About 150 apprentice tradies at Bendigo TAFE enjoyed a relaxed lunch with an important underlying message today.
With the help of Bendigo TAFE staff and students and community groups, the lunch was put on by HALT or Hope, Assistance, Local Tradies which aims to help reduce the stigma of seeking mental health services among tradies.
A barbecue catered for by Rotary Bendigo Sandhurst and food donated by various businesses helped to feed the tradies while organisers spoke - including Bendigo TAFE manager student services' Alison March, Diploma of Community Services students Kira Smith, Justine Capell, Bev Amos and Belinda Roulston.
HALT's co-founder Jeremy Forbes said the message of the day wasn't complicated.
"It’s relaxed, it’s a social event, it’s simple," he said.
"It’s not about having the tradies having to stand around and listen to a lot of discussions, at the moment where just putting the idea of support and access to support in their minds.
"To have them all come along and know why they’re here and the reason why they're here, that’s good for solidarity and unity."
He said the day had been hectic, with a Save Your Bacon breakfast at Wedderburn before the Bendigo TAFE lunch.
One of the key components of Mr Forbes' idea to expand HALT was to take the message to trades apprentices at such events.
"When I was trades apprentice in Melbourne, I didn't have people coming up to me talking about mental health," he said.
"It was a tough, resolute culture. I really wish I had those connections at that time in my life."
Mr Forbes said he loved that Bendigo TAFE had been proactive in getting the lunch up and running.
"They've worked so well together, I've been inspired and humbled to be part of it, " he said.
"We need community participation to get things happening."