Member Spotlight: Cumberland Council


When it comes to work health and safety, Belinda Doig is an experienced and knowledgeable person to turn to. As a manager of audit risk and safety at Cumberland Council, she has helped the the Council maintain a safer workplace and improve risk management.

Belinda and other Council members wanted to raise awareness about mental health and safety for employees. To accomplish this, they created mental health and safety events to break the stigma surrounding mental health and create a culture of openness and support for staff members.

We caught up with Belinda about her Council’s Mental Health and Safety Days to learn about its positive impact on the organisation at large. Here’s what she had to say:

Can you share your experience with the mental health and safety day initiative? How has it impacted you personally and within your organisation?

As an organisation, we have found the Mental Health and Safety Day initiative to be incredibly impactful. It has served as a platform for raising awareness and fostering discussions surrounding mental health in the workplace. Personally, I have seen and received feedback that both events lead to a more open and supportive work environment where staff feel more comfortable discussing their mental health challenges and seeking support.

What were some of the key reasons or motivations for setting up this initiative?

Council Management has a strong desire to break down the stigma surrounding mental health and create a culture of openness and support for the staff. By dedicating two events to focus on mental health awareness and education, we aimed to encourage conversations and destigmatise seeking help for mental health challenges.

The initiative was motivated by a commitment to employee welfare and safety. Just as physical safety is a priority in the workplace, so too is mental health. Investing in mental health initiatives demonstrates a commitment to supporting employees in all aspects of their well-being.

How do you feel this initiative has contributed to creating a safer and healthier work environment?

The initiative has helped to raise awareness and understanding of mental health amongst Council staff. By providing education and relatable stories from our guest speakers, the initiative has empowered individuals to recognise the signs of mental health challenges, both in themselves and in their workmates. They were each provided with a mental health check-in card to recognise changes within their own mental health, coping strategies and support networks.

What specific strategies or activities have you found most helpful in addressing mental health concerns within your organisation?

The Council has implemented several specific strategies and activities that have proven particularly effective in addressing mental health concerns. Initiatives include:

  • Providing staff access to be trained on mental health first aid.
  • All Council staff and family have access to the Employee Assistance Program.
  • Flexible work arrangements in place.
  • Managing psychosocial hazards in the workplace procedure are part of the Council’s WHS Management System. Staff across the Council have received training on this procedure.
  • Conduct, on average, 125 Toolbox Talks monthly across all Council teams where safety topics are openly discussed.
  • Two safety events focusing on mental health.

Have you noticed any changes in employee morale, productivity or overall well-being since implementing this initiative? If so, could you provide some examples?

Cumberland staff are very enthusiastic about safety events, especially the outdoor staff. Their proactive engagement provided the safety team with honest feedback, and the teams worked closely with the staff to achieve the Council’s overarching strategy aimed at destigmatising discussions about mental health.

Our guest speakers were relatable and entertaining, speaking honestly about their own mental and physical health challenges. Having three high-profile speakers from different backgrounds openly discuss their own challenges and the importance of looking after yourself and your mates, enhanced the culture of ‘mates taking care of mates’ and ‘every mind matters’ at the Council deeply embedded.

What challenges, if any, did you encounter when implementing this initiative, and how did you overcome them?

During the implementation of this initiative, several challenges were encountered, but proactive measures were taken to overcome them. The first hurdle we faced was allocating sufficient resources. Budget constraints initially posed a challenge, but we were able to alleviate this by applying for funding through Civic Risk Enhancement Funding. This funding significantly contributed to the success of the events, allowing us to secure necessary resources.

Allocating staff resourcing and creating a comprehensive marketing campaign presented another challenge. To address this, we utilised multiple communication channels, including the assistance of the Council’s Strategic Communication Team, to create all-staff communications, organised toolbox talks across all Council teams and provided WHS Committee updates, invitations and signage. This ensured that all employees were well-informed about the initiative and encouraged participation. Ensuring that the mental health initiatives were accessible and inclusive for all employees was a priority. To overcome this challenge, we filmed both events and scheduled them at different times — one at 7:30 am and the other at 12:00 pm — on separate days. This accommodated employees with varying schedules and ensured maximum participation. Implementing a cultural shift toward prioritising mental health required ongoing effort and perseverance.

Leading up to the event and afterwards, we engaged in continuous communication, education and advocacy efforts to embed the importance of mental health into our organisational culture. This included promoting open dialogue, providing training and fostering a supportive environment where employees felt comfortable discussing mental health issues.

How do you measure the success or effectiveness of the mental health and safety day initiative within your organisation?

Measuring the success or effectiveness of both events involves assessing various key indicators:

  • Attendance and Participation: We evaluated the level of attendance and active participation in the events to gauge employee engagement and interest in the initiative. Both events had High attendance rates and active involvement in activities and discussions indicated a positive response to the initiative.
  • Staff Feedback: The WHS team gathered feedback from staff through the WHS Committee and Face-to-Face Toolbox talks after the event. We collected their responses and put them in our post-evaluation assessment for consideration for next year. Overall, we received very positive feedback and consideration for this year’s events.
  • Workplace Culture: Assessing shifts in the Council’s culture towards prioritising mental health and destigmatising discussions surrounding it is crucial. We monitor changes in workplace norms, such as increased openness, willingness to receive mental health first aid training, supportiveness and willingness to address mental health concerns, as indicators of cultural change”

Can you share any memorable anecdotes or success stories related to the impact of this initiative on individual employees or teams?

One standout moment was the powerful impact of our guest speakers, Merv and Dan, who shared their personal journeys alongside captivating stories from their sporting careers. Merv’s recounting of his experiences playing under the leadership of Alan Border and Dan’s reflections on his career under Wayne Bennett resonated deeply with our staff. Their narratives not only inspired but also provided valuable insights into teamwork, leadership and resilience.

Additionally, the inclusion of Greg Page from “Heart of the Nation” brought a poignant reminder of the importance of physical health and its connection to mental well-being. Greg’s firsthand account of surviving a heart attack and the subsequent impact on his life struck a chord with our staff, highlighting the significance of prioritising both physical and mental health. The impact of these speakers extended beyond the event itself, as staff members lined up for long periods afterwards to engage in discussions and share their own journeys. These conversations fostered a sense of connection and solidarity among employees, encouraging open dialogue about mental health and well-being.

What advice would you give to other councils looking to implement similar mental health and safety initiatives?

Do it!! Bring your management team along for the journey and consult with your staff. Engage resources that meet the overarching goal of improving the mental health of your staff across your Council.

In what ways do you see this initiative evolving or expanding in the future to further support mental health and safety in the workplace?

We plan to offer further ongoing education and training sessions to keep employees updated on mental health best practices, including resilience-building techniques and stress management strategies. We will continue to promote work-life balance initiatives to support employees in achieving a healthy balance between their professional and personal lives.

We continue to integrate mental health and safety initiatives into our Council’s culture, embedding them into our WHS Management System, practices and daily operations to create a workplace where mental health is valued, prioritised and actively supported.

Learning From Our Members

At CivicRisk Mutual, we know how vital employee mental and physical health is for all levels of your workforce. Take note from Belinda and Cumberland Council and use CivicRisk Mutual to learn about building your own safety and mental health programs.

Want to become a member like Belinda, paving a path for your business through improved risk management? Contact our team today to join our community.