Why We Need A Mentally Healthy Workplaces Program To Promote A Safe & Thriving Music Industry

23 June 2023 | 9:45 am | Clive Miller

The unacceptable levels of sexual misconduct, bullying and discrimination have been called out, and a need for immediate change has been recognised. The industry norms of the past will no longer be tolerated.

Mentally Healthy Workplaces Program

Mentally Healthy Workplaces Program (Graphic Credit: Mitch Fresta)

In the last few years, Australia’s music industry has gone through an awakening. 

The unacceptable levels of sexual misconduct, bullying and discrimination have been called out, and a need for immediate change has been recognised. The industry norms of the past will no longer be tolerated.

In 2022, Support Act conducted its first-ever Mental Health and Wellbeing in Music and Live Performing Arts Survey[1] to gauge the state of the industry. The results were staggering, showing that 66 per cent of respondents had high/very high levels of psychological distress, more than four times the general population. On top of that, just 15 per cent said they felt safe at work all of the time, with 35 per cent saying they were exposed to unsafe working conditions in the last year. 

As the music industry’s leading mental health and wellbeing advocate, we saw the need to provide a starting point for businesses looking to improve psychological safety in the workplace and to confirm their commitment to making positive change. This resulted in the development of a set of Minimum Standards for a Mentally Healthy Music Industry, released in August 2022. Since then, 120 businesses from all parts of the industry have signed up.

At the same time, key industry leaders were also coming together to support the development of the Music Industry Review. The Raising Their Voices[2] report, released in September last year, found that 55 per cent of respondents had experienced some form of workplace sexual harassment, and 76 per cent have experienced bullying at work. As a result, 17 recommendations were made in the hope of creating sustained cultural and behavioural change across the music industry.

Support Act has been a leader in providing mental health and well-being education, training and resources for a number of years, including free Mental Health First Aid training, which has now been delivered to over 1,400 people; industry-specific Access All Areas active bystander training; and the provision of free phone counselling support through the Support Act Wellbeing Helpline, with specialised support lines for First Nations music workers, LGBTQIA+ music workers and anyone who is a victim of sexual misconduct. 

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In an effort to make these programs and resources accessible to all, we’ve aggregated them into a dynamic and flexible 18-month pathway called our Mentally Healthy Workplaces Program, which launches in its pilot phase this week. 

To provide some context, a mentally healthy workplace is one that promotes and supports the psychological well-being of its employees. It encourages open communication, positive relationships, supportive leadership, work/life balance and provides mental health support, along with training and development. These are all variables that need to be managed. Of course, when we talk about a workplace in the music industry, this can mean a wide range of things, from an office to a studio, tour bus, venue, festival or rehearsal room.

Our program features a wealth of industry-specific, evidence-based training programs designed and delivered in collaboration with industry leaders in the fields of mental health, behavioural change and organisational psychology.

It also seeks to raise awareness of the legal obligations we all have under the new Respect@Work legislation to take proactive and meaningful action to prevent gender-based harassment, discrimination, bullying or victimisation from occurring in the workplace or connection to work. 

Our program helps to address eight of the 17 recommendations of the Music Industry Review, and in line with our First Nations Strategic Plan, delivers culturally intelligent, respectful and trustworthy support to all First Nations music workers.

The Mentally Healthy Workplaces Program is flexible and dynamic, designed to run over 18 months and split into six three-month ‘chunks’. Each chunk includes a Hero Offering workshop and quarterly perks, including a dedicated well-being EDM, Digital Brunch Bootcamp and team Support Session. It’s currently free to music industry businesses of all sizes.

We’ve been overwhelmed with the very positive response to our invitation for 20 organisations from all parts of the music industry to participate in the pilot, and we are confident that the program will fill a need for our industry by providing a practical and quantifiable means of making real progress towards sustained cultural and behavioural change.

We also look forward to playing a key role in supporting the federal government’s newly legislated Creative Workplaces body, which has as its mandate to create safer and fairer workplaces, and to working with state governments and the many music industry businesses who we know are committed to creating a safe and thriving music industry for all.  

For more information and resources, check out the Mentally Healthy Workplaces section of the Support Act website or visit our mentally healthy public access programs via the Events page.

[1] Mental Health and Wellbeing in Music and Live Performing Arts survey, May 2022. Conducted in partnership with the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne.