the Mentally Healthy Workplaces Program; and the Support Act Wellbeing Helpline." Visit the Ausmusic T-shirt Day Website here.

Did you know that AccessEAP partners with Support Act to deliver the Support Act Wellbeing Helpline?

The Support Act Wellbeing Helpline is a free, confidential counselling service that is available to anyone working in Australian music (all genres), or the Australian Performing Arts, who needs to talk to someone about any aspect of their wellbeing. It is delivered in partnership with AccessEAP, and is staffed by professional counsellors who offer expertise in all areas related to mental health (e.g. depression, anxiety, addiction) as well as issues which can be mental health-related (such as loneliness, relationship breakdown, financial worries, illness and workplace conflict).

The service is accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days per year by calling 1800 959 500 within Australia. Find out more information about the Support Act Wellbeing Helpline here.

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Ending Violence Against Women

With the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25th, November is a great opportunity to bring people together – in person or online - to raise awareness and commit to action to prevent violence against women. 

On October 17th 2022 State and Federal governments released the National Plan to end violence against women and children. This 10-year plan includes a framework of actions to end violence against women and children in one generation. It highlights how all parts of society, including governments, business and workplaces, media, schools, and communities must work together towards a shared vision of ending gender-based violence.

Read more about the plan and how AccessEAP can support you and your organisation here - Release of the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032.

The government has now released the First Action Plan (2023 2037). The First Action Plan provides a roadmap for the first 5-year effort towards achieving the vision of the National Plan. It sets out the initial scope of activities, areas for action and responsibility with respect to outcomes, and outlines how they will make the commitments set out in the National Plan a reality. Read more about the First Action Plan and the ten action items they are committing to implement here.

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Men's Health - Reach out

Visit the Movember website for additional resources

November is a big month for Men's Health, with Movember spanning across the whole month and International Men's Day on the 19th. Both initiatives are all about promoting men's health and wellbeing, encouraging men to get the support they need. One of the biggest challenges for many men in Australia is opening up and having conversations that can help with health and wellbeing.

The great thing about having a chat is that we can get it out of our heads and find ways to deal with what’s stressing us. Having that conversation early on can mean that we deal with something in the moment and stop it from escalating into something bigger. AccessEAP can help coach you to develop your own coping strategies, ways of thinking and how to work through tough times. These are life skills that can be learned and used when needed.

Here are some tips to help men reach out in times of need:

  • Take action sooner rather than later. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today when it comes to your mental health.
  • Just having a conversation is positive for your mental health. It is not a sign of weakness.
  • Maintain social contactkeep in touch with family and friends. Try a new sport, or activity with others, which is good for physical health and social connection. Sporting clubs are often just meeting places where playing the sport is a bonus.
  • Make looking after yourself a priority. Set goals for sleep, exercise and time out, whether that be fishing, football, or reading. You can’t look after those around you if you can’t look after yourself.
  • Remember that the best health can be achieved by looking after both your physical and mental health. See your GP for regular check-ups and address health issues if and when they present.
  • Ask for help. Challenging life events happen to us all at some point; no one is immune. Has your loved one or partner suggested you get some help? They may have noticed you are not yourself. Equipping yourself with the tools and strategies you need to cope with life’s events can be helpful. Start with your EAP and a confidential appointment to start kitting up.

For more information or to book an appointment, call us on 1800 818 728.

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Kindness & Compassion

The month of November is often known for ‘Movember’ – when men across Australia grow not-particularly-good-looking moustaches to raise awareness around men’s health issues including men's mental health.

And the month of November is also about kindness and compassion – with World Kindness Day on 13th November and World Compassion Day on the 28th.

While no-one would argue against the importance of kindness and compassion, their role in the workplace may be seen as a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘must have’. Yet evidence suggests otherwise.

What is compassion? It’s defined as empathy plus action. Empathy is the ability to sense and understand others’ feelings. If we then add insightful and responsive action where our motivation is to assist – an authentic desire to help - then that creates compassion.

In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review[1] the authors discuss the vital roles of kindness and compassion in the workplace.

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Are you being understood?

In a recent nation-wide study, involving over 4,000 people, almost 1 in 3 Australians reported feeling lonely, with 1 in 6 experiencing severe loneliness.[1] And while 40% of people who said they are lonely live alone, 30% of people who live with others also report feeling lonely.

All this suggests loneliness is a problem in this country.

Continuing on from World Mental Health Day, it is a good time to consider your own degree of social connection and sense of belonging – both important ingredients for good mental health.

When we feel connected to others, we feel understood by them. And feeling understood and connected is a basic human need. It begins from the moment we are born. Loving caregivers want to understand what a baby needs – are they hungry, too cold, too warm? Do they need to be picked up and held? Babies are very good at communicating when they are not understood – they become unhappy and let others know it! And they are also very good at communicating when they are understood – they look into an adult’s eyes and smile, or perhaps laugh and make ‘happy sounds’. It’s obvious when a baby feels understood – they look happy and connect with those around them.

But as we become adults, we can learn to hide when we are not feeling understood – we learn to pretend that we are happy, but inside we know we’re not. Why do we do this? Perhaps we tried to get people to understand us, but we just couldn’t make it happen. Maybe no one really got what we were about. And maybe we started to feel ashamed about that. We started to feel that this was somehow our fault.

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Keep Talking after Mental Health Month

As Mental Health Month comes to an end, it's important to keep talking and checking in with your friends and family as well as colleagues that you are close to. You don’t have to be an expert to support someone going through a tough time. You just need to be able to listen to their concerns without judgment and take the time to follow up with them.

Listening 

A major part of communication is listening. We spend a lot of time talking about listening, and how important it is to demonstrate active listening, how important it is to “be heard”. Listening is a crucial part of what happens when you ask “R U OK?”. Being present, having empathy and risking missing out by putting down your phone and giving someone your undivided attention, is easier said than done. Yet it is fundamental in gaining understanding, having meaningful conversations and establishing or nurturing connections. It is a skill that few truly do well, but when we find a good listener, they are often a very valuable person in our lives.

Listening is so much more than just hearing, or waiting your turn to speak (without interrupting), it is an active skill. Practice active listening by paying attention, asking questions and taking in behaviours as well as what is being said out loud.

10 Tips on how to have an R U OK? Conversation

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indig_flags.jpg

AccessEAP acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the First Peoples of the lands we live and work on throughout Australia. We recognise their continuing connection to land, waters, culture and community as we pay our respects to the Elders past, present and future. We extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples who connect with this website.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are advised that this website may contain images, voices and names of people who have since passed away.

indig_flags.jpg

AccessEAP acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the First Peoples of the lands we live and work on throughout Australia. We recognise their continuing connection to land, waters, culture and community as we pay our respects to the Elders past, present and future. We extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples who connect with this website.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are advised that this website may contain images, voices and names of people who have since passed away.