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Coping With COVID-19

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Australians have copped a lot during 2020 including the pandemic we are currently facing, which is why it’s important to remember we are stronger together.

Let’s be honest, isolation is sending us all a little bit loopy. We can no longer pop down to the pub for a beer, we can’t have a backyard barbie with our mates, and we can’t head to the gym. It’s a time that impacts us all in some way or another. Whilst we should always make our mental and physical health one of our top priorities, this is a time to truly focus on our wellbeing and practice self-care.

It’s affecting ourselves, our mates, our families and the communities that we belong to and in many different ways. After chatting with a number of people from a range of businesses and industries, it became clear that there were many different emotions running through the minds of people in the mining industry and wider community.

I’m sure you’re familiar with MATES in Mining, an organisation close to the hearts of us here @ The Coalface. MIM has worked hard over the years to reduce suicide rates in both the construction and mining industries by educating and informing through toolbox talks and programs and providing a support network of communication and access to passionate field officers and mates.

Field Officer Vincent Borg, from MATES in Mining

The case managers and field staff at MIM are there to listen, help and assist. But it’s more than that. These passionate, devoted and committed individuals are here to make a difference and the results throughout the industry proves that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Is what you’re feeling normal? Absolutely. Everyone is different and everyone has different coping mechanisms for different situations. It’s normal to feel different emotions and so I had a yarn to Field Officer Vincent Borg, from MATES in Mining (MIM) to see what we can do to help, and what you can do to remain positive. 

“I just wanted to take the opportunity to check in with you during these rather unprecedented times. COVID-19 has brought rapid and significant changes to our day-to-day lives and MATES recognises the potential impact this can have on the mental health of workers in the mining industry,” said Vincent.

“While various training activities and our access to some sites might be limited in the coming period due to COVID-19, we want to assure you MATES in Mining is still very active and is here for you. We will be working hard during this time to remain as connected as possible with you and your workforce. This will predominantly be via phone, email and social media.”

Whilst MATES has put in huge work to support industries and individuals during these unsure times, Vincent also wanted to emphasise that just because COVID-19 is here is doesn’t mean we can put our other problems and stresses on the shelf. 

We still experience the common life issues, problems and crises that happen to normal people living normal lives from the moment we are born. Breakups, anxiety, financial issues, loss, depression, workplace bullying, surviving disabilities, lack of motivation and anything else that might arise – they still need to be addressed and managed, even with the added stresses of isolation.

This can be overwhelming, but the key to maintaining your wellbeing during the pandemic, following the pandemic and in the future is balance. You might be wondering how you could possibly manage this. The answer – STAY CONNECTED. That’s where organisations like MATES in Mining, Beyond Blue, Headspace and Black Dog Institute can help. These organisations are available 24/7 and understand how overwhelming finding a balance during this time can be.

For our mining and construction industries MATES have a 24/7 national help line and case management services, Facebook page, website and an array of online support services available if you need to reach out. 

MATES have also put together some posters available online with some great tips and support. These can be printed and put around the workplace, sent to colleagues via email or shared on social medias to share the message that we are all in this together.

“In terms of site visits (i.e. for Connector refreshers and general support visits etc), we will be guided by you in relation to your current workplace policies and of course we will adhere to all directives from the relevant health authorities,” Vincent added.

Miners are essentials, they are still working hard, and they are working with new COVID-19 guidelines. All of us here @ The Coalface, our friends and our community are grateful and proud for the hard work we continue to see in our industry. Stay safe, stay healthy and keep mentally and physically active. Don’t be weak to speak.

COVID-19 has driven many members of the community to contact us with not only ideas to improve health and wellbeing during our current situation, but also stories of people in our community experiencing a number of issues with or without COVID-19.

We’re stronger together. Reach out, keep an eye on your mates and stay positive. 

MATES IN MINING TOP TIPS TO COPE WITH COVID-19

CONNECTION 
Social distancing does NOT mean social isolation. In these times some people will naturally be anxious. Contacting people in whatever way is appropriate (online, phone, over the fence, etc) is an important way to say we are stronger when we stay connected.

