AFOEM eBulletin – 9 March 2018

Mental health frameworks in the workplace and how one has been implemented at BHP 

Mental health in the workplace is an increasingly global issue as employers realise that not only do mental health problems impact on enterprise productivity ​but they need to support diversity. Simultaneously, Governments and national bodies are commissioning reviews into this issue and in some cases, are creating legislation to set certain expectations ​of employers. 

For example, the Japanese Government passed the ‘Act on Promotion of Preventive Measures against Karoshi and Other Overwork-Related Health Disorders’ in June 2014. This was central to a national initiative towards the prevention of overwork-related disorders including suicide and heart disease. Major objectives to be implemented include:

  • to promote research on overwork-related disorders and publish the findings 
  • to increase awareness of overwork-related disorders 
  • to develop a counselling service system
  • to support the activities of private sectors.

More recently, in 2017 the Stevenson and Farmer UK report, ‘Thriving at Work’, outlined a framework of six core mental health standards, including:

  • to produce and implement a mental health at work plan for employees
  • to increase mental health awareness 
  • to encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available 
  • to provide employees with good working conditions, ensuring they have a healthy work life balance and opportunities for development
  • to promote effective people management
  • to routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.

An example of how these core standards have been implemented in an Australian organisation is BHP’s mental health framework.  Key features of BHP’s mental health framework include:

  • strong leadership support
  • developing a preventative strategy
  • focusing on raising awareness, reducing stigma and enhancing capacity supporting recovery.

Occupational and environmental physicians play an integral role in the development and implementation of these frameworks within diverse workplaces to manage varying degrees of mental illness in employees. A recent joint presentation about these frameworks was delivered by Dr Rob McDonald, Vice President Health and Hygiene at BHP Billiton, Dr Bruce Hocking, an occupational physician, and Dr Gregor Schutz, a psychiatrist. 

BHP presented their mental health framework at a recent AFOEM meeting and have kindly shared their PowerPoint presentation

Two fantastic case studies* were worked through in the latter half of the lecture demonstrating the role of the occupational physician in each case and their interaction with other members of a multidisciplinary team in the management of patients. These would be good case studies for state Directors of Training and trainees to work through.

*Please note the case studies ​are entirely fictitious and were developed for the purpose of stimulating thought and discussion.

A message from your President

This is a particularly important month both for the Faculty and for the College in view of the elections and nominations to determine future leaders in a range of different roles. The 2018 College elections have opened and will run until Tuesday, 3 April 2018.  Within the Faculty, the nomination period for a number of positions closes on Wednesday, 28 March 2018. I strongly encourage you to participate in these important election and nomination processes.

The opportunities for AFOEM Fellows and trainees include serving on AFOEM Council, the Faculty Policy & Advocacy Committee and the Regional Committees. The positions on AFOEM Council which remain to be appointed, through an Expression of Interest (EOI) process, include the trainee representative and one Fellow each from New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.

There are six positions to be filled by EOI’s to the Faculty Policy & Advocacy Committee. The AFOEM Regional Committees are also seeking to fill a range of positions. All of these positions are listed on the RACP website along with the position descriptions and relevant By-laws. I encourage eligible Fellows and trainees to nominate for the vacant positions before the deadline.

The 2018 College elections opened on Monday, 5 March 2018 and it is important to know that this is the first election for the new smaller Board, which no longer has reserved positions for the President of AFOEM, or the Presidents of the Divisions and other Faculties. Positions for three Board Member Directors and the President-Elect of the College are being contested. For more information on the candidates visit the College’s website. I strongly encourage every Fellow to read the information and to vote in this important election.

March pres post image 
Left to right – Front row: Dr Claire Hollo, Dr Helen McArdle, Dr Beata Byok, Dr Alison Drewry, Associate Professor Peter Connaughton, Dr Warren Harrex and Dr Kevin Sleigh. Back row: Dr Josh Munn, Dr Robin Chase, Dr Alexandra Muthu, Dr Steve Overmeire, Dr David Cleveland and Dr Chris Cunneen 

AFOEM Council held its first face to face meeting for 2018 on Thursday, 1 March 2018 and we had a productive and wide-ranging meeting. The issues discussed included the 2018 to 2020 College planning cycle, the strategic direction for the Health Benefits of Good Work (HBGW) and planning options for the 2019 Annual Scientific Meeting. We also received an update on the progress of the College’s physician workforce profile. I encourage all Fellows and trainees to complete your work profile in MyRACP today if you have not done so already. Ms Melinda Miller, the President of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Occupational Medicine (ANZSOM), also provided an update on ANZSOM (Australia) to Council. We will provide more information on the Council meeting in the AFOEM Council Communique.  

