Sustainable Fishing Families


Here is the newest publication from the project:

King, Tanya J., Rachel Turner, Vincent Versace, Kirsten Abernethy, Sue Kilpatrick, and Susan Brumby. 2021. “Mental Health in the Commercial Fishing Industry: Modern Uncertainties and Traditional Risks.” Fish and Fisheries, May, faf.12572.

In August 2016, the Fisheries Research Development Corporation awarded a grant to develop an evidence-based health and safety training program for Australian fishing families (Project number 2016-400). The project is hosted by Deakin University and is in partnership with the National Centre for Farmer Health in Hamilton.

There are two components to the project:

  1. ‘Sustainable Fishing Families’ health literacy workshop development and pilot
  2. National survey of health, safety and wellbeing in the seafood industry

1. Sustainable Fishing Families (click here for more information and updates!)

Sustainable Fishing Families will be based on the very successful Sustainable Farming FamiliesTM program that has been run for more than 10 years by the National Centre for Farmer Health. The program has received a number of awards, and improved the health, wellbeing and safety of farm men and women, workers, and families across Australia.

Over the next 12 months we will be adapting the program for fishing families, so that it is appropriate to the specific needs of the fishing sector. The program will then be available to fishing communities across Australia.

The SFFTM program has been developed with the assistance of the project team:

  • Tanya King (Deakin University)
  • Kirsten Abernethy (Seafood Industry Victoria, Deakin University)
  • Sue Brumby (National Centre for Farmer Health)
  • Sue Kilpatrick (University of Tasmania)
  • Tracey Hatherell (National Centre for Farmer Health)
  • Rachel Turner (Exeter University, UK)
  • Katarina Munksgaard (Deakin University)

One of our team – Kirsten Abernethy – was recently named the Victorian 2017 Rural Woman of the Year, for her work with the seafood industry. Read about it here!

Advisory Committee at work (please note that members volunteer their time and expertise).

The team has also benefited enormously from the input of numerous peak bodies, coops, individual fishers, the FRDC, international fisher health and safety organisations, and a dedicated Advisory Committee made up of fishers, health professionals, fisheries safety specialists and others. We welcome additional suggestions on how we could improve the outcome, and outreach, of the project, particularly how we might reach the more vulnerable in the industry.


Advisory Committee:

  • Arthur Allen
  • Craig Fox
  • Gloria Jones
  • Jill Briggs
  • Alex Abernethy
  • Jim Fletcher
  • Kate Barclay
  • Liz Hoare
  • Stan Piperoglou

Notable additional assistance has been provided by:

  • Ross Hodge
  • Brad Roberts
  • Emily Ogier

Click here for an account of the first pilot workshop, which was run in April 2017 in Drysdale, Victoria.

Healthy Australian fisheries need healthy fishing families.

Read more about the project, here: SFF Project Information Sheet

2. National fisher health survey (click here for more information and updates!)

For the first time, people in the Australian commercial fishing industry have been surveyed about their safety, health and wellbeing. You might have heard about the project on a recent episode of Landline (‘Fishing for Votes’). The national survey was deployed in the earlier half of 2017 and is now closed. While various data-sets exist on the health of food producers in the agricultural sector, and even for recreational fishers, none are currently available for commercial seafood harvesters – until now.

“Part of the reason we’re doing this survey is that without healthy, happy and resilient professional fishers, we can’t have a healthy and economically viable industry”, said Dr Tanya King, from Deakin University, who’s leading the project. “A lot of focus is given to the health of our fisheries – and they’re in good shape – but we’ve tended to overlook the value of our fishing industry professionals. This survey will help us get a snap-shot of how Australian fishers are faring”.

The survey itself was posted to fishers across the country, and an electronic version of the survey was also available for the more technologically savvy. Preliminary results will be presented at the Seafood Directions conference in Sydney, in September.

“We hope to roll out the survey again in the future, so that we can better understand the health issues of commercial fishers over time, and the impact of changing governance tools, safety developments and climatic variations”.

A copy of the fisher health survey can be found via this link.

For more information, please contact:

Tanya King [email protected] or Kirsten Abernethy [email protected] or the peak body in your State or Territory.

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