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Mackay Apprentice Kicking Goals

Mackay Apprentice Kicking Goals

In Queensland’s sugar heartland, MATES’ Connector, Rhys Cappello (21) finds it hard to sit still.

Based at Mackay Sugar’s Farleigh Mill, there’s just not enough hours in the day for the final year electrical apprentice who lives and breathes the value of mental health promotion at work. It’s a mission born of personal experience, says Rhys, who earlier battled depression as he navigated the formidable transition from school to full time work.

“The apprenticeship has definitely had its ups and downs, it's easy days and not very easy days. Getting through the first two years was most definitely the hardest. The hard thing has probably been just the change. It was a massive change adapting to a workplace and its culture coming from school straight to the workforce. At school, you pretty much have everything to you handed on a plate, then all of a sudden you’re getting up at 4:30 each morning, working big days, then you do your sports at night, and you’re getting home at ten o’clock each night. There’s not much time for sleep,” Rhys said.

“In those first two years, I was constantly fatigued, physically and mentally, and had to somehow keep on pushing through until I could sort it out. I just had to keep telling myself that I’ve already started, so why stop now? It was pretty much that thought consistently,” he said.

“I definitely had my own mental health issues the first couple of years, but I worked through them with a bit of support, and things have gotten way better for me, and that’s carried through to my work too.”

The earlier fatigue is understandable when you consider Rhys’ enormous afterhours commitment to his love of the round ball. For several years, Rhys has coached a junior football team at the Mackay & Whitsundays Magpies Crusaders United Football Club alongside a women’s premier division team at a different club and assisting Mackay’s men’s team in the National Premier League (NPL). Rhys himself plays competition football. This all entails a 7-day per week commitment.

“I just like having the ability to change one person, especially in the juniors. I remember when I was that age, my coach at that time had a massive influence on how I grew up. I still talk to him to this day. He definitely helped me mentally when I was that young. And at the higher levels of coaching, I want to improve players, first and foremost. But you also have the chance to improve humans.”

Rhys dedicates the vast majority of his spare time mentoring footballers.



It’s not only aspiring footballers whose wellbeing Rhys is bolstering. He’s been integral to activating the MATES program at Mackay Sugar, including Connector training and plans to participate in ASIST training before the end of this year. He says it’s part of a cultural shift surrounding mental health being spearheaded by a new generation.

“The drive towards mental health is mainly coming from us young workers. I know we had four of us crew who went to the latest MATES Connector training. I’m the Chairman of the Health and Safety Committee at the Farleigh Mill (one of three different mills operated by Mackay Sugar). Mental health was put on the agenda at one of our committee meetings and it was supported. And our management was good enough along with some other senior workers to say, ‘yep, that sounds great, let’s do it.’ After that, we put it out to the whole Mackay Sugar group, including the other mill sites. The other sites are now on board too, and we look forward to the next upcoming Connector session to become available to put even more people in.”

The younger generation is also demanding a breakaway from some of the more old-guard practices surrounding the management and mentoring of trades apprentices, including bullying and hazing rituals.

“I haven’t really experienced any bullying during my apprenticeship,” said Rhys.

“I think sometimes my positive experience has a bit to do with the age of people in my workgroup. Basically the oldest is fifty. The team is generally pretty young. We don’t have those super old school mindsets, and the old mentality that goes with it.

“But I do know other apprentices out there who have an older fella sitting above them, and they get treated so, so poorly, just because that’s the same style of apprenticeship the older bloke went through. I think some of the positive cultural change is just happening with the change in age groups. As a cohort or a generation, us younger fellas have just grown up saying, ‘Hang on, we’re not being soft about it, but you can get your message across to apprentices in different ways, rather than doing shit like bullying or abusing people’.”

“There’s definitely still some horror stories out there, like things that are definitely not acceptable. But I think things are changing for the better with the new generation coming up,” he said.

Only days out from his final exams, Rhys looks forward to ongoing employment with Mackay Sugar once his apprenticeship is complete.

“I definitely want to keep kicking around here for longer, and keep on learning,” Rhys said.

“And I just wanna keep pushing the mental health message until everyone here has done some kind of mental health training. It’s from greater awareness across the board that real change comes,” he said.

As a footnote to Rhys’ story, MATES is currently developing programs to support apprentices and the industry. Watch this space!