I am pleased to report that I am continuing to work with Dr John Heydon, President of ANZSOM (New Zealand) to adapt the Model of Collaboration to accommodate the needs of New Zealand. We are aiming to complete this work in the near future.

Progress continues on the development of the relationship between AFOEM and the Hong Kong College of Community Medicine (HKCCM) with the recommended option being presented to the RACP Board at the March meeting. Thank you to all who assisted in the development of the proposed option to date, including Dr Alison Drewry, Associate Professor Anthony Brown and Professor Malcom Sim.

Following the publication of AFOEM’s Guide to Pregnancy and Work in November 2017, I am delighted to see the initiative continuing to gain greater traction and exposure in the media. In February I was interviewed for an article facilitated by News Corp about the Guide and new mum’s returning to work. With an audience reach of approximately 400,000 the article ran in the Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph, Cairns Post, and the Northern Territory Times. It is exciting to see the flourishing conversation about accommodating pregnancy in the workplace. 

Finally, my thanks to all who contributed to the AFOEM submission to provide feedback on the clinical practice guideline titled ‘Clinical Practice Guideline for the diagnosis and management of work-related mental health conditions in general practice.’ This was written by the Department of General Practice at Monash University and it is important for AFOEM to provide input and feedback on such management  guidelines.

With best wishes, 

Associate Professor Peter Connaughton
President, AFOEM

Voting now open for College elections

College elections are a terrific opportunity to consider the ideas being put forward by College Members and cast your vote for the leaders of tomorrow.

Voting is now open and in accordance with the College’s Constitution and By-laws, voting will close at 5pm AEST, Tuesday, 3 April 2018.

Read more

Launch for the Collaborative Partnership at the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) Annual Forum

The Collaborative Partnership is a national effort by public, private and not-for-profit organisations to improve work participation for people with temporary or permanent physical or mental health conditions which may impact their ability to work. AFOEM is a major partner in the Collaborative Partnership and Dr Robin Chase is the AFOEM representative. Dr Chase sits on the Committee and with the support of Comcare also leads the work of the GP Support project​, which is one of the five major priority areas for the Collaborative Partnership.

Comcare held a formal launch for the Collaborative Partnership at the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) Annual Forum on Wednesday, 7 March 2018. The ICA forum attracted a broad range of attendees and high-profile speakers including the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, the Hon. Kelly O’Dwyer and the Shadow Treasurer, the Hon. Chris Bowen. Minister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace and Deregulation, the Hon. Craig Laundy was also invited to speak at the launch, unfortunately he couldn't make it in person but he did record a four minute video speech which was played at the event where he emphasised the importance of the Partnership and the Government’s support for it.  

To find out more about the Collaborative Partnership visit the website:

RACP C​ongress 2018 – ​program update

RACP Congress 2018 will take place at the International Convention Centre, Sydney, from 14 ​to 16 May 2018.

On the Tuesday of Congress AFOEM attendees are invited to join Associate Professor Anne Cust, an epidemiologist who heads the Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Research Group based at the Sydney School of Public Health, who will be presenting on her research in the risk factors of melanoma; as well as the occupational exposure to sunlight and risk of melanoma.

At RACP Congress speakers will challenge delegates to ask themselves how prepared they are, and the healthcare system ​is, for issues that will change and influence healthcare systems of the future.

The AFOEM ATM will also host a dinner for attendees, as well as a dinner for AFOEM attendees of the RACP Congress. In 2018 the dinners will be combined for one fun-filled evening. You are still eligible to register to attend the dinner if you are not attending the ATM or Congress.

The dinner will take place on Sunday, 13 May 2018 from 6pm to 10pm at L’Aqua – Gold Room, Cockle Bay Wharf, Darling Harbour, tickets can be purchased during the registration process. 

For more information on the RACP Congress program, registration and speakers visit the Congress website

Call for nominations

The call for nominations for various elected positions or, if applicable, expressions of interest for appointment, to Division, Faculty, Chapter, New Zealand and Australian Regional Councils or Committees is now open.

Learn more

ANZSOM 2018 Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) and 50th Anniversary

The Australian and New Zealand Society of Occupational Medicine (ANZSOM) will hold their 2018 ASM conference in October, coinciding with its 50th Anniversary.  The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Perspectives in Occupational Health’.

