Mental Health & Wellbeing

WISA started talking about mental health and wellbeing ten years ago, recognising the problem and need for a support program that was tailored to our seafood industry.

We supported key research to understand the state of health and wellbeing in the industry with the Sustainable Fishing Families project in 2017.

The research revealed that fishers endure levels of psychological distress at a level almost double the general population.

With this statistic, WISA worked with Seafood Industry Australia to secure Federal Government funding to start the successful Stay Afloat program in partnership.

Stay Afloat

Stay Afloat Australia is the national mental health pilot program for the Australian seafood industry, run by Seafood Industry Australia (SIA) in partnership with WISA. The program is supported with funding from the Australian Government Department of Health’s Mental Health Program.

The program has been designed to help break the stigma associated with poor mental health, connect industry with existing services and supports, and provide education to primary health networks regarding the seafood industry’s operations and unique stressors.

WISA Treasurer and Victorian Director, Barbara Konstas and WISA EO, Kirsten Abernethy, sit on the Steering Committee for the Stay Afloat Program

The program has three key elements:-

  1. Trusted industry advocates in communities are trained to be mental health support coordinators on the ground and to support industry people getting some help.
  2. Mental health first aid training.
  3. Build community resilience through better connections, funding events for industry to come together and strengthen networks and learn more about wellbeing.

WISA members have become trusted advocates in their communities. Mental health first aid training is open to WISA members and everyone in the industry. WISA also hosts community resilience events. Keep an eye out on socials and in the WISA e-newsletter for upcoming opportunities to get involved.

For more information on the program and really useful resources, go to the stay afloat website:



Sustainable Fishing Families

An industry is only as healthy and sustainable as its members. In the years leading up to this project, concern for the health, safety and wellbeing of the Australian professional wild-catch fishing industry was growing. In response, FRDC Project Sustainable Fishing Families (2016-400) was conducted.

A national survey provided a baseline for the state of the health of industry members across a range of indicators, including reported physical and mental health, factors affecting health and safety, factors affecting levels of stress, health and safety behaviours, and access to health services and information.

The project also conducted and evaluated an intensive pilot program on health, safety and wellbeing tailored specifically for fishing families in collaboration with the National Centre for Farmer Health. The program was modelled on an existing and highly successful program with farming families, Sustainable Farm FamiliesTM.

The Sustainable Fishing Families project was a collaboration of academic and practical expertise including Deakin University, the National Centre of Farmer Health (NCFH), University of Tasmania, and University of Exeter.

The project final report can be found here.

The 2020 article “Mental health in the commercial fishing industry: Modern uncertainties and traditional risks” published in the international Journal Fish and Fisheries can be found here.


WISA is working towards ways to better connect with their members and all seafood women across the Australasian Seafood Industry.

Contact us

Kirsten Abernethy – Executive Officer
Phone: 0413 039 421

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WISA acknowledge and respect the Traditional Owners of these lands and waters and their continuing connections, their stories, traditions and living cultures and the contribution to the life and spirit of our communities across Australia. We extend our respect to past, present and future Elders of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

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