Primary Producer Knowledge Network

Promoting Positive Mental Health for Victoria’s Primary Producers

A new network has been created to help prevent mental injury in Victoria’s primary production workplaces.
The Primary Producer Knowledge Network has been developed by the National Centre for Farmer Health (NCFH)—a partnership between Western District Health Service and Deakin University based in Hamilton, Victoria.
Funded by WorkSafe’s WorkWell Mental Health Improvement Fund, this initiative will collaborate with farmers, fishers and industry partners to develop evidence-based and practical strategies and resources delivered through a website, interactive capacity building program and social media platforms. The Primary Producer Knowledge Network project will be delivered over two years to support and further develop sustainable and systemic improvements in mental health across Victoria’s primary industries.

The evidence-based resources developed by the Primary Producer Knowledge Network project will build practical skills in Victoria’s primary producers and help prevent mental injury in an already vulnerable workforce. Deakin University’s Dr Alison Kennedy, who will lead the project from the National Centre for Farmer Health, said primary producers, including farmers and fishers, are a vulnerable workforce in industries undergoing significant transition, and experience a wide-range of workplace-related mental health challenges. “This exposure stems from an ageing and reducing workforce, rapidly increasing technological demands, exposure to a global marketplace and increasing uncertainty—with links to psychological distress and suicide risk,” Dr Kennedy said.

Western District Health Service chief executive, Rohan Fitzgerald, stressed the importance of involving the community in developing the Network. “If we are to achieve our goal of building healthier communities, we need programs that are tailored to the needs of community members,” Mr Fitzgerald said. “The Primary Producer Knowledge Network will work with a wide range of primary producers from across different farming sectors—including dairy, broadacre cropping, horticulture and livestock production—as well as the commercial fishing sector. This level of involvement will mean that resources developed will be relevant, practical and have the potential to make lasting and meaningful change across a wide range of workplace settings.”

Dr Kennedy said that while promoting good mental health was an important first step in ensuring a healthy, safe and productive workforce; identifying and addressing structural factors at the heart of workplace operations was important for long-term prevention of poor mental health. “While some of these factors might be found across a range of sectors—like the challenges that come with a family run and owned business—others will be specific to certain industries,” she said. “Our primary producers are the best-placed experts to help us identify these challenges and come up with solutions to prevent psychological risk.”

Important Information

More information about the project is available by contacting:

Dr Alison Kennedy
(03) 5551 8533

PPKN Advisory Group 2020

Susan Brumby

Professor Susan Brumby is the founding Director for the National Centre for Farmer Health. Having been active in the agricultural industries, managing the family property (beef and wool production) and holding prominent positions in the sector, she brings a unique blend of practical and theoretical experience to the Primary Producer Knowledge Network. Susan is the course leader for the Graduate Certificate in Agricultural Health and Medicine, Principal Investigator of the award winning Sustainable Farm Families project and a graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership Program. She has been Chief Investigator on a wide range of projects supporting primary producer health, wellbeing and safety.

Alison Kennedy

Alison is a Behavioural Scientist who has lived and worked in Victoria’s rural farming community since 2003. Alison’s research role at the National Centre for Farmer Health since 2010 has largely focused on mental health—improving understanding of managing tough times, suicide bereavement, rural suicide risk and suicide stigma; and developing prevention strategies tailored for the rural context. As a community educator, Alison has also delivered mental health workshops to farmers, service providers and community members across Eastern Australia. Alison was the recipient of the 2018 Emerging Researcher LiFE Award—recognising excellence in suicide prevention—and was an expert witness for the Victorian Royal Commission into Mental Health Services.

Timo Dietrich

Timo is the Engagement Director at Social Marketing @ Griffith and  a Senior Lecturer at Griffith University. He is a behavioural architect and expert in building engaging social marketing programs that help our people and planet. He uses a suite of behavioural theories, gamification and co-creation to build, engage and move users from awareness to action and ultimately advocacy. He works with a diverse range of industry partners from the environment, health, technology and finance sector. Timo’s research (100+ peer-reviewed publications) produces impact and drives change for the better in Australia and abroad. His work has positively impacted thousands of lives across change projects such as Blurred Minds, O-it, 5 a day, and REMI and he has trained thousands of professionals and students through his keynotes, masterclasses, and training workshops.