The theme highlights the many perspectives of this complex area of practice, and will bring together a wide variety of professionals and experts representing national and regional enterprises, including government and industry organisations and small and large business.
The ASM will also be marked with a series of special activities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Society. 

For more details about the event and to register, please visit their website.

South Australia Election Statement 

The College has released a South Australian Election Statement prior to the election on 17 March.

It calls on the incoming government to focus on key priorities and makes specific policy recommendations on matters including vaccination, disability services, integrated care, digital health and telehealth, Indigenous health, and high-value care.

AMA Public Health Awards 2018 – call for nominations 

The AMA is seeking nominations of people or groups who have made an extraordinary contribution to health care and public health. Recipients will be invited to attend the 2018 AMA National Conference in Canberra in May 2018, where the awards will be presented. In the year following the presentation of the awards, recipients will have the opportunity to participate in interviews with interested media, and engage in AMA supported activities promoting their work in their field of expertise. 

Nominations are sought in the following categories: 

  • AMA Excellence in Healthcare Award
  • AMA Woman in Medicine Award.

More information regarding the awards and the nomination process may be found on the AMA website. Nominations close COB Monday, 23 April 2018.

How is immigration control impacting the health care sector?

A researcher from Monash University is asking Australian health care professionals and health justice advocates to help investigate how immigration controls impact on the provision of health care within the Australian community.

Complete an online survey covering topics including​: access to health services by visa holders, information exchange between health care providers and immigration authorities, visits to health care providers by immigration officials, and actions taken by health professionals to support patients experiencing immigration problems. 

It is not necessary to have knowledge or experience of these topics to take part in the survey

No identifying information is being collected and participants are invited to complete the questionnaire based on their own professional experience.

New initiative introduced for Indigenous communities to participate in 2018 conferences

Indigenous Conference Services (ICS) Australia is proud to announce the launch of its 2018 Indigenous Conferences which takes you to Cairns, Canberra and Brisbane with a broad range of topics in Indigenous affairs.  

2018 sees an exciting new initiative introduced to encourage and help Indigenous communities participate in 2018 conferences, ​they have allocated up to 70 per cent of the conference proceedings to community groups and partnerships between community and government organisations in an attempt to promote the positives being achieved. We hear time and time again throughout the media how Closing the Gap initiatives are not being achieved where in real terms, many successful leap forwards are taking place.  ​ICS invites you to submit-a-paper and be part of the positive movement in Indigenous Australia. 

For more information, please visit the conference website at or contact them by email at

Voting is now open for the Medical Council election

The Medical Council of New Zealand election opened on Tuesday, 20 February 2018. ​Twenty one candidates are standing for four positions. 

Voting closes on Friday, 23 March 2018. 

Read more

Claiming initial attendance items – education campaign from the Department of Health

The Department of Health will be conducting an education campaign in March 2018 on the use of Medicare Benefit Scheme (MBS) initial attendance items 104 and 110. The campaign will involve the department writing to specialists and consultant physicians who appear to be claiming multiple initial attendance items for a patient’s single course of treatment.

This is a good opportunity for all specialists and consultant physicians to review their billing protocols for these items. To assist providers, the department has developed a checklist for initial attendance items 104 and 110 that is available for download.

Initial attendance items must only be claimed for the first attendance of a single course of treatment. Any subsequent attendance that relates to the continuing management or review of the referred condition, up to the stage where the patient is referred back to the care of the referring practitioner, is to be billed as a subsequent attendance item (e.g. 105, 116 or 119). The department will be continuing to monitor MBS items 104 and 110 in the future.

Conferences and events

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians publishes notices of events and courses as a service to members. Such publication does not constitute endorsement or mandating of any such events or courses. 

AFOEM NSW CPD Session: Update on emerging best practice for case management by Insurance schemes: implications for occupational physicians

View all occupational and environmental health medicine events.

Go to the events list at any time to see what events are coming up.

Career opportunities

View all positions vacant

AFOEM contact details

AFOEM Faculty enquiries (including Council and committees):
Victoria Patterson, AFOEM Executive Officer
Phone: +61 2 8076 6351

AFOEM Education and Training enquiries:
Georgina Kempton, Education Officer
Phone: +61 2 8247 6268

AFOEM Examination enquiries:
Examination Coordinator, Assessment and Selection Unit

AFOEM training site accreditation inquiries:
Site Accreditation Unit

AFOEM CPD enquiries:

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