From self-acknowledgement to community awareness

By Ranna Alkadamani, Frasers Property Australia

The article is the second in a series called ‘One Thing’. Developed by the UDIA NSW Diversity and Inclusion Committee, these articles, shared learnings and insights aim to show that often it takes just ‘one thing’ to promote inclusion and create a pathway for diversity.


“It’s manic depression.”

I was in my teens when my brother was diagnosed with what is now known as bipolar. At the time, there was virtually no general awareness or understanding about mental health and its impacts on the individual, family, or community. What I do recall was that for many years, I was embarrassed, confused and frustrated by the circumstances I found my family in.

Fast forward thirty years, and while the landscape has certainly changed, I don’t believe we’ve yet arrived in the community at a satisfactory destination.

How we get there is a question for everyone. For those in the property industry, investigating ways we can use our collective muscle to engage with Government, form new partnerships and implement new programs is a discussion worth pursuing.

Like Frasers Property Australia, there are many industry leading organisations coordinating wonderful programs achieving real outcomes, in terms of education, support and acceptance.

I wonder though, through an elevated collaborative effort, could these organisational programs become greater than the sum of their parts?

We started very gently with mental health education for our employees a decade ago. In the last few years we have been far more focussed in this space. One of the four core areas of Frasers Property’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee is mental health, as voted by our staff.

But the self-acknowledgment of mental illness, followed by the proactive seeking of help, remains a challenge for people. Fear that it could affect their standing amongst their peers, or even jeopardise their career, remains a barrier to people opening up and seeking help. This is something I have had to come to terms with in managing my own experience of depression. We’ve learned that ongoing education and conversations are critical to address the stigma and this is where our efforts have been and will continue.

A particularly well-received program has been the Aspect Mental Health Training to help our people understand mental health. This program integrates practical tools, real-life conversations, the science of stress, evidence-based response strategies to help to build a “psychologically safe workplace culture”.

We also know we need to seek the advice of experts in the field. Our live events with speakers from organisations like Beyond Blue and SANE are some of our best-attended, achieving strong levels of engagement in recognition of what’s at stake.

Our Mental Health & Wellbeing Policy launched in 2019 was the brainchild of our Diversity & Inclusion Mental Health Sub Committee. It has been a strong symbolic gesture. Policies alone don’t change culture and behaviours, but they do provide a strong message of what and how we value our people.

The Policy aims to support and promote the mental health and wellbeing of all our staff, increase employee knowledge and awareness of mental health and wellbeing, reduce the stigma around mental health problems and illnesses, support employee participation in a range of initiatives, and create a safe and inclusive workplace culture.

Ideally, the outcome is to challenge negative perceptions around mental health and illness, and encourage more conversations, understanding, inclusion and support for those who bravely speak up.

For organisations wanting to formalise their own policy in this space, the Developing a workplace mental health strategy how-to guide prepared by Heads Up is a great resource.

We’ve also focused on communicating this policy and its objectives through interactive campaigns like the Make A Promise initiative we coordinated to coincide with Mental Health Week late last year.

Make A Promise encouraged staff, from our CEO Rod Fehring down, to commit to taking action in whatever way they saw fit to address and positively impact the mental health of either themselves or someone else. It was about making a personal stand, recognising that one person can make a difference, with Frasers Property making a donation to Mental Health Australia for each promise made. Investment in this area is critical and it must be consistent. People passionate about improving mental health outcomes will typically point to the need for increased, strategic and, importantly, ongoing investment by Governments in programs and campaigns with the capacity to make a real difference.

But the private sector must dig deep too. Frasers Property has invested significantly to ensure a robust effort to educate, understand and support better mental health outcomes at a project level. For instance, our residential communities each employ a Community Development Manager to foster closer ties among residents through structured programs and neighbourhood initiatives that can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation that some people experience.

We’re also a national sponsor of Smiling Mind, an App that brings mindfulness meditation and education to young people in school, teaching them techniques that might potentially help them deal with stress, anxiety and other issues. With this sponsorship, our own people can access a range of workplace training sessions with free access to the Smiling Mind Work App.

We’re proud of our approach and the inroads we’ve made at Frasers Property, but our challenge is to find new and more effective ways to achieve the objectives our policy sets out.

We can create environments where people are empowered and comfortable to talk about mental health. We can demonstrate that one person can make a difference, providing organisational support to the individual stands our people make.

We can embed programs and people in our projects with the objective of delivering better mental health outcomes for our residents, our customers, and their residential or business communities.

We can implement policies, improve education and encourage ongoing conversations which all go towards smashing the stigma, creating a far more inclusive, authentic and kind workplace for everyone.

We can do all these things and for many leading property companies, we already are.

But what more can we do as an industry, as a collective, together? These are the kinds of discussions I look forward to having, from a professional and personal perspective.


Since 2018, the Diversity & Inclusion Committee has been one of the key Business Advisory Committees for the UDIA NSW, focussed on improving and promoting diversity and inclusion in the UDIA and our industry. This year, we launched the ‘One Thing’ campaign – celebrating and sharing the ‘one thing’ that we’re doing to empower people by respecting, supporting and appreciating what makes them different, in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, beliefs, disability, sexual orientation, and education. What’s your One Thing?


 

For more information about Frasers Property Australia, visit frasersproperty.com.au.

About Frasers Property Australia

Frasers Property Australia Pty Limited is one of Australia’s leading diversified property groups and is the Australian division of Frasers Property Limited. The company has over 90 years’ heritage in Australia with activities covering the development of residential land, housing and apartments, commercial, retail and industrial properties, investment property ownership and management, and property management.

Being part of a multi-national company opens up a world of opportunities for our customers. Frasers Property Australia appreciates its customers and rewards their loyalty through Prosperity, a national customer care and loyalty program providing residential customers with generous purchase and referral rewards, plus benefits at Frasers Hospitality’s serviced hotel residences and boutique lifestyle hotels around the world.

Sustainability is at the heart of our operations. The company creates places where resources are re-used, recycled and restored. It fosters new ideas to support people and the planet, and undertakes tangible initiatives to help people lead happier, healthier lives. Driven by a highly experienced team of people committed to delivering memorable experiences for our customers, the core values of our global group are collaborative, respectful, progressive and real.