Mental health amongst the Construction Industry

We’ve certainly been weathering this perfect storm.

Brett McKenzie | CEO

The Sustainable Team has certainly endorsed Housing Industry Association’s (HIA) transparency with the impeding challenges and mental health concerns currently suppressing the Australian Construction Industry. 

In the HIA Building News Magazine (October, Issue 3), HIA President Queensland Peter Wood wrote a raw and honest industry account, titled ‘Take care of each other as we weather the storm.’ Wood’s statement unravels the truth about what has been happening in the construction industry over the last 18 months, describing it as “one prolonged crisis”, whilst also placing a large emphasis on mental health. A few of Wood’s most striking statements are detailed below.

As our industry fights on during 2021, there is an uncomfortable truth emerging. Many of us are simply not okay.

…construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than from a workplace accident.

The pandemic and subsequent HomeBuilder boom have meant that many of us have had to deal with consistent challenges over an extended period of time. Many of us are drained and feel as though we are ‘going to battle’ every day.

The last 18 months have been some of the most challenging that any of us have ever faced. The pressure is real, and the pressure is constant for many parts of the industry.

HIA Economics tells us that we are roughly nine months into a 12 month cycle of material and labour supply issues. Things will improve, but the ride to get us to that point is rough, and our industry is a bit battle-scarred.

Peter Wood | HIA President Queensland

Sustainable CEO Brett McKenzie has been managing these industry challenges closely with our clients, staff and sub-traders, and has been open about that since early October of 2020. These are the exact concerns that Brett has had with what is ahead for the industry; and the ‘Perfect Storm’ has certainly happened.  

Brett McKenzie said,

It feels like we are another six to 12 months off of being able to come out of the other side of it, so it is absolutely critical that we manage this by looking out for each other, being transparent and honest with our clients, suppliers and work force.

With more significant roll out ahead, it is important for us at Sustainable to communicate this with our Team of employees, trades, suppliers and clients, and for our clients to support us as we support them.

And that dove tails into a really important factor of what we do from a long-term master planning life cycle of our Sustainable Homes — creating spaces that provide not only refuge, but inspirational spaces that deliver all the emotions of life; so our buildings are not just living and breathing, they are also supportive and provide structure for us to keep a healthy mind. 

Even though our Sustainable Team has faced many challenges — in terms of supply and demand with chasing materials and the fragmented pressure of the industry — our business operates under a well-developed Sustainable D&C Management process, which is solely based on permanent internal training and mentoring. 

This means that we are able to manage these challenges as best as we possibly can for our clients and minimise any cost impediments where possible, as our profiles are well prepared and we are strong believers of what we do for our clients. 

Brett McKenzie continues to express his thoughts on the matter,

It has certainly been frustrating and stressful for everybody. It is a daily management struggle — all the best laid out plans from yesterday at five o’clock turned to crap at five this morning.

Industry standards of fixed price contracts and funding models do not consider a pandemic with rapid rise of costs with no access to materials.

In 2003 we had a massive price increase, but we had a very good supply of materials. Today, we are dealing with rapid cost increases and massive supply shortages, something the Australian construction industry was not prepared for.

Unfortunately the uncertainty and also the already evident situation that is causing some businesses to not be able to weather the “Storm”, thus clients, sub-trades and employees were effected enormously.

The accessibility of materials and all the sorts of pressures being placed on the industry are causing enormous stress, so it is important for us to make sure that we have healthy minds, which is a major passion of our Sustainable Philosophy to design healthy homes.

Personal and mental wellbeing is in our Sustainable DNA. Our passion, since our inception 35 years ago has been to design healthy, sensory homes that promote improved mental wellbeing for all occupants of the home, including visitors. 

Our Sustainable Homes are designed to provide retreat and support that continually regenerates and influences healthy minds. We design homes so that our client’s can live in spaces that are inspirational, to live in spaces that provide retreat, and to live in spaces that allow them to value that space, and for it to be uplifting and healthy to them. 

Sustainable are major supporters of the HIA Charitable Foundation (HIACF) who have partnered with Beyond Blue, providing resources to individuals to help manage mental health in the construction industry. 

For anyone growing up in Australia, a bucket hat is a symbol of protection and exploration.

HIA Charitable Foundation

The latest part of their agenda is their “Bucket Hat Campaign”, which Sustainable have taken part in. The HIACF Bucket Hats are designed to open up conversations across the construction industry and beyond, so that we can keep a healthy mind and feel supported through these challenging times.

If you would like to enquire about purchasing the bucket hats for you or your team, contact: foundation@hia.com.au

Beyond Blue is available 24 hours a day on 1300 224 636 for anyone that needs assistance.

Or the following charities are also available:

Mates in Construction1300 642 111

Lifeline13 11 14 

Sustainable’s Commitment to Training and Opportunity

Training programs are important in delivering and promoting sustainable futures, not only for the construction industry, but for individuals to learn practical skills that are critical to training people up organically. 

Sustainable’s 30-year-long commitment to training and providing opportunities has been paramount since our inception. As part of Brett McKenzie’s (Sustainable CEO) philosophy — if he was never given the opportunity, he would have never been able to be involved in an industry that can make such a difference. 

Sustainable CEO Brett McKenzie said,

“Apprenticeship and traineeship opportunities allow me to impart my critical knowledge of Sustainable Design & Construction onto the emerging generations, influencing the future of the industries.”

This is very important.”

“We need to go ‘back to the future’ to deliver the cutting-edge, human skills required to administer sustainable community housing of the future.” 

For over 30 years, Sustainable has successfully assisted in excess of 20 apprentices and trainees. Most of which have come from local and regional areas, including Ipswich, Warwick, Toowoomba, Gympie and Moonie, with a strong representation of over 7 apprentices from Ipswich Grammar School (IGS). In fact, one of our IGS apprentices became a qualified Tradesman last month, and we have also recently signed on a new school-based apprenticeship with another IGS student. 

In addition, Sustainable has always prided our involvement of recruiting regional apprentices and trainees. It is an absolutely crucial part of our Sustainable operation to provide critical training opportunities to individuals originating from rural areas, where the opportunity is undeniably limited. The Darling Downs (DD) region in particular is where Sustainable has trained a total of 8 successful apprentices, with one of our current DD apprentices due to become a fully qualified Tradesman in early 2022. 

“Due to the changing work environment, in the sense of an industry that has become very fragmented with different processes, with an emerging workforce and short-term thinking, providing training to rural communities creates a barrier for building companies and builders to be committed to training, especially in rural areas,” said Brett McKenzie.

It is critical that we provide opportunities to engage these fresh young minds of the future, to re-shape, re-think and develop new skills and techniques that deliver the Sustainable housing stock required to take charge in our changing and evolving resource costs, and climate management.

Since our inception, Sustainable has been committed to Training & Opportunity to deliver the Sustainable housing stock of the future. 

See our Career Opportunities here: https://www.sustainable.id.au/aboutus/careers/

Phone: (07) 3201 1177