R U OK? Day, Government House
I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Ngunnawal People, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present, emerging leaders and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders gathered here today.
Linda and I are very pleased to be associated with R U OK? Day because it’s an initiative that goes to the heart of what it means to be Australian.
Enquiring, listening, hearing, supporting, caring — looking after one another — it is what Australians do.
We are doing it — we’ve seen evidence of this in our travels — but we need to get more people doing it.
Since becoming Governor-General in July and in the four years prior to that as Governor of New South Wales, Linda and I have seen a lot of Australia. We’ve seen firsthand the wonderful work that people are doing on the ground for each other.
Whether it’s supporting a neighbour or friend who has suffered financial hardship, comforting a work colleague who has lost a family member or who is struggling with their mental health, or perhaps coming together as part of a community to show those around them doing it tough that they are not alone — it is the physical act of engaging with someone and taking the time to ask, ‘Are you okay?’ that makes all the difference.
There would not be a person in this room today who doesn’t have a story to tell about the power and effect of asking that simple question.
It can literally save a life.
But, for some people, taking that first step and asking someone how they are going is just not something they would do.
So, I commend R U OK? for its ‘Trust the Signs’ national tour and the work you are doing in educating people on how to pick up on signs that someone might be struggling with life and connecting community members with local support services.
I note in the R U OK? national survey from earlier this year that about 63 per cent of respondents said they were not confident they would know the signs that someone might be struggling with life.
So, this week — in the lead up to R U OK? National Day of Action next Thursday — let’s spread the message about the importance of:
- asking our friends and work colleagues and even family members how they are going
- listening to what they say
- offering some sort of encouragement as to what they could do
- following up and checking in on them.
All of us have a responsibility to ask, ‘Are you okay?’
In closing, can I say to all of you: thank you for the work you are doing to enhance suicide prevention. It is extremely important work and helps to build a more inclusive society which, ultimately, makes for a better Australia.