How to Improve Mental Health in the Workplace

- Awareness and education is the key for developing a good understanding of mental health and how to support employees who are at risk. Develop and implement policies that raise awareness of mental health and work towards reducing stigma in the workplace. Leaders and managers talking about mental health openly and honestly goes a long way towards acceptance of mental health in the workplace. This in turn helps to build empathy for co-workers and an acknowledgement that there may be high stress levels in the workplace that impacts on individuals and their wellbeing.

 - A culture of trust and support is a great place to start. It is critical we all work towards reducing the stigma so employees can feel safe to talk about their mental health without fear of consequences and trusting that there will be help and support. The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance is a national initiative to encourage workplaces to become mentally healthy and is a great source of information for helping employers determine how they can improve workplace mental health.

- Develop a long term mental health strategy, addressing policy and providing mental health resources in order to address areas of bullying, poor decision making, long working hours, inadequate communication and job insecurity.

- Protective factors can be developed and implemented, such as training that is related to leadership, positive morale, collaborate decision making, good communication and team collaboration. The evidence shows that acceptance and good working relationships, especially with managers, are a strong protective factor.

- An integrated approach to wellbeing. There is no one way to improve mental health in the workplace, but an action plan that develops and implements supportive measures to help improve wellbeing, both physical and mental, has been shown to help improve employee productivity, lower absenteeism and promote a positive workplace culture.

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Covid-19 response and being prepared

The Australian government has moved ahead of the World Health Organisation to introduce the first phase of the country’s emergency response plan preempting the elevation of coronavirus to pandemic status. Prime Minister, Mr Morrison referred to the decision as “being taken in an abundance of caution”.

At AccessEAP we continue to monitor government sources for updates and reinforce the measures we can all take to look after our people. What we are doing in response is to keep our people informed and clearly communicate that while the current risk is low for Australia, being prepared for a change in circumstances helps to maintain a sense of calm. These websites provide up to date and easy to follow information:

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019 

https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/coronavirus-resources.aspx

Many of our organisations have already experienced having their people in a self-imposed work from home situation. It may be that your organisation will utilise work from home options further if required. If this is the case here are some factors to consider; feelings of connection may be strained and fear of illness and general anxiety may be increased as a result of COVID-19. Roles where travel and close contact with others is required may feel particularly impacted. There may be a greater reluctance to participate in face to face interactions, even with a counsellor. Phone, video chat and email counselling options are available and appointments can be made in exactly the same way as face to face sessions making support easy to access no matter the location.

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International Women's Day- Each for Equal

International Women's Day is held each year on the 8th of March. This year's theme is #EachforEqual.

An equal world is an enabled world.

Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day.

We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women's achievements.

Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world.

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Seeking Diversity - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP

Imagine that your number one priority is to hire a new recruit at your organisation. 100s of applications land of your desk. You immediately throw away every second CV without looking at it. Why would you disregard half of your potential recruits without even assessing their skills?

If this was 1920, not 2020, you would have been seen as a manager with the right mindset. It would have been common to omit applications based on gender. Only men have the right abilities for the world of business – according to early 20th century management training. So you ignore half of the potential workforce!

From the 21st century, this thinking looks archaic. So strange it would almost be funny. So we are better than that now, we want to believe. And yet not always. Women hold 14.1% of chair positions and 26.8% of directorships, and represent 17.1% of CEOs and 31.5% of key management personnel1. 34.0% of boards and governing bodies have no female directors. By contrast, only 0.9% had no male directors2.

With International Women’s Day on the 8th of March and Each for Equal as the theme. “An equal world is an enabled world. How will you help forge a gender equal world? Celebrate women's achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.” I ask myself “how am I doing as a business leader?”.

Research shows that companies continue to exhibit bias by hiring based on privilege, school, skin colour, postcode, ethnicity and religion. While there is anti-discrimination legislation in place, it is almost impossible to prove that particular candidates were hired over others based on ethnicity, religion or gender. Some female dominated industries are hard for men to break in to, so gender bias runs both ways.

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Taking on 2020, what your EAP can do for you

While it might feel as if 2019  has just wound up, we are already in March of 2020. How did that come around so fast?

This may have felt like a strange, and at times tense, summer in Australia. Some people are coming back to work feeling more exhausted than when they went on holiday. Whether you are a community directly impacted by fires or somewhere kilometres from it all but seeing the impact on the news, it has been the overarching story of the new decade. 

