Labor has sensationally backed away from mental health support for timber workers in state parliament following further questioning from The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Public Land Use, Melina Bath.
Ms Bath contested Labor’s commitment to worker mental health, after multiple Ministers referred to its native timber industry worker transition package as ‘just’.
“The Minister for Agriculture, Hon Gayle Tierney spruiked one on one case management for workers, however when pushed for specific details about mental health support, her response was workers could ‘contact the department’, said Ms Bath.
“The Andrews Government must explain how it is going to implement a holistic mental health triage for mill operators, haulage and harvest contractors and their staff across my Eastern Victoria electorate.
“Minister Tierney, telling displaced workers to “contact the department” is an offhand approach to a very serious issue.
“My investigation into the department mental health programs, shows that the Andrews Government offering, relies on workers to self-refer themselves to Victoria’s already overwhelmed mental health system.
“It appears neither tailored or targeted and there’s no proactive face to face support so far – this mental health support must be taken to the people in their own communities.
“Our timber workers are in crisis, yet Labor Ministers have pulled the pin, tossed the grenade and are wiping their hands.”
Ms Bath said using a Ministerial statement in parliament to say, “we’ve got their back”, and “we owe these workers more” is disingenuous when industry specific mental health supports are just not there.
“Workers and their families are frustrated, hurting and enormously stressed – and Labor’s transition package is not ‘just’.
“Their immediate needs revolve around income, keeping a roof above their heads, paying bills, food on the table and clothes on their backs.
“Labor’s Minister for Agriculture needs to acknowledge the lack of on the ground mental health support combined with the government’s offer for retraining vouchers has only added to workers distress.”