In this article, AAA Magazine discusses Tradeswomen Australia’s recently launched Mental Health Pilot project with its Managing Director, Fiona McDonald

Fiona McDonald

As announced in September’s AAA Magazine, Tradeswomen Australia is currently piloting a project which explores how increasing diversity within automotive workplaces can drive improvements in mental health and wellbeing while reducing mental injury.
The industry-first Workplace Diversity Project aims to support automotive businesses to create environments that embrace diversity and inclusion through their recruitment, employee support, and workplace practices.
“The aim of the project is to support automotive industry executive teams and management to improve the mental health and wellbeing of their frontline workers and to reduce preventable injury,” Tradeswomen Australia Managing Director, Fiona McDonald, said.
“Each year, 7,200 Australians are compensated for work-related mental health conditions, equating to around six percent of workers’ compensation claims, and approximately $543 million is paid in workers’ compensation for work-related mental health conditions.
“During 2010-11 and 2014-15, one out of every 1,470 full-time employees claimed for a mental health condition every year. Forty one percent of claims were caused by harassment, bullying or exposure to violence; 91 percent were attributed to mental stress; and 60 percent of claims were awarded to workers aged 40 and over.
“Work-related mental health conditions have become a major concern in Australian workplaces due to the negative impact on individual employees, and the costs associated with the long periods away from work that are typical of these claims.
“In addition, COVID-19 has certainly been tough on the automotive industry. The long-term impacts on workers and employer’s mental health and wellbeing is yet to be measured, but already we know the industry has experienced job loss, slowdowns in maintenance repairs and sales.
“It is obviously a critical time to be thinking about how you can support yourself and your employees.”
Fiona asserts that workplace diversity, and in particular gender diversity, is a key element that this program from Tradeswomen Australia will seek to address as part of its efforts to turn the mental health tide in the automotive industry.
“The 2019 ‘One of the Boy’s?’ report by Dr Sarah Oxenbridge, Professor Rae Cooper and Professor Marian Baird – which highlighted the work and career experiences of Australian women in the automotive trades – found that women represented just 15 percent of motor vehicle parts interpreters, 1.1 percent of motor mechanics and 0.8 percent of panel beaters,” Fiona explains.
“While conducting our new project, Tradeswomen Australia is consolidating the research and project outcomes from past attempts to increase the participation of women in automotive workplaces.
“There are many examples of the benefits of gender diversity and increasing female participation in the automotive industry – just one example can be found by looking at Omnitracs, a fleet management solutions company that found female truck drivers get into fewer preventable accidents than men and generally drive more cautiously. They also state that they found women are less likely to quit driving, which is particularly critical as turnover rates among truck drivers reach 95 percent.”

The Workplace Diversity Project will support 100 automotive managers and 500 workers, with the backing of Worksafe Victoria’s WorkWell Mental Health Improvement Fund.
“Our project aims to create long term culture change by assessing the work-related factors that impact mental health,” Fiona explained.
“Tradeswomen Australia will measure the relationship between diversity, mental health and wellbeing during the program; and employers and workers engaged in the program will be supported by us to build a robust support system and improve on existing policies and procedures.
“As part of the program, 100 automotive managers will receive a mentor to assist in the implementation of the support system and 500 workers will gain access to free training and resources to support them at work.”
Fiona says it is her expectation that the 100 participating workshops will record greater staff retention and a reduction in workplace accidents alongside the improved mental health and wellbeing of workers.
Tradeswomen Australia is working closely with key major industry bodies including the AMA Group, WPC Group, VACC, MEGT, G Force and the AAAA, and will be increasing engagement with small to large businesses during the project.
“We are proud to interact with all levels of the industry from young apprentices to small and large automotive businesses to major organisations such as the AAAA,” Fiona said.
Those who sign up for the project will be contacted by a Tradeswomen Australia Industry Liaison Officer to welcome them to the program and answer any questions they may have.
Workshops will be asked to nominate a manager and at least five workers to partake in the program. The Industry Liaison Officer will run through a checklist with the manager and then set up a follow-up meeting to map out the year of support and address any critical areas of need highlighted by the manager.
“We only have 100 spaces for employers and we want to work with organisations that are willing to be leaders and champion change for the entire automotive sector,” Fiona said.
“If you want to support your workers and advocate for diversity in automotive then please get in touch through our website or by emailing”
Tradeswomen Australia is the peak body of women in trades; a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to gender equality and empowering girls and women to access, participate, and succeed in skilled trades.

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