R U OK? How about your staff?

Today is R U OK day, a day for checking on those around you and starting conversations with the simple question ‘Are you ok?’

So, let me ask you, are you ok? Let me follow that up with, are your staff ok? Have you checked in with them recently? In these challenging times it’s never been more important to look after your mental health and that of your team, but where do you start?

It could start with ‘Are you ok?’, a simple question that starts a conversation.

Before you ask that question though, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. according to mental health educator and Chamber Director, Bianca Welsh, if you as a business leader are concerned about the mental health of a staff member, here are the first steps you should take:

• Ask yourself, am I mentally well enough to have this conversation? As you never know what you may be confronted with, could it be a trigger for your own mental health?
• This should be followed by the question; am I the right person to be having the conversation? Is this better filtered through someone that they have a better connection with or trusts more?
If you feel confident that you are mentally well enough to have this conversation and are the right person:
• Make sure you’re in a place where both you and your staff member will feel comfortable.
• Ask the question in your own, casual way e.g. How are you travelling? Bianca suggests starting with; “I’m concerned about you, and I wanted to have a chat to see if you’re okay. I’m a little bit uncomfortable and I don’t want to cross a line, but I just want to start a conversation with you. I’ve observed X, Y, Z. I’m concerned about X, Y, Z in your behaviour.”
• Always come from a place of genuine care and empathy, putting aside any judgmental thoughts.
• Temporarily remove your employer hat. Yes, you are their employer, you have a business to run, and they have a job to do, but if you come from a place where you want that person to get better, you can’t go wrong.
• Be prepared should the conversation not go as planned or for what you may be confronted with. You might refer them to their GP, your businesses’ Employee Assistance Practitioner, or another support service such as Tasmanian Lifeline, HeadSpace, Head to Health, Anglicare, Enterprising Aardvark, or The Men’s Table (to name a few). If you’re not sure, it’s ok to admit to them that “I’m not sure where to start, but let’s do this together, I’m here to help you.”
With worker’s compensation claims for mental health-related conditions increasing, it’s important we monitor the mental health of our employees. Here are a few additional ideas for you and your business:
• Have you considered undertaking and/or having one of your staff undertake a Mental Health First Aid Course? Please see the next newsletter article for more details on an upcoming course.
• RU OK? has developed a number of resources for workplaces. You can register to become an RU OK? Workplace Champion (free of charge) and gain access to their suite of resources.
• October is WorkSafe Tasmania Month. The theme for 2022 is Safe Bodies, Safe Minds and Worksafe Tasmania are running a number of events, some focussed on mental health in the workplace.
• Have you considered an Employee Assistance Provider for your workplace?
Let’s all keep an eye on each other, ask the question, start the conversation and make sure WE R OK.


Big problem in need of a solution…

No Vacancy

In my conversations with members from just about any industry, it’s an understatement to say that staff shortages are a big problem for businesses in Launceston and northern Tasmania. According to a release by Everybody’s Home on Tuesday, the lost economic output due to vacant jobs (per year) for our region is $201 million. The report states that Launceston and northern Tasmania is one of five regions where the shortage of affordable housing in these communities is undermining the capacity of employers to attract staff.

In addition to this report ABS data has revealed that increases in our population have dramatically slowed, with the four years to June 30, 2020, seeing an average increase of 1320 residents per year, and the year to June 30, 2021, saw an estimated resident increase of just 105.

The anecdotal evidence for this is that people want to move to the region but can’t find anywhere to live. These people could fill the current vacancies but to find accommodation, particularly if they bring a family with them, is tough. Combine this with the increases in homelessness in the region and it’s apparent that housing is the major challenge to our region.

So, what is the solution to housing in the region?

  • Should there be incentives for property developers who build medium or high-density affordable residential accommodation?
  • Would incentives for property owners to create affordable housing in unused inner-city buildings (infill developments) assist?
  • Do we need incentives for those with short-term rentals to move to long-term rentals?
  • Does Tasmania need more public housing developments?
  • Do we need incentives for those with empty bedrooms to take in a border or incentives to downsize?

