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Celebrating the Comcare National Conference

2010 marked the 10th anniversary of Comcare’s National Conference. So it was only fitting the event— now highly regarded throughout the workplace health and safety industry—was the best attended in its history. 

The conference attracted 593 delegates. While the majority of delegates were government employees, private sector organisations and rehabilitation providers represented 24 per cent of the overall attendance.

The theme for the conference was ‘Improve, include and inspire workplace wellbeing’. It best reflected our new strategic focus on placing workers at the centre of what we do to ensure they return safely to their families, friends and community. 

Comcare National ConferenceThe emphasis was on turning government policy into action—working together to build a more secure, stronger and fairer Australia, while helping injured people stay in work, or return to work as soon as possible, as this is beneficial to their health.

The need for a more robust, flexible and collaborative work environment has never been greater.

Conference sub-themes focused on key elements essential for employee health and safety. These included:

  • the injured worker—improving care for workers if they are harmed at work
  • social inclusion—including a citizen-centric approach to provide an inclusive workplace
  • organisational wellbeing—inspiring leadership through health and wellbeing.

The objectives of the conference included: 

  • examining contemporary issues to improve OHS and injury management for the mental health and wellbeing of Australian workers.
  • raising awareness of the importance of organisational health and effective people management as critical success factors for organisations managing workplace injuries.
  • providing participants with significant professional development and networking opportunities.
  • delivering relevant information, ideas and strategies to help organisations develop their capabilities and improve their health and safety practices.

To reinforce these themes and achieve the conference objectives, speakers and industry experts covered contemporary issues such as improving work health and safety, injury management for workers suffering a mental illness, and wellbeing strategies for Australian workers. They explored practical and useful strategies on how to improve OHS and injury management for the mental health and wellbeing of Australian workers, and raise awareness of the importance of organisational health and effective people management.

Comcare’s CEO, Paul O’Connor, presented the agency’s strategic objectives and outlined how our citizen-centric approach aligned with federal government expectations. 

Rhonda Galbally and Kieran Perkins both featured on the first day of the conference. Rhonda shared her vision and outlined the opportunities for Australian organisations to become socially inclusive. Kieran added a different perspective to the term caring— specifically sharing his personal story of caring for his wife who suffers chronic migraines. 

Comcare National Conference Day two of the conference featured John McGrath, Deputy Chairman of beyondblue. He shared a personal story about supporting two sons that suffered from depression. The audience also heard from David Crosbie, Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Council of Australia and watched a video presentation from Professor Patrick McGorry AO, Executive Director of ORYGEN and 2010 Australian of the Year. The mental health theme was a highly topical and relevant issue and all speakers consistently conveyed the message that acceptance, awareness and support were key factors in overcoming the negative barrier of mental ill-health. The closing keynote presenter was Craig Hamilton, Broadcaster with ABC Radio. He shared his personal story of living with bipolar disorder and the important role his workplace played in supporting him.

Leadership expert Avril Henry opened the third day of the conference with an inspirational presentation that explored the key facets of effective leadership and generational differences. Being the last day of the conference, the theme of leadership and wellbeing was apparent in each presentation. Many presentations featured case studies of effective health and wellbeing program, making for a positive ending experience for delegates.

The program also offered participants opportunities to network, talk to industry peers and share their concerns and insights through inspirational keynote addresses, a variety of concurrent sessions and several social events.