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Peer support program to include sexual assault and harassment modules

A peer support program, developed in partnership by the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA (CME) and Lifeline WA and being rolled out at WA mining and resources operations, will include sexual assault and sexual harassment modules as the sector continues to take all available steps to provide safe and inclusive workspaces. 

The Resourceful Mind program aims to identify “go-to” people among on-site communities (Minders as they become known in the program) and provide them with the skills required to have important conversations with colleagues experiencing mental health challenges and, if necessary, guide them towards further assistance.

The mental health support program, which involves training delivered by Lifeline WA’s expert crisis supporters, was recently deemed to be both safe for Minders and fit-for-purpose after extensive research by Edith Cowan University’s School of Medical Health Sciences. 

The sexual assault and harassment modules were included during the program’s pilot phase, having been designed with input from the Sexual Assault Research Centre.

“CME and its member companies are already undertaking a wide range of work to eliminate unacceptable behaviour and ensure all employees feel safe and respected while at work or in work-adjacent settings,” CME Manager of Health, Safety and People, Laila Nowell, said. 

“But in doing this we have also been mindful of the need to provide the best possible support for anyone who has been the victim of a sexual assault or sexual harassment. 

“It’s really important that a trauma-informed approach is taken and the introduction of these modules recognises that people may not always be comfortable reporting incidents formally in the first instance or even at a later date, and may instead seek to have a conversation with a colleague. 

“The seminars involved in the module have been made available to all mining and resources sector companies, irrespective of whether they fall under the CME banner or are participants in Resourceful Mind peer support program. 

“The aim is to ensure that people who have experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault feel heard, supported and are aware of other forms of assistance they can access.” 

Resourceful Mind was introduced as a pilot program last year at CME member companies Roy Hill, Mineral Resources Limited, Woodside and Simcoa, with 132 workers initially training to be Minders. 

There are now 270 Minders currently enrolled in training, with further intakes planned in August and October as the program is rolled out more widely across the sector. 

Minister for Mines and Petroleum Bill Johnston recently announced State Government funding of $700,000 over four years under the Mental Awareness, Respect and Safety (MARS) Program to support Resourceful Mind. 

Lifeline WA CEO Lorna MacGregor said Resourceful Mind trained Minders to navigate a wide range of challenging conversations. 

“It could be everything from anxiety, to family or financial problems, depression and, in the case of these modules, sexual assault and harassment,” Ms MacGregor said. 

“It takes courage for someone to come forward and have those conversations with a colleague and the most important thing is that they feel comfortable and supported doing so and that hopefully they won’t hesitate to do so again in the future. 

“Our Minders in no way replace professional counsellors or psychologists but they are a very valuable first point of contact for people experiencing challenging circumstances and, where appropriate, to guide those people towards further assistance. 

“It’s crucial to note that the psychological health and safety of the Minders is also of paramount importance to us, and that was a major aspect of the ECU research which found there were no negative impacts in terms of general health, self-esteem and burnout levels.” 

CME’s Safe and Respectful Behaviours (SARB) Working Group, which comprises a wide range of member companies, continues to implement initiatives aimed at eliminating unacceptable behaviour from the WA mining and resources sector and fostering safe and inclusive workplaces.

The recently-announced Industry Alcohol Guideline for company-owned accommodation facilities is a result of the work being undertaken by the SARB Working Group.

CME and its member companies – through the SARB Working Group – are currently in the process of reviewing in detail the report from the Parliamentary Inquiry into sexual harassment against women in the FIFO mining industry, including the suite of recommendations outlined within it and how these might be addressed in a practical way that delivers positive outcomes.

  • A list of Safe and Respectful Behaviour activities being undertaken by CME and its member companies is available here.