Racing NZ establishes instrumental mental health programme

A new initiative aimed at addressing mental health and wellbeing within New Zealand's racing industry is underway.

A collaboration between Thoroughbred, Harness, and Greyhound racing, implemented by Racing NZ, will see the codes join forces to create an effective and research-driven mental health and suicide prevention programme right across the country.

“The three racing codes are united in our vision to make sure we are there to help those associated with our sport and provide ongoing support to them. Our wellbeing initiative is a top priority for us, and I am proud to be involved in the development of this important initiative,” says HRNZ Chief Executive Gary Woodham.

Taking a ‘for industry by industry’ designed approach, the objective of the programme is to see the whole racing industry shift its culture and improve mental wellbeing for everyone working within the racing sector.

The move will see industry participants collaborate to ensure there is genuine buy-in across all stakeholder groups toward a common goal of enhancing New Zealand racing’s mental health and wellbeing.

Leading the programme is Victoria McArthur, recently appointed by Racing NZ and tasked with the creation and research of the instrumental programme. McArthur has three decades of experience working in the Not-for-Profit sector and most recently led the establishment of the successful MATES in Construction suicide prevention programme across New Zealand.

“I am looking forward to getting to know everyone across the three racing codes and develop a programme that is fit for purpose within the industry,” McArthur said.

“Racing NZ already has some great people that have been supporting the mental health of their workforce and we will be drawing on this knowledge as we work collectively toward a better future for all participants,” she said.

The approach will see Racing NZ invest in systemic change by addressing the underlying causes of mental health problems within its workforce, rather than treating the symptoms of poor mental wellbeing.

The programme will help NZTR, HRNZ and GRNZ’s overall knowledge, capacity to support each other and ability to seek help when needed.

The first step includes the commencement of a research study to determine the prevalence of poor mental health and suicidality amongst industry workers. This will help identify and establish appropriate preventative mental health and wellbeing support structures.

“We are pleased to be able to collaborate with HRNZ and GRNZ to create an invaluable plan for the benefit of the entire racing industry,” says NZTR Chief Executive Bruce Sharrock, “current support systems for participants in our sport, including Andrew McKerrow of Salvation Army and Vitae, will remain key parts of the programme moving forward.

“Mental health and wellbeing is a prevalent issue within our sector and one that needs careful consideration. We are looking forward to working with Victoria and utilising her strengths within this field to enhance our own knowledge,” Sharrock said.

“The pressures facing industry participants are considerable and this programme to support their mental health is vital. I look forward to Victoria and her team working with the industry to make a positive contribution and support participants' wellness,” says Edward Rennell, GRNZ Chief Executive.

The New Zealand racing industry would like to acknowledge the founding support for such a programme, with a significant financial contribution made by Entain Australia & New Zealand.

Cameron Rodger of Entain, Managing Director – New Zealand, is pleased to support the racing industry to deliver a comprehensive mental wellness programme.

“We are so pleased that Racing NZ is taking such a strong and proactive approach to improving mental health outcomes for industry participants.”

“Ensuring the hardworking people who contribute across all parts of the racing sector have access to resources and information that they need to support their own mental wellbeing is essential to the long-term sustainability of our industry.

“We are looking forward to seeing the programme come to life,” Rodger said.

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