WHAT’S NORMAL
It is normal to have a range of emotions – sad, angry, confused, scared. Using skills that got through tough times previously may also be useful. Talking to your mates can help.

SELF-ISOLATED AT HOME 
If you must stay home, stay healthy – eat well, sleep, keep up some exercise, keep up some exercise, keep your social contacts with friends, workmates and family on the phone or online, do some gardening or yard work, read, create something new. Try to avoid excessive use of alcohol of other drugs.

FACT OR FICTION
Get the facts. Be aware that everything you hear or read about the virus may not be true. Stay up to date from a trusted source like health.gov.au.

LIMIT YOUR WORRIES
Spend less time listening and watching media coverage if you find this upsetting. Focus on an activity that gives you energy and life.

OVERWHELMED
If you are feeling overwhelmed, talk to a mate, ring MATES on 1300 642 111 or Lifeline on 13 11 14. Helping your mate to talk to someone works. Talking with someone can help.

STRONGER TOGETHER
Remember Mates are Stronger Together. Helping your mates to talk to someone works.

Community

Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service is seeking leader to join Advisory Committee

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The Westpac Rescue Helicopter is calling for Expressions of Interest from local business and community leaders to join our Hunter Advisory Committee. The Committee represents the region comprising Newcastle and the Hunter, Central Coast, Central West and Mid North Coast. Its purpose is to advise and assist the Board and Senior Management Team on matters relevant to the local region while providing governance and oversight on decision making.

The Committee currently has 7 members, including its Chair. Nominations are open for one new member and this appointment will be through a merit based process that considers skills, experience and qualifications. 

Expressions of interest close on Friday 16 October

Position advert and Position Description:

This is an unpaid voluntary position and the Service would like to thank our Community for your continued support as we operate 24-7 for all people in our community.

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Community

Students Have A Yarn

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St James’ Muswellbrook welcomes a newly constructed yarning circle thanks to the generosity of Malabar Resources.

Fully funded by Malabar, the Yarning Circle will give students and teachers at St James’ Primary School in Muswellbrook the opportunity to sit together and enhance their understanding of Indigenous culture.

A Yarning Circle is an important part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and a harmonious and collaborative way of communicating. It promotes respectful relationships and provides an open environment to share cultural knowledge.

In August Malabar designed and installed the Yarning Circle which involved the placement of more than 5000kg of sandstone blocks.

Malabar’s Manager of Health, Safety, Environment and Community, Donna McLaughlin said, “We are delighted to continue building our relationship with St James’ and other schools in the region by providing resources that help their specific needs.”

“We look forward to seeing the Yarning Circle develop as native plants and artwork are added to the space, which will further facilitate cultural learning and understanding.”

The new space was enthusiastically received by students. “Thank you for this amazing and respectful area where we can teach others about our customs and traditions,” said year 6 student Tushawn.

St James’ Aboriginal Education Teacher, Tania Thompson expressed how thankful they are to have a designated place for our CREST Crew to meet and yarn.

“When we meet as a whole group from K-6 around the Yarning Circle, it gives students the opportunity to bond, form strong ties, and unite as one mob,” she said.

“Communicating, sharing and problem solving as a team are some of the extremely important life skills that we refine when meeting for Yarning Circle.”

“We learn to listen to one another and to respect the ideas and opinions of others regardless of their age, as we all have wisdom to share.”

St James’ will use the Yarning Circle as an extension of their classrooms and teaching practice to foster knowledge of Indigenous culture by engaging both indigenous and non-indigenous students and teachers.

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Community

Have You Checked On Your Mates?

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This year has been an absolute shocker and it’s no secret that it has certainly taken a toll on all of our mental health in some way. R U OK? Day this year was more important than ever, and our mining companies and leaders went above and beyond to encourage employees to have meaningful conversations and connect with those around them. Let’s remember to take care and reach out to our mates every day of the year.