This is a time to get to know your community and to look after each other. Being mutually supportive at this time of year can help us to get back into the swing of life.  As well as being there for colleagues and friends, helping other people is a great technique of self care. We get an emotional boost when we are kind to others and when we offer support to others – it makes us feel connected, and strengthening social bonds allows us to draw on the support from others when we feel personally or professionally overwhelmed.

AccessEAP are part of your professional community. We offer 24-hour phone counselling if you feel that you are in a crisis, as well as providing face to face counselling at a few days notice. The ability to share your worries can help you to gain perspective and find solutions, and as your organisation allows you to have access to multiple sessions with a counsellor each year, we can provide an outlet valve for the stresses that modern workplaces can bring. As many of us try to balance multiple responsibilities including carer roles it is helpful to remember that AccessEAP is part of the network that is here to support you in supporting those around you.

Work stress often starts small – restless nights, feeling uncharacteristically snappy, or blue. Being on the lookout for changes in how you feel before they become significant can make it easier to address problems. Making contact with an AccessEAP counsellor earlier can make returning to normal smoother. And if there are issues that are impacting on your organisation, we also provide training to organisations on a range of issues. We have training which can be delivered to your organisation or by webinar, with topics like Resilience through Change, Managing Challenging Behaviours, and Burnout and Compassion Fatigue. We offer direct support for managers who are holding teams together, by phone and in-person as needed through our Manager Support Hotline.

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Harmony Week 2020

Harmony Week on the 15th-21st of March, celebrates Australia’s cultural diversity. It’s about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone. Harmony Day which falls on the 21st of March coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

With around 45 per cent of Australians born overseas or with at least one parent who was, Harmony Week has always been a popular way for workplaces to showcase and acknowledge their cultural diversity. Celebrating Harmony Week can take any form you wish – big or small, simple or challenging. Events can be a simple multicultural morning tea or a guest speaker at an all staff meeting. It creates an opportunity to think, talk about and recognise how our differences and our similarities make our workplace stronger.

For more information see the Harmony Week Website.

 At AccessEAP we will be celebrating with a week of lunches where everyone brings a dish on their designated day and shares the background behind it. It is such a wonderful opportunity to learn something new about your colleagues and of course try some amazing food!

 

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How can workplaces better support working parents?

Published in wellnessdaily 21st February 2020

AccessEAP clinical services director Marcela Slepica said that in order to support those parents and contribute to better mental health, businesses must take the time to help and assist their employees and offer flexibility whenever they can.

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Coronavirus

The World Health Organisation has rated the Novel coronavirus as a world health emergency. The current risk to Australia is considered to be small. At AccessEAP we are assessing the risk to our people and will continue to monitor the situation and determine any actions we may need to take as a business. We are communicating this approach to our people so we are all aware that relevant precautions are being taken without causing undue alarm.

Ignorance and misinformation can lead to panic, fear and misunderstandings in situations such as these when personal safety is questioned. Clear and concise communication around risk mitigation based on information from official channels will assist in keeping people calm. For up to date and accurate information we are referring to The World Health Organization and NSW Health websites. These sites provide fact sheets and frequently asked questions in English and Mandarin to help individuals and organisations determine the level of risk associated with their everyday activities and interactions and modify behaviour as necessary. 

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019 https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/coronavirus-resources.aspx

We encourage respect for each other in the workplace and close adherence to the normal policies around mitigating risks to co-workers associated with infectious diseases. It is very important that anyone with symptoms seek medical advice/attention. Australia has a very good health system and the Federal government is coordinating efforts around the country to contain the virus and support isolation of potential cases. It is also important not to make assumptions, particularly around who may carry the virus, it is advisable to adopt recommended hygiene practices and act on credible information. If you have any further questions relating to how AccessEAP can assist your organisation please contact your Relationship Manager or the Manager Support Hotline. As always, your EAP is here to support your people whatever the nature of their concerns, please contact AccessEAP on 1800 818 728.

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The road to recovery: dealing with grief and loss

Published in Human Resources Director 20th February 2020

The impact of natural disasters, such as the bushfires across Australia, will have significant long-term effects, according to Marcela Slepica, Clinical Director of AccessEAP.

The workplace can provide a sense of community, and communities that support each other through difficult times is key.

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Contract Casual Trainers/Facilitators - NSW, VIC & QLD

  • -Combine your EAP and OD skills
  • -Help make a difference every day

 At AccessEAP our mission is to create thriving workplaces. We partner with each customer to promote positive organisational behaviour, enhance employee wellbeing, improve workplace productivity and effectively manage the mental health of every employee. As an Australian owned not for profit Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider, our emphasis is on understanding the unique needs of our customers and tailoring our services to support and prevent mental health issues in the workplace. Due to continued growth and an expanding service offering we need additional trainers and facilitators to help achieve our goals and continue our ambitious journey.

