Eva’s push for mental health awareness

Reliance Forest Fibre, Safety Manager, Eva James has worked in Tasmania’s forest industry for close to three decades. She is known for her energy and enthusiasm, and this month she and the Reliance team are on a mission to raise awareness and funds for an issue close to their hearts. 

What was the first role you held in the forest industry?

Eva James at work at Reliance Forest Fibre

I started as a mill hand stacking timber in the Drymill at Frenchpine Scottsdale in 1995. Both local mills – French’s and Auspine – were always looking for workers; you didn’t need any experience, just turn up on time and have a go.

What drew you to the sector – and what’s kept you here?

To be honest, my motivation stemmed from the fact that I needed a fulltime job with a steady income, and that’s what going to work at the mill offered me.  Also, I had a lot of friends already working at French’s, so it seemed like a good idea.

However, what’s kept me in the industry is the vast opportunities the sector offers. Working as a mill hand stacking timber was an entry level job, you didn’t need any experience, just the ability to turn up every day and have a go. But once you were in the door and demonstrated you were reliable and keen, you were given opportunities to learn other roles quickly.

I’ve been very lucky to work continually in the industry for 27 years and I have taken up lots of opportunities to learn, grow and progress my career. From working as a millhand, site cleaner, production clerk and regional stock control at French’s, Auspine and Gunns sawmills, to working as the Northern Tasmanian Regional Coordinator for Timber Communities Australia, then holding the role of ForestWorks project manager – Tasmanian Training and Skills Development Service for eight years and then moving into roles at AKS Forest Solutions and Reliance as Safety Manager.

Over the years I have developed the belief that there are 3 key aspects to developing your career.

  1. Training – getting good training underpins the success and opportunity to learn something new successfully.
  2. Safety – ensure that you do have the training and knowledge required to ensure that you and others around you are safe.
  3. Teamwork – you don’t need to do it alone, respect others that have experience, work with them to help develop your knowledge – and the more you help each other, the easier it is to get the work done.

Push Up Challengers
(L-R: James Williams, Heath Blair and Darryn Crook). Other team members are Owen Hoffmann, Paul Barnett, Tom McCulloch and Dan Ryan

What do you think the Tasmanian forest industry does well?

It supports regional communities with jobs and opportunities as well as being renewable, sustainable and safe.

How do you think the sector could improve?

Self-promotion. We don’t always promote ourselves well enough to attract younger generations into the various roles across the different aspects of the industry. We have a great story to tell, about employment and careers, renewability and sustainability, and how the industry has such a positive impact on the fabric of regional communities and their economies.

All of industry needs to work together on this.

Reliance is currently participating in the Push for Better Push-Up Challenge. Why is this involvement in this initiative important to you and the team?

Suicide and people living with mental health issues has had/or is having a direct impact on most people within Australia today, and unfortunately most of us at Reliance have been directly or indirectly impacted by the loss of someone to suicide.

Last year Reliance committed to improving its understanding and management of people with mental health issues and provided Mental Health First Aid training to staff and contactors.

The Push Up Challenge was another great way to maintain awareness, raise some funds for Lifeline Tasmania, do some physical activity which improves your mental health and the enjoy some friendly rivalry and laughs along the way.

Millie and Deebo

We entered our team ‘RFF Chipping Dales’, and each of the eight members needed to complete 3139 push ups over 24 days, most have done an amazing job (me not so much!). We have nearly reached our fundraising target of $2000 (currently sitting at $1630) and fundraising closes on 8 July, so for those that haven’t already, please hit the link and donate The Push-Up Challenge – RFF- Chipping Dales (thepushupchallenge.com.au)

I’ve already warned the team that we are going to do Movember later this year and would love to put a challenge out to other forest managers and contractors to enter teams too. Like I said, nothing like a bit of friendly rivalry for a good cause!

People in the industry best know me for… 

Being a bit too loud at last year’s Tasmanian Timber Awards! Hopefully they also know me for how much I love the industry and the people in it.

On the weekends I like to…

Hang out  with my family, friends and puppies, Millie and Deebo.