Kate Gunn

Kate Gunn
Kate grew up on a farm near Streaky Bay (SA) and is a Clinical Psychologist and Research Fellow, in the Department of Rural Health at UniSA. Her research is focused on improving rural health and wellbeing, particularly amoung farmers. She enjoys the process of combining what research shows helps people to change their behavior and improve their wellbeing, with rural people’s beliefs and preferences, so that new strategies are likely to work, be meaningful and be adopted. For example, Kate recently led the co-development of which assists farmers with coping effectively with things beyond their control (e.g. weather).

Cath Cosgrave

Cath is a social scientist, passionate about improving the mental health and wellbeing of rural Australians. Cath works as both a university-based researcher and an independent management consultant. In both capacities, she works closely with government agencies, rural businesses and communities to strengthen the evidence-base to support policy and practice changes to address rural access and resourcing challenges. She believes that effective solutions need a whole-of-community approach, and by using co-design approaches she assists rural communities to develop their own place-appropriate and strengths-based solutions. Cath brings to the PPKN extensive rural community development expertise and broad research skills.

Jo Macdonald

Joanna grew up in Casterton, South West VIC. In 2013, Joanna completed a Bachelor of Science majoring in Chemistry at Deakin University, Geelong. Subsequently, she then completed Honours in Health and Medical Science (2014) and a PhD (2017) in which she investigated novel methods for the specific treatment of metastatic brain tumours. Recently returning home to the country lifestyle, Joanna has now joined the NCFH as a Research Assistant. The Primary Producer Knowledge Network is the first project she has been involved with and she is looking forward to applying her research skills and passion for rural communities to support the mental health and wellbeing of Victoria’s primary producers.

David Jochinke

David otherwise known as ‘DJ’ is a third generation farmer who operates a family property at Murra Warra (30 km North of Horsham) producing various broadacre crops and finishing prime lambs.
At Longerenong College, he studied a Diploma of Applied Science and in later years, had the honour of being awarded scholarships for Nuffield Australia and the Australian Rural Leadership Program.
Since starting he’s career in farming he has been heavily involved with local farming advocacy that has led him to being currently elected as Victorian Farmers Federation President and National Farmers Federation Vice President.

Bill Hammil

Bill Hamill (BBus. MEd, DipVet, FAICD) is Chief Executive Officer of RIST, an Agricultural College with a campus in Hamilton. RIST is a preeminent training provider in agriculture, delivering Vocational and Higher Education from Certificate II through to a Bachelor of Agriculture (in partnership with CQUniversity). RIST delivers a comprehensive education pathway from school through to higher education, while delivering non-accredited training programs nationally. Bill grew up on cattle stations in the Northern Territory and northern Australia, before entering the workforce after completing a Bachelor of Business. He holds and has held several board and committee positions on State and National organizations including government committees..

Johnathon Davey

Johnathon Davey is the Executive Director of Seafood Industry Victoria. Johnathon liaises with industry leaders, licence holders, government and non-government institutions, advocating for the Victorian seafood industry.
On the back of Dr Tanya King’s work of 2017, the Seafood Industry has been flagged as significantly vulnerable to mental health stress. Therefore, as the Victorian industry leader it is extremely important to be involved in the work, to share the knowledge and stories of our industry to bring better mental health to our important primary industry.
His hopes for the project are to ensure that we continue to implement all possible steps to improve the mental stress conditions and respect for our commercial seafood industry.

Jenny Wilson

Ms Jenny Wilson is currently the CEO of Murray Dairy and has previously worked for many years as a senior manager in agricultural and regional community programs for the Victorian State government.
Passionate about regional Victoria, Ms Wilson has led a number of programs working with farming families and regional communities to adopt new practices and innovation. Ms Wilson has an extensive background in leadership, project management, strategic planning and emergency response and recovery.
Ms Wilson hopes this project will be able to generate resources, integrate with networks and identify strategies that will meet the needs of individuals, families and communities in preventing and addressing poor mental health.