 Your role will be to deliver best practice learning initiatives that respond to the unique needs of our customers. In return, we offer competitive market rates and support you to be successful to ensure the quality and consistency of our training courses and workshops.

 With a degree in clinical or organisational psychology your track record of success will be matched by your desire to make a genuine difference and your ability to engage with a broad range of managers and employees.

 For more information call David Williams on 0414 551 795 or to apply send your resume to dwilliams@kurtispaige.com.au

 

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Putting things in perspective through care and purpose

Last week 15 of our people visited Centacare Industries (part of CatholicCare and also recipients of our social purpose funding) to spend a day working alongside supported workers in a sheltered environment. Overwhelmingly the response to the experience was very positive and there may be other opportunities to attend in the future.

For me spending a day out of the business of my usual routine to stop and connect with the Centacare employees was a humbling experience and reminded me to reflect on my purpose in life. Like many of us, I don’t have the answer but in my heart, it is to help others less fortunate than me and to work together to improve the wellbeing of people in our society. At Centacare Industries they are doing just that.

What is Centacare Industries? The organisation was set up to respond to the needs of parents with adult children who had outgrown the schooling environment. These young adults still wanted and deserved fulfilling work and purpose to support maturity and learning although sustaining employment in the regular workforce was not generally an option. Centacare Industries provides three daily programs for a workforce which is possibly more varied than most, all nationalities, ages and levels of ability. The programs are based around the warehouse security shredding, workshop assembly line and Life Skills learning. The supported workers also work in gardening and office cleaning services.

Over the two days our groups were able to participate in each program and work and/or learn alongside a supported employee. 

Some of the highlights of the day were:

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Don’t Go Through Financial Stress Alone

As we settle into February and the holiday period seems like a distant memory, many of us face the reality of festive spending sprees. With Australians predicted to have spent approximately $52.7 billion on Christmas presents across December 20191, it potentially leaves people with financial concerns. Last January, we saw requests for financial coaching support hit its highest year on year levels since 2016 and expect to see this rise continue this year.

Returning to work after the holiday period can bring a dose of reality. Someone who has spent more than they planned can feel out of control and anxious that they haven’t managed their funds well. While stress is a normal part of life, constant levels of distress can affect many parts of a person’s life, such as health, family, marriage and work, making it difficult for them to contribute to their teams.

While the holidays can worsen financial stress, research findings suggest the issue affects Australians year-round. According to the Financial Fitness Whitepaper, more than 50 per cent of Australians are concerned about their finances, with nearly 85 per cent saying this impacts their wellbeing2. This can have huge effects on productivity in the workplace, costing Australian businesses an estimated $31.1 billion per year in lost revenue3.

The stress of money worries can result in increased absenteeism, presenteeism and underperformance. With this in mind, employers can play a role in helping their employees cope with financial related issues by providing a safe environment to open up and seek help, as well as recognising the impact the issue can have on different groups in the workplace.

For example, Australia’s older workforce is facing many challenges, including preparing for retirement, paying for their children’s higher education and moving their parents into nursing homes. On the other hand, millennials are facing economic instability, student debt, and stagnant wage growth. By creating a safe and confidential environment where employees will feel more comfortable talking about their issues, they may be more open to seeking financial coaching support.

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Support through the bushfire crisis

We are reaching out to our customers both impacted and threatened by the current, devastating bushfires across Australia. We know this will affect everyone differently, given the magnitude of these bushfires, it is likely that people in your organisations will be impacted in some way. Some employees may lose homes, animals and pets, some employees may be concerned for family and friends, some may be working in the area fighting fires and supporting those impacted. Our thoughts are with all emergency personnel who may well be exhausted but remain committed.

We would like to remind our customers that we are here to provide immediate phone support to any employees or managers who have questions or need support.

At this present time, we believe most organisations will be focusing on the immediate situation and needs. Survival and protection will be the main concern. We are able to assist with onsite support when the risks and threats have been contained. The following information may also be of assistance:

For individuals, see our tips and strategies (download pdf here).

As a manager, there are a few things you can do to support your employees (download pdf here):

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Teacher’s Wellbeing - Back to School, what your EAP can do for you

While it might feel as if the 2019 school year has just wound up, the 2020 classes have already begun. How did that come around so fast?

This may have felt like a strange, and at times tense, summer in Australia. Some people are coming back to work feeling more exhausted than when they went on holiday. Whether you are teaching in a community directly impacted by fires or somewhere kilometres from it all but seeing the impact on the news, it has been the overarching story of the new decade. As teachers, you are often called upon to be the emotional glue in your community while balancing teaching plans, marking and increasing workloads.

