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Rail boss calls for cultural shift for mental health

(Left to Right) R U OK? chairman Mike Connaghan, ARA chief executive Bryan Nye, Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins, TrackSAFE chairman Bob Herbert, Minister for Health Sussan Ley, R U OK? ambassador Phil Waugh, NSW Trains chief executive Rob Mason. Photo: Oliver Probert

Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins says the Australian rail industry needs to undergo a cultural change if it is to get serious about the mental health of its employees.

Speaking at the launch of the inaugural Rail R U OK? Day at Central station on Thursday morning, Collins said the rail industry needs to shift away from its stiff upper lip culture, and also needs to be more aware of the multicultural nature of its workforce.

“We as an industry … face a lot of issues,” Collins said. “We see everything that the public throws at us, and sometimes that is a real, tragic experience.

“As an ex-train driver – someone who’s been on the front line – I think there’s a lot of issues. Culturally, ‘macho blokes’ don’t talk about it.

“Now, not only have we been male-dominated – and that’s changing – but culturally, 50% of my employees are from other places around the world. And different cultures can also find it difficult to talk about things, like saying ‘Are you okay?’ We must support them in this exercise as well.”

Collins was joined at the opening event by his counterpart at NSW Trains, Rob Mason, as well as outgoing ARA chief executive Bryan Nye, federal minister for health Sussan Ley, TrackSAFE chairman Bob Herbert, R U OK? chairman Mike Connaghan and several other key R U OK? figures.

Rail R U OK? Day is a new initiative; the result of a joint effort by the TrackSAFE Foundation and R U OK?.

“We now understand that this day is important to us,” Collins said.

“To our rail employees, to their partners, to our contractors – the whole industry is coming together today.

“It’s all about being safer, being supportive, and doing what managers often fail to do: To use your two ears, and one mouth to communicate, and understand what people have to say.

“We’re all busy people … But you do need to find the time to ask.”

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