THE Victorian Government has committed half-a-million dollars to enable seafarers to access free mental health support services at the state’s ports.

Announced yesterday by Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne to coincide with the International Day of the Seafarer the $500,000 will be provided to the Melbourne Seafarers Centre to support mariners at the ports of Melbourne, Geelong, Hastings, and Portland. 

Mental health is increasingly recognised as a concern in the maritime sector, with seafarers spending long periods isolated at sea – between 14 days to six weeks, the government said. 

The investment will allow workers to access free Wi-Fi, counselling (face-to-face, telephone, and video link), a 24/7 helpline and text messaging service, translation services, critical incident onsite support, and specialised support for diverse cultural needs.

This will ensure seafarers can get the support they need at ports across Victoria after spending weeks at sea, the government said, and builds on its $2.5 million investment to establish the Melbourne Seafarers Centre, supporting the diverse seafaring community.

Minister Horne said: “Seafarers are the lifeblood of our maritime sector, connecting Victorian producers to the rest of the world and we’re proud to support today on Day of the Seafarer and every day. Long stretches away from home means these workers are more likely to experience mental health issues – that’s why we’re making sure they can stay connected to their loved ones and access the support they need.”

International Transport Workers Federation coordinator Australia Ian Bray welcomed the government’s investment to help improve the mental health of seafarers – “workers who are often among the most isolated and exploited in the world.

“With the vast majority of goods entering and exiting Victoria by ship, it’s important we back our seafarers and recognise the significant contribution they make to our economy and community,” Mr Bray said.