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Dig Deep

Lifting mental health

Michael Harding and his business partner, Patrick Doheny, have been involved in the construction industry for most of their lives. Moving to Australia around 12 years ago, the pair run several construction businesses based in Melbourne that operate nationally.


Heavily involved in the construction scene, Michael and Patrick have always been passionate about giving back to their community. In 2019, they decided they wanted to do something big for charity, specifically mental health.


Research from Australian suicide prevention and support program MATES in Construction has shown men in the construction industry are 53 per cent more likely to take their own lives than other employed men across the country. Additionally, 21 per cent of workers have had a mental health condition.


Having lost friends to suicide in the construction industry, Michael and Patrick felt a need for an event to highlight such a big issue that is impacting so many. After brainstorming, the duo settled on delivering a new machinery show with all proceeds to be donated to Beyond Blue – Dig Deep was born.


“There wasn’t a machinery show in Australia solely set up with the aim of raising all funds for charity; most shows are commercialised these days,” said Patrick. For us, the most important part was to spread the message to those working in construction that it’s alright to ask for help and there is support out there.”


Shortly after coining the idea, a committee of CRE Group employees and friends of the business was established to oversee the planning process. Every Thursday night for two years, the group would get together to bring the event to life.“The committee consisted of Boutaina Richardson from Build Social, Tania White from Cross The T Legal and Tricia Redmond and David Fulco from CRE Group. We reached out to people who showed a real passion and interest for the industry. Without their support, this event would not have been possible.


 “Each committee member put in $1,000 of their own money to get the event off the ground, which was a phenomenal commitment in addition to the significant investment of time. The CRE Group Team were also a massive help in the lead up and on the day.”


With an initial intention of getting ten construction companies involved, word spread quickly, and a lot of people started hearing about the event. “Interest just grew massively, and a lot of companies were asking how they could support or get involved, and if it might be okay to showcase machinery at the event. We were committed to putting in our own time and efforts to get it where it needed to be and realised quite early how much work would be involved to pull something like this off.”


Once they had finalised the concept of Dig Deep, it was time to find a location.


“Costs were always a big factor for us. We wanted to keep any early investments as low as possible because any money we spent was really taken away from charity, we didn’t want to just break even. As we’re heavily involved in the Irish community here in Victoria, we approached the Gaelic Athletic Association in Keysborough. They generously offered the grounds to host our event and the Serbian Sports Centre next door provided us with its parking facilities. They were absolutely amazing and volunteered their time to upgrade the facility for Dig Deep. A lot of members were there on Saturdays, especially in the lead up, and donated a remarkable amount of time to prepare.”


Before the Dig Deep team knew it, the event was fast approaching. While tickets were walking out the door, Michael stepped away from his construction business for six months to give the event a final push. “This was the first time we had ever run something in this space, it’s not our day-to-day thing. We went in fairly blind, so we all have a newfound respect for pulling off an event like this.”


After two years of preparation, Sunday, 29 May 2022 rolled around and it was time to launch the first ever Dig Deep event. While the focus was on raising awareness for mental health in construction, the team wanted to ensure it was a day the whole family could enjoy. “We wanted it to be a family fun day that parents could bring along the kids and show their families the kind of work we do onsite, on a daily basis.”

The day hosted a range of activities, including an Operator challenge, Kubota Kids Area, the Food Truck Zone, a wellness hub, and many exhibitors proudly showcasing their products and machinery.


“A highlight for me was seeing the thousands of kids having the best time in the Kubota Kids Area. The Kubota team really pulled out all the stops. “There was a Kubota Go-Kart track, a colouring competition which saw four kids win a Kubota ride-on toy and a sandpit with mini excavators for kids to learn about their favourite diggers. They also set up photo opportunities with construction machines. It was great to see the whole family being able to get involved.


“Experiencing such a sense of community across the whole board and seeing everyone come together to get it done and raise much needed funds was incredible. However, a big aspect of this event was also to start the conversation around mental health in the industry. To encourage people to check in on their colleagues and just know it’s okay to not be okay. People sharing their stories and opening up made it a success in itself.”


Selling 6,000 tickets in its first year, Dig Deep raised a total of $375,429. But that’s just the beginning.


“We were blown away by this year’s success, which has encouraged us to set our sights on a bigger target of raising $1 million in total for Beyond Blue. We are grateful to the businesses like Kubota that did get involved. They took a leap of faith in our vision, and it was a big commitment, not just financially but also finding the time and resources to make it happen.”


“We are looking forward to growing our next event to make it bigger and better and potentially extending across a couple of days. The idea will be to run Dig Deep every second year which we hope will give everyone the opportunity for something to look forward to. Together as an industry, we really can make a difference when it comes to the stigma around mental health, and there’s no ceiling to what we can raise for Beyond Blue, who are doing fantastic work in this space.”


If you are in a position to do so, you can make a donation to Beyond Blue via the website: www.beyondblue.org.au/get-involved/make-a-donation


If you are feeling suicidal, or want to support someone who is, talk to a crisis counsellor now by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14.


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