McLanahan

This year with COVID-19 restrictions in place the McLanahan team’s participation in R U OK? Day was a little different compared with previous years when they have hosted an R U OK? Day ambassador at their Newcastle premises.

Still wanting to make a difference, McLanahan donated over $2,000 to Craig Clarkes in his Coals to Newcastle Ocean Swim to raise money for Beyond Blue.

“Wow what an amazing generous donation from the McLanahan team. Hugely appreciate your kind praise and lifting the fundraising campaign over the $30,000 mark. Thanks heaps. I will be in touch.”

All staff members received an R U OK? lanyard and a yellow iced cupcake with the R U OK? flag.

DK Heavy Plant Services

RU OK? – that is what everyone was asking in the DK Heavy Plant Services (DKHPS) Workshop on September 10.

Too often people struggle in silence, do not know what resources are available, or even where to start when talking about their mental health.

Sue Milton, General Manager of Upper Hunter Community Services, was able to share with the DKHPS workforce simple advice and resources on these issues and whilst together enjoyed a great afternoon tea and conversation.  

Banlaw

To start the conversation, Banlaw grabbed some delish donuts for the team to enjoy, whilst taking time out to ask work mates R U OK?

“As you can see from our cheeky photo’s, the donuts were a hit and a way for all areas of the business to mingle and remind staff the importance of prioritising their mental health and looking out for those around them,” said Internal Sales Coordinator, Lauren Tonks.

With the combined efforts of their Newcastle and Perth offices, Banlaw successfully raised $216 for suicide prevention.

Northwest Mining

The team at Northwest Mining started the day bright and early with a mental health toolbox talk for R U OK? Day and encouraged the guys to participate by wearing their TradeMutt shirts – a workwear brand, with the mission to make the invisible issue of mental health impossible to ignore. 5% of TradeMutt’s profits go towards ‘This is a Conversation Starter Foundation’.

This led into a BBQ lunch for everyone, cooked by the company owner Shayne Clark. “We discussed some statistics on mental health and chatted about how to start conversations if you’re concerned about someone’s mental health,” said Shayne.

“Everyone was keen to be involved and engaged in the conversations, it was a great day.”

Bengalla

The Bengalla Team celebrated R U OK? Day this year, focusing on teaching people that there is more to say after the initial R U OK? It is important to keep the conversation going and check in on your work mates.

To support the initiative employees enjoyed a coffee and a Kit Kat before and after shift to start the conversation with their work mates. The four important steps include:

– Ask R U OK?
– Listen without judgement
– Encourage action
– Check in

It was an opportunity for team mates to check in on each other and it was well supported from all of site.

MACH Energy

R U OK Day saw Tom, Chloe and Matt take the opportunity to catch up over coffee and acknowledge that a conversation could change a life.

There was discussion around keeping an eye on your mates, actually asking R U OK? and what’s next after you’ve asked the question. The team remembered there’s more to say after R U OK? such as;

– How are you travelling?
– You don’t seem yourself – I am here if you want to talk about anything.
– Have you been feeling this way for a while?
– Have you thought about talking to your doctor or a health professional?
– Just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing.

Persas

The PERSAS team enjoyed each other’s company during a BBQ and discussed the benefits of R U OK? Day, while social distancing of course.

One thing that was emphasised on the day was not waiting until the next R U OK? day to have open discussions regarding each other’s wellbeing, instead keeping it as an open page where employees can talk to each other at any time.

Morgan Engineering

The R U OK day message is important to Morgan Engineering, but not only just one day a year. Mental Health is important to the Morgan Engineering workforce all year round. This year R U OK? Day coincided with the company’s fortnightly Toolbox talk, and Business Development Manager Graham Sutton said that everyone got involved with the conversation.

“It was a great opportunity to discuss what mental health means to our company,” said Graham.

“With many of employees on shift work and having to spend a lot of time away from their family and friends, it’s important for the whole Morgan Engineering team to be there for each other and check on their mates.”

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