Mackay Apprentice Kicking Goals

Mackay Apprentice Kicking Goals

In Queensland’s sugar heartland, MATES’ Connector, Rhys Cappello (21) finds it hard to sit still.

Based at Mackay Sugar’s Farleigh Mill, there’s just not enough hours in the day for the final year electrical apprentice who lives and breathes the value of mental health promotion at work. It’s a mission born of personal experience, says Rhys, who earlier battled depression as he navigated the formidable transition from school to full time work.

“The apprenticeship has definitely had its ups and downs, it's easy days and not very easy days. Getting through the first two years was most definitely the hardest. The hard thing has probably been just the change. It was a massive change adapting to a workplace and its culture coming from school straight to the workforce. At school, you pretty much have everything to you handed on a plate, then all of a sudden you’re getting up at 4:30 each morning, working big days, then you do your sports at night, and you’re getting home at ten o’clock each night. There’s not much time for sleep,” Rhys said.

“In those first two years, I was constantly fatigued, physically and mentally, and had to somehow keep on pushing through until I could sort it out. I just had to keep telling myself that I’ve already started, so why stop now? It was pretty much that thought consistently,” he said.

“I definitely had my own mental health issues the first couple of years, but I worked through them with a bit of support, and things have gotten way better for me, and that’s carried through to my work too.”

The earlier fatigue is understandable when you consider Rhys’ enormous afterhours commitment to his love of the round ball. For several years, Rhys has coached a junior football team at the Mackay & Whitsundays Magpies Crusaders United Football Club alongside a women’s premier division team at a different club and assisting Mackay’s men’s team in the National Premier League (NPL). Rhys himself plays competition football. This all entails a 7-day per week commitment.

“I just like having the ability to change one person, especially in the juniors. I remember when I was that age, my coach at that time had a massive influence on how I grew up. I still talk to him to this day. He definitely helped me mentally when I was that young. And at the higher levels of coaching, I want to improve players, first and foremost. But you also have the chance to improve humans.”

Rhys dedicates the vast majority of his spare time mentoring footballers.



It’s not only aspiring footballers whose wellbeing Rhys is bolstering. He’s been integral to activating the MATES program at Mackay Sugar, including Connector training and plans to participate in ASIST training before the end of this year. He says it’s part of a cultural shift surrounding mental health being spearheaded by a new generation.

“The drive towards mental health is mainly coming from us young workers. I know we had four of us crew who went to the latest MATES Connector training. I’m the Chairman of the Health and Safety Committee at the Farleigh Mill (one of three different mills operated by Mackay Sugar). Mental health was put on the agenda at one of our committee meetings and it was supported. And our management was good enough along with some other senior workers to say, ‘yep, that sounds great, let’s do it.’ After that, we put it out to the whole Mackay Sugar group, including the other mill sites. The other sites are now on board too, and we look forward to the next upcoming Connector session to become available to put even more people in.”

The younger generation is also demanding a breakaway from some of the more old-guard practices surrounding the management and mentoring of trades apprentices, including bullying and hazing rituals.

“I haven’t really experienced any bullying during my apprenticeship,” said Rhys.

“I think sometimes my positive experience has a bit to do with the age of people in my workgroup. Basically the oldest is fifty. The team is generally pretty young. We don’t have those super old school mindsets, and the old mentality that goes with it.

“But I do know other apprentices out there who have an older fella sitting above them, and they get treated so, so poorly, just because that’s the same style of apprenticeship the older bloke went through. I think some of the positive cultural change is just happening with the change in age groups. As a cohort or a generation, us younger fellas have just grown up saying, ‘Hang on, we’re not being soft about it, but you can get your message across to apprentices in different ways, rather than doing shit like bullying or abusing people’.”

“There’s definitely still some horror stories out there, like things that are definitely not acceptable. But I think things are changing for the better with the new generation coming up,” he said.

Only days out from his final exams, Rhys looks forward to ongoing employment with Mackay Sugar once his apprenticeship is complete.

“I definitely want to keep kicking around here for longer, and keep on learning,” Rhys said.

“And I just wanna keep pushing the mental health message until everyone here has done some kind of mental health training. It’s from greater awareness across the board that real change comes,” he said.

As a footnote to Rhys’ story, MATES is currently developing programs to support apprentices and the industry. Watch this space!