Sunraysia Community Health Services walks the talk

Wednesday 15 July, 2020

Pictured: Kelly Naess, academic officer and Simone Heald, CEO


A message from Ms Heald: I set the challenge for workplace executives to lead by example and introduce active transport into their daily activities. This will support them to meet the recommended daily physical activity guidelines. If we can do it, you can too!


Sunraysia Community Health Services (SCHS) is the first workplace in the rural City of Mildura to receive Victorian Government recognition for creating an active workforce in the Healthy Workplaces Achievement Program.


SCHS, an organisation dedicated to promoting health and wellbeing for the local Mildura community, has also been ‘walking the talk’ by mobilising its 200-strong workforce to practise healthy lifestyles through its work in the Achievement Program. Since 2013 to early 2020, SCHS has met best-practice targets to achieve recognition for the health areas of healthy eating and physical activity, with ongoing efforts to address other program health areas.


Sarah Carn, health promotion officer at SCHS, attributes the health and wellbeing success to strong leadership support and a good workplace culture.


“Our organisation provides a culture where employees’ feel safe to try new things, even though it may not work – and that’s ok! Our biggest supporter in encouraging healthy lifestyles and taking part in new initiatives is our CEO, Simone Heald, and her backing helps to set the positive tone towards workplace health and wellbeing,” Ms Carn said.  


Simone Heald, CEO at SCHS, said plenty of new initiatives have been introduced­ – some big and some small­ – to help deliver a coordinated approach to creating a more active workforce.


“We are simply not sedentary at work, and keeping active is synonymous with our daily jobs,” Ms Heald said.  


To create a working environment that promotes physical activity, new initiatives implemented between 2013 and the start of 2020 include:

  • having sit-stand workstations
  • a centralised printing location to encourage staff to move around the office
  • change rooms with showers and bike racks to promote active transport, walking meetings and physical activity throughout the day
  • an e-bike that staff can book and use.

Although this year has been challenging and adjustments have been made due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, in previous years staff have also given opportunities to get active through workplace activities or by getting involved in community initiatives, for example:

  • joining the local parkrun program twice a year
  • a weekly Heart Foundation walking group
  • challenging themselves in a biannual MS SimAthon
  • annual participation in the 10,000 Steps Challenge, which encourages staff to take 10,000 steps every day
  • an internal workplace push-up challenge.

According to Ms Carn, the suite of activities is well supported by all staff and helps to strengthen working relationships as well as connections with the local community.


“Together, staff have enjoyed the team building aspects of getting active. As physical activity attributes to positive workplace mental health and wellbeing, we have the environment to support staff to have a go,” Ms Carn said.