Interview with 2018 Leadership LiFE Award Winner Jorgen Gullestrup

Jul 26, 2018, 12:39 AM

Running time 13.22

In 2018 Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) celebrated the 15th Annual LiFE Awards recognising excellence in suicide prevention. The 2018 National Suicide Prevention Conference Dinner played host to this important event and was a chance for the whole sector to appreciate the innovative work being undertaken by our peers and colleagues.

The Awards are a prestigious national event that attracts nominations from all areas including business, industry, media, community, government, youth research and medicine – all with an interest in suicide prevention. Nominations are received from all over Australia, and we were delighted with the number of quality nominations this year showcasing the exciting and diverse range of work being undertaken within the field.

The nominees range from mainstream programs to local ‘grass roots’ organisations and dedicated individuals. The Awards celebrate the commitment and energy of the nominees and their vital contribution to the reduction of suicide within our communities.

At the Award Ceremony, the Suicide Prevention Australia Board was delighted to present Jorgen Gullestrup with the prestigious Leadership LiFE Award for Excellence in Suicide Prevention. Below is a little bit more information about Jorgen and the work does.

We hope you enjoy our conversation with him following his award win.

In the suicide prevention sector, it is not often that we get to talk about tradies, but tonight, the Board of SPA wanted to honour a plumber by trade. Starting his career in the construction industry, Jorgen saw first-hand the impact of suicide on the workers, their families and friends.

Following the 2006 AISRAP investigation into suicide in the Queensland Commercial Building and

Construction industry, Jorgen (who, at the time was State Secretary of the Plumbers Union) decided it was time to take action to save the lives of construction workers.

Ten years ago, with the help of the Building Employees Redundancy Trust, Jorgen worked together with the construction industry to develop the MATES in Construction program. MATES vision is to be Australia’s leading industry suicide prevention organisation focusing on raising awareness, building capacity, providing help and research.

Within the first five years of operation, an 8% reduction in Queensland construction industry suicide rates was achieved. Jorgen has presided over the expansion of the program from Queensland which is now reaching over 138,000 workers across four Australian States.

Following the completion of his Masters in Suicidology, he recently won a Churchill Fellowship to investigate and understand approaches to workplace suicide prevention and mental health globally in countries such as Switzerland, Denmark, UK, USA, and New Zealand.

Into all of his conversations with colleagues, businesses, unions and community, Jorgen brings a mix of his personal experience with suicidal behaviour, his practical nature and a passion for positive change. His leadership has changed the landscape of the entire construction industry in how they train and support their apprentices, and saved many lives and much grief for families, friends and colleagues.

Jorgen has never lost sight of measuring the impact of the MATES in Construction program, resulting in a scalable suicide intervention model that is now translating into the mining sector and inspiring other industries.

From Plumber to Suicidologist and ‘change maker’, the SPA board is proud to acknowledge Jorgen Gullestrup with this year’s LiFE award for Excellence in Leadership.


It is so important to talk openly and safely about suicide but, if listening to this triggers difficult emotions in you, please talk about how you’re feeling with a trusted family member, friend or people at one of our partner organisations. Call Lifeline on 131114, MensLine 1300 78 99 78, Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 or Kids Helpline 1800 551800 FREE. [Clic...