Carpentaria Shire Council building

Carpentaria Shire Council in Queensland, Australia, is a very remote local government located in the northwest part of the state in the Southern Gulf Region, covering an area of 64,000 square kilometers, with a population of 2,000 people and a staff of 100.

A priority for the council over the past few years has been mental health awareness. Our staff has not only increased their knowledge of mental health issues and ways to help others, we have also become more proactive in our mental health outreach in the community. And it all started with some funky shirts.

In 2022, the executive leadership team were considering the introduction of uniforms for the staff. At a workplace health and safety meeting, a member proposed the idea of a shirt from TradeMutt, an Australian social impact workwear brand. This put the wheels in motion for Carpentaria Shire Council to partner with TradeMutt to develop a uniform for the entire staff. This was the first time that staff both indoors and those working in the open spaces would have a similar uniform. The print used for the shirts was developed from a painting by local indigenous artist Margaret Sailor, which was a great opportunity to celebrate our region while also creating a sense of team unity at the council.

Workwear with a Purpose

TradeMutt makes colorful clothing with a special purpose: their funky, eye-catching workwear is intended to spark conversations about mental health and to provide access to free counseling via a QR code under the left pocket. The company got its start after one of the two founders learned that a friend had tragically and unexpectedly taken his own life. By creating TradeMutt, they hoped to make a difference:

We are an Australian Workwear brand that aims to make…workers of all kinds look and feel great at work, and in doing so, reduce the rate of blue-collar suicide in Australia. Our loud and vibrant shirts act as a catalyst to starting the conversation around mental health in men, a topic that has been hard to approach in the past for blokes, mostly due to the attached stigmas and perceived weakness. However, seeing the emptiness in the eyes of a family who have lost a loved one to suicide makes it blatantly obvious that the courage that us blokes pride ourselves on is the very thing required to address this silent killer.

Carpentaria Shire Council chose TradeMutt as the supplier for our uniforms to help continue the discussion about suicide and mental health in the interest of both the wellbeing of our staff and our wider community. The shirts are true conversation starters, encouraging team members to have authentic conversations with one another, and in doing so, create a greater level of trust and companionship. Each shirt comes with a QR code sewn into the left breast pocket or collar that links directly to TIACS (which stands for This Is A Conversation Starter), a not-for-profit mental health service that provides free counseling via call or text. TradeMutt donates 50% of their profits directly to TIACS.

Staff in blue shirts

Already Making a Difference

Our staff received their new uniforms in February 2023, and they were an immediate success. Everywhere employees go, we receive compliments on how well we look, and the staff continue to take the time to tell the story of the mental health message behind the shirts. Not only do we look like a team, but we also have an important message to share.

One Carpentaria Shire Council team member had a particularly moving experience as a result of sharing the TradeMutt story. I have sought permission to share the team member’s experience, as it demonstrates the fact that conversations can change — and save — lives. A true story with a powerful message.

Since the changeover and introduction of the new uniforms at Carpentaria Shire Council and the constant message about mental health, this has allowed me to be more open and unembarrassed about my dealings with depression and most recently anxiety. Depression is a dark place which seems like there is no escape. You start to distance yourself from family and friends, withdraw from activities, lose all your interest, and start to contemplate your own existence. Because of my own dealings and understandings, I was able to notice a change in a previous employee. I kept letting him know if they needed to talk, I’m here. After a few times he eventually sat down with me and spoke about what was happening. I asked him to see a doctor and he was diagnosed with severe depression. During the recovery he would sometimes contact me around midnight asking if he could sleep over, which he did. Before he left to take up another job, he gave me a bag and said, “thank you,” and “Can you get rid of this for me? I won’t be needing it.” The bag had items he was considering using to take his life.

Sharing this message lets people know that they’re not alone and helps those who haven’t experienced a mental illness to understand what it’s like. Upon realizing that our uniforms had contributed to the saving of a valuable life, I was proud of what we had achieved in such a short time. In partnering with TradeMutt, we were able to connect with our small community and to highlight the importance of mental health and well-being through the messaging on the garments.

Photo of Carpentaria staff

Making Mental Health a Top Priority

Effective April 1, 2023, a new code of practice was introduced into Queensland and approved by the minister under the Work Health and Safety Act: “Managing the risk of psychosocial hazards at work.” With this new code of practice, the council began supervisor and staff training and accreditation from a number of mental health first aid providers. We had 12 staff members volunteer to participate in the training and become accredited to be able to assist colleagues struggling with their mental health and to identify early signs of depression and anxiety. The licensed mental health first aid instructor provided the team with additional resources for distribution through the smoko (break) rooms and for the notice boards.

The council also engaged the services of an employment law firm to provide training for our supervisors by conducting a psychosocial risks management training workshop using case studies, scenarios, and role play. This training has now equipped our supervisors and managers with additional tools for their toolkit when looking after the health and well-being of staff and identifying anything that may be impacting their lives more broadly.

At Carpentaria Shire Council, we are genuinely committed to the physical health and safety of our employees, and we want to ensure that they return home to their loved ones at the end of each workday. We are now also committed to looking after their mental health and well-being. This is something that as a very small and remote council we are immensely proud of.

Mark Crawley


MARK CRAWLEY is chief executive officer of Carpentaria Shire Council in Queensland, Australia.

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