 Launceston and northern Tasmania are not alone in battling the challenge of housing shortages with other Australian states, New Zealand, and the US all looking at solutions for housing shortages. In Victoria, one council is installing cabins on council property to provide temporary accommodation. Elsewhere in Victoria, an international concept called Home Share is matching an older person (often an older person with a disability) with someone who can provide support, practical help, and companionship in a suitable house.

Are staff shortages a challenge for your business?
Do you have any ideas for possible solutions?
What are your thoughts on this important issue? Please let us know.


A Trilogy of Heartening Tales

One of the best locations for business!

It was a great start to the week with The Mercury, a Platinum Chamber Member, reporting that credit reporting agency CreditorWatch, has identified Launceston as one of the best locations in Tasmania to do business. CreditorWatch sees trade payment defaults as the leading indicator for future business insolvencies. According to the report, only 3.96% of businesses in Launceston defaulted in the 12 months to June 2022.

The article celebrated a number of new businesses opening in Launceston including San Churro Chocolateria, Delicia Acai, Pinot & Picasso, and the imminent opening of Du Cane Brewery and Dining Hall, the revamped Tatler Arcade, and the FermenTasmania Fermentation Hub at Legana.

Speaking of the FermenTas Fermentation Hub…

On Tuesday, West Tamar Council approved the development of the FermenTasmania Fermentation Hub at Legana. The new 1800-square meter, $16 million hub will provide spaces for research, training and agritourism. It’s envisioned the hub will create up to 650 jobs and will see fermentation businesses flourish with access to the hub’s equipment and research facilities. It will be a new northern Tasmanian food entrepreneurial ecosystem. This is a very exciting development for northern Tasmania. Congratulations FermenTasmania!

Tasmania and the United Nations Sustainability Goals

At yesterday’s Tamar Valley Leaders Lunch (a joint initiative of Tamar NRM, the Rotary Club of Central Launceston, Hotel Grand Chancellor Launceston, Velo Wines, and the Chamber) Adam Mostogl, CEO and Chief Entrepreneur of the Van Diemen Project discussed Tasmania’s legacy as a ‘state of firsts’ (not to mention Launceston’s legacy as a city of firsts) and whether our state should again lead the way by aligning to the United Nations Sustainability Development goals, or going our own way?

After examining both options and allowing the audience to ask questions, a quick poll showed that the majority of the audience believed Tasmania should again lead the way and align our businesses and developments to the sustainability goals.

At first glance, this sounds like a huge undertaking, but if you visit the UN website, each goal is broken down into a number of targets, which many businesses and organisations are doing already. Why not visit the UN website and consider aligning your business and developments to the UN Sustainable Development Goals?


Keep it local on all levels

In May 2014 the Tasmanian Government introduced their Buy Local Policy, which aims to increase opportunities for local suppliers to compete for Government business, supporting local businesses to create jobs and stimulate the economy to deliver growth. The policy contains an economic and local benefits test which, for all new tenders added 20% weighting for local suppliers. In 2020, this weighting was increased to 25% in response to COVID-19.

On Monday I was pleased to attend the announcement by the Deputy Premier, Hon. Michael Ferguson MP and Minister for Small Business, Hon. Madeleine Ogilvie MP that the 25% local weighting will be continued for another two years. The Deputy Premier also announced that in the nine months to 31 March 2022, Tasmanian businesses were awarded 86.2% of contracts valued at $50,000 or more. The total value of these contracts was $306.1 million. In a comment to the media, I suggested that State Government’s Buy Local Policy should be an example for all levels of government.

The success of the Buy Local Policy in the nine months leading to 31 March 2022 is another reminder of the importance of supporting local businesses or buying local. When someone says the words ‘buy local’ you might immediately think of business-to-consumer transactions which are of course, very important. However, business-to-business and government-to-business transactions can help local businesses thrive.