David Goodin

David holds a Certificate III in Motor Mechanic, Certificate IV in Training & Assessing and Certificate IV in Work Health & Safety. Employed at Longerenong College since 2011 as a Rural Safety & Agricultural Skills Teacher.
Over the years, David has been involved with intensive, broadacre & livestock farming business.
David has a passion for Agriculture and the importance of mental health and wellbeing of agricultural communities. Through Longerenong College David enjoys working and teaching the next generation of agriculturalists.
David hopes this project will bring mental health to the forefront of people minds along with letting people know “its ok” to access help.

David Stafford

David has worked across the education, small business and rural sectors. He is currently the Executive Officer of Rural Financial Counselling in the western region of Victoria. The counsellors support farms and small business to meet the financial and emotional business challenges they face in an ever changing world. The service operates throughout rural Australia with over 150 counsellors supporting farmers.

Andrew Edgar

Andrew grew up in Nareen in Southwest Victoria on a grazing property. He has a degree in business management from Marcus Oldham Agriculture College. In 2001 Andrew began farming alongside his brother and parents on the family farm. After 10 years, in accordance with their well-communicated succession plan, his parents retired and the farm was split for him and his brother to run their own businesses.
Being involved with the PPKN advisory group Andrew would like to share his positive succession experience. He also wants to help fellow primary producers be aware of their own mental wellbeing. Highlighting the importance of good communication, a healthy lifestyle and connecting people to their communities and sources of help.

Rob Auchterlonie

Rob has been a dairy farmer and a member of the CFA for 40 years. For 26 years, he has worked in the CFA Wellbeing Team that helps members to be resilient and overcome impacts that can be caused by exposure to trauma and stress. Like firefighters, primary producers tend to be very independent and self-reliant, who sometimes find it difficult to reach out for mental health support. He thinks this project could develop more farmer targeted approaches, which would improve their knowledge of what is available, how to access and make reaching out easier. 

Melissa Connors

My name is Melissa Connors and I live in Kyneton with my husband and 4 kids.  We took the leap of faith to make our Tree Change in late 2011 – with a set of screw drivers and no knowledge of how to look after and maintain a 10acre lifestyle property, we dove in head first with rose coloured glasses on.  After our years of struggle, and realising we weren’t alone, I established This Farm Needs A Farmer in 2015 to connect our experienced farmers with newcomers to regional and rural communities after I recognised a need for this hand-me-down knowledge to be captured and for our ageing farming community to still be connected and involved in this vocation that is their identity and their way of life.

Tanja Morgan

Tanja and her husband farm in the Southern Mallee of SA with their three daughters. Tanja’s career has been in agriculture starting with PIRSA in 1999, then in 2012 starting her own project management business, before joining Mallee Sustainable Farming in 2017.Tanja hopes she can share her experience working with Mallee farmers to help the PPKN develop some useful outcomes. Tanja’s hopes for the project are that more and more farmers will take steps to see their health and wellbeing as their number one farm asset. 

Fiona Best

Fiona is the CEO of the Birchip Cropping Group (BCG). In her position, Fiona’s work ensures relevant agricultural research and extension opportunities to farming communities is occurring across the region. Attracting investments to improve the prosperity of broadacre farming locally, regionally and nationally is a key part of her work. Fostering collaborative relationships with industry stakeholders is central to BCG’s success.
Previously Fiona had spent nine years working in the education sector teaching and was heavily involved in promoting partnerships within the community to enhance the delivery of education to students to improve student outcomes and experiences.
Fiona has a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Honours) and Bachelor of Commerce. She helps manage a small landscaping business with her partner, Jarrod, and has three small children, Archie, Denley and Phoebe.

Sam Haren

Sam is a Creative Director and co-owner of Sandpit, a studio that combines design and technology into immersive, meaningful experiences. He has worked as Creative Director on numerous projects for clients including Google Creative Labs, National Sports Museum, South Australian Museum, BeyondBlue, Centre of Democracy, Melbourne Zoo and Australian Children’s Television Foundation. He was also the founder and Artistic Director of The Border Project, an Australian based contemporary theatre company focused on interactive technologies for 10 years, which gained significant funding from state and federal governments. Sam holds a Bachelor of Arts and PhD from Flinders University.