A vision to reinvigorate Australia’s network of Port Welfare Committees is stimulating discussion surrounding the evolving needs of seafarers, and how maritime welfare organisations can maximise their support.
he initiative is helmed by HRAS Advisory Board member Paul MacGillivary, who recently inaugurated a PWC in Bunbury, a port city in the state of Western Australia, and is preparing to establish an additional PWC in Albany, WA.
Australian maritime welfare organisations have adapted to the changing nature of their services during the pandemic, with port restrictions preventing seafarers from taking shore leave.
Where crewmembers would typically visit ‘seafarers centres’ in ports, welfare organisations are now creating innovative solutions to provide practical support to seafarers who cannot leave their vessels.
Although these strategies are temporary solutions to current restrictions, Mr. MacGillivary said welfare organisations’ services should now align with needs relating to communication, technology, and professional mental health support.
What we need is professional assistance, because everybody recognises that the very important work the missions do in terms of mental health for seafarers has always been downplayed, and it’s never been properly supported
Due to the evolving nature of seafarer support and the heightened demand for professional care, welfare organisations can no longer be expected to rely solely upon donations, bursaries, and grants.
For this reason, HRAS is pursuing sustainable funding for welfare centres through their Maritime Levy Campaign in Australia, reflecting the recent success of New Zealand’s legislative amendment which secures funding for seafarer welfare.
The proposed initiative for Australia involves deducting a small percentage from the levy of ships visiting ports and distributing it amongst welfare providers.
Mr. MacGillivary said this is the ideal opportunity for ASWC to be involved in the development, implementation, and support of new PWCs, and strengthen communication with existing committees.
Australia still leads the way in this respect, as there are not many countries around the world that have a network of welfare committees operating in the ports to actively benefit the seafarers