Mental wellbeing and the End of Year Tender campaign

Jonathan Cartledge , 6 November 2023

The ACA is pleased to join Consult Australia’s End of Year Tender campaign, which advocates for a pause in new procurement activities over the Christmas break. Consult Australia CEO Jonathan Cartledge explains about the initiative’s genesis, aims and progress to date, and the prioritisation of mental health in the construction industry.

What does your role at Consult Australia involve? What is a typical day like?

Consult Australia is a team effort across Australia with our engagement, advocacy and operations team members. Every day is different: I work with our Board and our exceptional team engaging with our members, meeting with government to drive change, partnering with industry and our peer associations, like the Association of Consulting Architects, and helping our members through the training and services that support their business success.

How long have you been involved in the construction industry and what are the major changes you have seen over this time? What are the key issues affecting the industry today?

I am fortunate to have had a career spanning over twenty years with a focus on public policy and advocacy. Through these two decades I’ve had the privilege to work directly with local government, in critical infrastructure resilience, with the Green Building Council, Infrastructure Australia and now in my second innings with Consult Australia.

Enduring issues for me include the opportunities for governments and clients to maximise the value from our industry through better procurement and pipeline certainty. Generational infrastructure spending has seen newer issues associated with market capacity emerge alongside a welcome focus on leadership supporting diversity, mental health as well as equity and inclusion. Across all these issues the criticality of organisations like Consult Australia and the Association of Consulting Architects and our members’ active engagement with our work is vital to ensure a strong voice for industry in a dynamic and sometimes uncertain market.

Can you tell us a little bit about the End of Year Tender Initiative – its genesis and initial aims?

The End of Year Tender Initiative is essentially a simple ask – for government to pause new procurement activity over the end of year holiday period so that industry can have a break while public servants also have a break.

We started the initiative in 2018, with the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads being the first client to agree to the pause and also change its procurement policy from then on. Over the intervening years the initiative has gained significant traction.

What has been your progress to date and how has the campaign developed and expanded? What plans do you have for the future?

We currently capture over 100 government agencies across Australia in the initiative, which is a significant expansion from the first year when we focused on TMR in Queensland.

The initiative has also grown to be supported by more industry peer associations. In 2021, the Australian Constructors Association, Engineers Australia, Roads Australia and the Australasian Railway Association joined us. This year, we are pleased to welcome the Association of Consulting Architects to the initiative, so we can ensure a strong voice across design, engineering and construction.

I am pleased that the initiative’s profile is such that many government agencies now proactively inform us of their tender shut-down dates!

We remain committed to putting a pause on all procurement activities over the end of year holiday period to allow the people in our industry to take a well-deserved breather and to promoting the importance of disconnecting from work.

The next step is to ensure that mental health considerations are an everyday consideration for government agencies when working with our industry – this includes improving the way government tenders throughout the year.

Why is mental health an important priority for the construction industry?

Collectively we want increased productivity and innovative solutions to complex challenges. However, we cannot achieve these goals without prioritising the health and wellbeing of our biggest asset, our people.

Striving for a mentally healthy industry requires input from all in the ecosystem. We need a holistic approach that incorporates inhouse cultural change and extends those same behaviours out to every interaction with every person, regardless of their role.

By improving how we communicate, our contracting methods, the way we allocate risk, the diversity of our cohort, and the overall mental health and wellbeing of our people, we can collectively achieve our shared vision of a strong industry.

In turn, this will impact the viability of our industry, improving attraction, retention, staff morale and job satisfaction for a healthier and more sustainable ecosystem.