The Emergency Services Foundation (ESF) has been funded for two years by WorkSafe WorkWell to Chair a Learning Network for Victoria’s emergency management sector. The ESF member agencies identified that within agencies, training and development for managers and leaders is crucial for cultural change and must be a priority focus for the sector. The Learning Network determined a new way of helping line managers lead for better mental health was required.

In 2021, The Leading for Better Mental Health Program was created, and a multi-agency pilot was undertaken. For the purpose of this pilot, the program was co-designed via nine months of conversations and targeted evidence-gathering activities to understand the gaps between leadership for mental health best practices and current agency activities. People involved felt that no matter what agency they serve, team managers had common experiences so could learn from working together. The program was aimed at meeting the needs of people who are responsible for leading frontline teams.

After successfully completing the multi-agency pilot and verifying and corroborating the outcomes, a single-agency pilot program was initiated involving team members and team leaders from one agency, the Victoria Government Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic) Division. At the core of the single-agency pilot were two 2-day module workshops with team leaders delivered face-to-face in November 2021 and February 2022.

For consistency and comparability reasons, the single-agency pilot evaluation has been undertaken by the Charles Sturt University Workforce Wellness Research Unit (WWRU) which received Charles Sturt’s ethics approval for human research. The process adopted a mixed method approach, gathering qualitative and quantitative evidence including pre, during and post-delivery. This report outlines the evaluation process, findings, and recommendations.

Like the multi-agency program pilot, the single-agency pilot’s overall findings reveal the Leading for Better Mental Health Program was highly valued by participants, and the Executive Sponsor. The analysis has shown overall high satisfaction ratings, and an increase in self-efficacy scores for role, knowledge and skills, and mental health literacy. The program has shown it augments prior knowledge and skills and provides an opportunity to allow frontline leaders to share, practice and deeply reflect on how they can embed actions that result in a workplace that feels more psychologically supported.

Evaluation at the conclusion of both two-day modules has revealed that the goals of the program were achieved. No material changes to the program are proposed, except to ensure that the onboarding process aligns with how the multi-agency process was carried out with ESF having individual catch-ups with possible participants to explain the objectives of the program and what to expect from it.

Post program case studies show leaders are adjusting their practice in response to skills and expertise gained from the program. Alumni events, including an annual twelve-month follow up focussed session with the Executive Sponsor present are suggested to ensure continuous improvement practices and mental health initiatives are shared across the department and that it is embedded to become part of operational processes and culture to achieve systematic and sustainable change which allows for mental health safety to be viewed as just as important as workers physical safety.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationWagga Wagga, NSW
PublisherCharles Sturt University
Commissioning bodyEmergency Services Foundation
Number of pages57
ISBN (Electronic)9781864674255
ISBN (Print)9781864674248
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2022

Grant Number

  • 103619


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