This is a time to get to know your community and to look after each other. Being mutually supportive at this time of year can help us to get back into the swing of life.  As well as being there for colleagues and friends, helping other people is a great technique of self care. We get an emotional boost when we are kind to others and when we offer support to others – it makes us feel connected, and strengthening social bonds allows us to draw on the support from others when we feel personally or professionally overwhelmed.

AccessEAP are part of your professional community. We offer 24-hour phone counselling if you feel that you are in a crisis, as well as providing face to face counselling at a few days notice. The ability to share your worries can help you to gain perspective and find solutions, and as your school allows you to have access to multiple sessions with a counsellor each year, we can provide an outlet valve for the stresses that modern teaching can bring. As well as educator, your role includes pastoral care of your students and at times, their families. So while you are available for a range of supports for those around you, AccessEAP is part of the network that is here to support you in supporting those around you.

Work stress often starts small – restless nights, feeling uncharacteristically snappy, or blue. Being on the lookout for changes in how you feel before they become significant can make it easier to address problems. Making contact with an AccessEAP counsellor earlier can make returning to normal smoother. And if there are issues that are impacting on the whole teaching faculty – like talking to students about the images we all witnessed this summer – we also provide training to organisations on a range of issues. We have training which can be delivered to your organisation or by webinar, with topics like Resilience through Change, Managing Challenging Behaviours, and Burnout and Compassion Fatigue. We offer direct support for managers who are holding teams together, by phone and in-person as needed through our Manager Support Hotline.

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How to set realistic goals and objectives

Published in INTHEBLACK 1st February 2020

The goals you set need to be realistic and in line with your organisation while keeping in mind team morale and employee motivation.

You can't afford to take a set-and-forget approach. Unforeseeable changes that may occur can impact the relevance of your goals, or your ability to achieve them. Explains Marcela Slepica, Director, Clinical Services.

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New Year, New Me - a message from our Wellbeing in Focus Team

One month of 2020 has gone already and for many, the New Year’s Resolutions that have been set with best intentions have gone with it as well. It is natural to want to improve and progress in certain areas of your life. Starting the New Year with a list of resolutions can feel virtuous, but if the list is unrealistic and we can’t keep to all of our 2nd of January dreams, it is easy to give up on them and revert to old habits and patterns. As we reflect on January and before we plan for the rest of the year, it is important to acknowledge the extreme conditions that have faced Australia, priorities may have changed for you and some of the self care suggestions below may be more helpful instead.

Stripping away the expectations and creating goals may feel less daunting. A resolution feels set in stone, whereas a goal is something you can move towards, resetting the goalposts as needed. If you want to work on physical health this year, be realistic in looking at your capacity at this point of the year. Running a marathon might not be on the cards, but joining a running group or a soccer team can have the physical impact with the benefits (and motivational factor!) of social interaction. If you are not a runner, can you be a walker? Wheelchair basketballer or bowler? Modest, achievable goals have better outcomes than lofty ones where you feel deflated by its enormity.

Summer holiday late nights and sleep-ins (for those who don’t have toddlers or kittens) can throw sleep cycles out of synch, leaving you exhausted when the alarm goes off for the work week.

Good sleep hygiene involves keeping your bed for its intended purpose. Reading in bed is a great way to wind down so a book can work wonders as can an e-reader. Reading on an iPad produces blue light which overrides your nocturnal melatonin production. If you are using a device to read, set it to night mode which makes the screen glow warmer, rather than a cool blue.

If, after 15 minutes, you are still tossing, get up and do something else in another room, so you don’t begin to subconsciously associate being in bed with insomnia. Some mindful breathing exercise can be useful – experiment and find what helps to calm your mind if it’s busy and lastly although easier said than done, some self-discipline at night makes mornings easier. The addictive qualities of phones and tablets draw you in so easily: your 10 pm bedtime is suddenly 12.30 pm, and you wish you logged off two hours ago. (So seriously, put the phone down. They are sleep destroyers!)

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New Graduate Opportunities - Sydney & Hobart based

  •  Help make a difference every day
  • Strong team environment
  • Not for Profit Salary Packaging options

As a purpose-driven organisation with social enterprise at our core, AccessEAP partners with organisations to promote positive organisational behaviour, enhance employee well-being and improve workplace productivity. As an Australian Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) provider of personal and organisational wellbeing services our emphasis is on understanding the unique needs of our customers and tailoring our services to support and create thriving workplaces. We have a number of outstanding opportunities for aspiring, adaptable and engaging people to work with us on our ambitious journey and progress their careers in this challenging yet rewarding industry sector.

Degree qualified in Psychology, Social Work or Human Resources you will have a keen interest in Mental health and Wellbeing. Your key attributes will include your outstanding interpersonal skills, desire to learn and attention to detail. Most importantly you will enjoy working in a team environment that is driven by passion, excellence and caring.

We are currently recruiting for:

Client Services: As the first point of contact for our clients your key responsibilities will be intake registration and processing, coordinating client appointments with counsellors, data entry and record management. Importantly you will contribute to optimising our business reputation by ensuring the effective delivery of client services.

Business Operations: Your role will be to provide effective administrative and operational support related to the delivery of services and successful operations of AccessEAP. You will work closely with the Customer Experience Team, Client Services, Clinical and Finance teams, providing support and guidance to ensure the effective delivery of services to customers and clients.

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Let’s Make it Clear - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

Last year I had the pleasure of seeing research professor and social worker Brene Brown when she came to Australia. Her ‘Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.’ approach really resonated and made me think about those all-important but difficult conversations that we all need to have at some point.

Being clear and assertive, in a way that enables you to state your needs or deliver constructive feedback, without attacking or offending the other person can be challenging and confronting, thus often it’s easier to avoid these kinds of conversations. Unfortunately, avoidance doesn’t mean the issue goes away, to use the metaphor of sweeping something under the rug, we end up with a very lumpy rug, that people start tripping over. Related to this is the fear of offending others or hurting their feelings. In a challenging conversation, it’s easy to err on the side of a white lie. How do we weigh up the conflicting ideas of not hurting someone’s feelings with a desire, to be honest?

Unfortunately, the outcome of avoiding or “softening” the issue can drag out the pain, and similarly, we can do more harm than good if we are not clear in our meaning. Sparing someone’s feelings by not saying what we mean leaves the situation unresolved. If we want someone to do something different but don’t clearly state what our needs are, resentment will build when there is no change. We risk veering into passive-aggressive communication styles if we dance around expressing our needs and then become frustrated when our underlying (unspoken!) intent is not acted upon.

I can’t help thinking about the Band-Aid analogy. If a difficult conversation needs to happen, doing it promptly and expressing the situation clearly is, in the long term, less painful than dancing at the edges. If you need to tell an employee that they are underperforming on a task, bring it to their attention sooner rather than later: if you delay, they can reasonably ask why this is suddenly a problem. You waste time and emotional energy for both if you have to back-track and say that the behaviour has been an issue for some time. A reasonable question from the employee could be ‘Why didn’t you tell me as soon as you thought there was a problem?’ Trying to explain that you didn’t want to hurt their feelings is unlikely to help if they are already upset. Saying you hoped that the situation would resolve itself can lead them to ask how they are expected to resolve a situation when they didn’t even know it was a situation. Fair call! And all because you thought you were being kind.

Similarly, your manager might ask you to take on a new project that the organisation has just been given. Hoping that you can accommodate it into your workload – because you want to be seen as pulling your weight, accepting challenges, a team player etc. – can backfire down the track if it turns out you didn’t have the time to fit it in after all. Having to go back to your boss and explain that the new project has fallen over could have been avoided if the less comfortable conversation (‘Sorry, I really can’t fit that in on top of my current workload’) had happened rather than hoping you would somehow make it work.

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Courageous Conversation Tips & Training

From time to time we all encounter situations where we dislike a person’s behaviour and we feel we need to say something. It may be that your job requires you to have these conversations with people on a regular basis. A common myth is that raising the issue might make things worse, however, a carefully constructed conversation might save things from getting worse.

Constructive Conversations Training - Wellbeing Calendar Hot Topic

To arrange a training session for your organisation, please speak to your Relationship Manager.

Here are some tips for initiating a potentially difficult conversation:

 

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Are your employees financially stressed after returning to work?

Published in Human Resources Director 17th January 2020

AccessEAP, Clinical Director, Marcela Slepica said returning to work after the holiday period brings a dose of reality. Someone who has spent more than they planned can feel out of control and anxious that they haven’t managed their funds well.

“By creating a safe and confidential environment where employees will feel more comfortable talking about their issues, they may be more open to seeking financial coaching support.”

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indig_flags.jpg

AccessEAP acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we work on and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and future. 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples using this content are advised that it may contain images, names or voices of people who have passed away
.

indig_flags.jpg

AccessEAP acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we work on and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and future. 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples using this content are advised that it may contain images, names or voices of people who have passed away.