As I mentioned in a newsletter in November last year: 

  • If you’re sitting at your desk as you read this, take a look at the items surrounding you. By purchasing your stationery, IT equipment, or even that box of tissues next to the phone, are you supporting an American-owned company, a conglomerate with interests in hardware, groceries, and a huge chain of stores where almost all the products are manufactured overseas or the local family business that has its heart and soul right here in the community?  
  • If you still use business cards, letterhead, or pre-printed stationery, when it’s time to order, do you go to a certain company that’s American-owned but Irish-domiciled? Or the local business that’s been employing Launcestonians for almost a century and supports local community organisations regularly?
  • When it’s time to reward staff or thank clients, is it a bulk order of gift cards from that same conglomerate that has interests in hardware, groceries, etc or do you purchase gifts or gift vouchers from local retailers, restaurants, and cafes?  

If there is a product or service your organisation needs and you can’t find a local supplier, please don’t hesitate to give us a call – we’re only too happy to help.


Tamar River Report Card

Tuesday was report card day for the Tamar and there were mixed marks.

The not-at-all good news was the release of the Tamar and Esk Rivers program 2022 Tamar Estuary report card, in which the Launceston to Legana Zone (Zone 1) was still rated as “D” for poor ecosystem, after 14 years. The 2022 Report card has been produced using 12 months of kanamaluka/Tamar estuary ambient monitoring data, collected between December 2020 and November 2021, at 16 sites along the length of the estuary. The poor ecosystem rating is mostly driven by high levels of nutrients and elevated turbidity (cloudiness or haziness of a fluid caused by large number of individual particles that are generally invisible to the naked eye).

In good news, it was announced that Nick Duigan MLC has been appointed Parliamentary Secretary for the Tamar Estuary. As passionate advocates for the Tamar, we welcome the announcement of a parliamentary secretary to report directly to the Minister for State Development, Construction and Housing and hope that the establishment of this position sees a number of areas addressed to improve the environmental, social and economic aspects of the estuary. The Chamber is in support of the TEMT vision for the Tamar and we hope that with Nick Duigan’s appointment we will see the plan implemented at a much faster pace than that of the Launceston Sewerage Improvement Program (LSIP), which was announced in 2016, yet we understand work is not planned to commence until 2025.

We strongly believe that if the health of the Tamar, particularly at Zone 1 is to improve, we need to see actions out of LSIP and overall better management of the Tamar. Our preference is for strong collaboration with river users, all levels of government, industry, agricultural producers and TasWater. We believe it’s time for integrated catchment management through a statutory authority.

We need to ensure the health of the river is improved, we need to make the river accessible to the public, we need to see the businesses that sit along the shore are thriving and most of all we need to see this now, not in another decade.

The Tamar

AFL in northern Tasmania

With the debate raging over a Tasmanian AFL team, we feel it’s vital that we protect AFL in northern Tasmania. Since 2001 when Hawthorn began playing at its second home in Launceston the economic stimulus to the region, particularly the hospitality & tourism and retail sectors, has been incredibly valuable. You only need to be in the CBD or Invermay on an “AFL weekend” to witness the value to the region. With AFL a winter sport, this economic stimulus comes at a traditionally quieter time.
In addition to the need to protect AFL in northern Tasmania, we note the media are now reporting the cost of the proposed Stadium Tasmania at $1 billion. With the current construction crunch and supply chain concerns, we are concerned this amount will dramatically increase.
What are your thoughts on a Tasmanian AFL team? We’d love to know, please contact us and share your thoughts and ideas...


Minimum wage increase

Yesterday (15/06/22) news broke that following its Annual Wage Review 2021-22, the Fair Work Commission made the two announcements: 

  • The National Minimum Wage will increase by 5.2% which amounts to $40 a week.
  • Award minimum wages will increase by 4.6%, which is subject to a minimum increase for award classifications of $40 per week and based on a 38-hour week for a full-time employee.  

This announcement comes on top of the planned increase to the superannuation guarantee rise from 10% to 10.5% on the 1 July. The super guarantee will continue to increase by .5% until it reaches 12% in 2025.

While the super guarantee increase has been known for some time and a wage rise was expected, the value of this wage rise is a lot higher than expected and may see business owners scrambling to recast their 2022-23 budgets.

There are some important considerations when looking at this issue: 

  • Cost of living continues to increase and those on minimum wage or award rates may be finding it incredibly tough.
  • This wage rise will increase costs for businesses in sectors that are already facing cost increases in raw materials and ingredients and supplies.
  • There is the potential for such a significant wage increase to contribute to inflation, and inflation is considered the biggest threat to the economy.

Do you pay your staff under an award or the minimum wage? How will this wage increase affect your business? We’d really like to hear from you, please contact us and share your thoughts. All comments will be treated with sensitivity and will be anonymised.


They’re onto us!

Come with me on a short journey, if you will, back in time.  Its late 2021 and Launceston is named a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy. Fast forward to February 2022 and Launceston is named WOTIF’s Top Aussie Town. Jump ahead to last Monday and the news broke, Launceston is the Tourism Industry Council Tasmania (TICT)’s Top Tassie Tourism Town for 2022.

Three awards were presented in the 2022 Top Tourism Town Awards, with Strahan taking out the award for towns with a population less than 1500, Sheffield taking out the award for towns with a population under 5000 and Launceston winning the category for towns with a population over 5000.

As the editorial article that formed part of Launceston’s submission to the award states:

There’s something that lies beneath the surface here that defines us as a city. You may not see it at first, but the moment you step foot here, you feel it. You sense it in the architecture, in the streets, out in nature, between the people —an undercurrent—born from generations of hard-work, curiosity, community, resilience, independence.

It’s clear from our UNESCO designation, and our Top Town Awards that they’re on to us… the world is waking up to what a wonderful piece of the world we have here. It’s also clear we’re on our way to achieving the Chamber’s vision for Launceston to be one of the great regional cities of the world.

While these awards and the UNESCO designation are an amazing achievement, particularly for our outstanding tourism, food, beverage and hospitality businesses, we can’t rest on our laurels. We need to keep striving to improve our city.  So how do we continue to progress our city?

  • Greening will make for a great start. A greener city is a more vibrant city and vibrancy attracts more social activity in our CBD.
  • An improved night-time economy will enable visitors to enjoy our amazing food and beverages in style while enjoying on-street dining. This will commence with City Heart Stage 2, which we still hope will receive the federal funding it needs to commence.
  • Innovation and technology to make Launceston an even smarter city, offer wayfinding to tourists and telling our heritage stories could increase awareness and interaction with our rich history. (Please see the article below participating in the Smart City Strategy survey)

To quote Mayor Albert van Zetten, “It’s fantastic to see our city being recognised once more for its tourism offering and I want to congratulate all those who work in the sector so passionately to attract new visitors to Launceston.”

Congratulations Launceston!

Have you got an idea that would make our top town (city) even better? We’d love to hear it.


.au – is it for you?

As of the 24th of March, .au second-level domain names are now available in Australia. This means if you have a local connection to Australia or already have a,, or you have until the 20th of September to reserve your .au equivalent domain name, if you don’t secure it after the 20th of September it will become available to the general public. For example, the Chamber’s current domain is, we now have the first option to purchase

This is an important consideration for your business. While the new second-level domain names are shorter and potentially more memorable, they also offer cybercriminals another avenue to conduct fraudulent cyber activities. Opportunistic cybercriminals could register your .au domain name in an attempt to impersonate your business.

For example, if you have currently registered, a cybercriminal could register or and use these domains to conduct fraudulent cyber activities. 

The Australian Cyber Security Centre has recommended that all Australian businesses with existing domain names register their .au equivalents before 20 September 2022. If a business does not reserve their .au equivalent direct domain name during this six-month period, that name will become available to the public on a first come, first served basis.

For more information, please click here or visit Platinum Chamber member Kingthing Marketing’s blog post on the topic.

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