David Flanagan

People who give their time, money and talent to help others can develop a resilience to cope with challenges and difficulties such as working in WA's mining industry during its downturn, West Australian of the Year David Flanagan says.

The Atlas Iron boss said yesterday workers involved in programs to give back to Pilbara communities where the firm operated were happier and better equipped to deal with disruptive fly-in, fly-out rosters and stress of the competitive iron ore business.

Mr Flanagan joined other high-profile figures, including WA Chief Justice Wayne Martin, at the start of the National Suicide Prevention Conference in Perth. The rate and risk of suicide among FIFO workers and Aboriginal communities are high on the agenda this week.

"There was this sense of well- being that started to pop up in our people to the extent that people would come and tell me they met this person and they didn't know who they worked for but they guessed they were Atlas Iron because of how happy they were," Mr Flanagan said.

"Essentially there was a degree of resilience that was built within these people, which basically helped them deal with the competition and it actually helped them realise a capability within themselves that they didn't know that they had. We found it helped developed organisational resilience because at the same time we were doing all this, our share price went 20¢ to $4 to 40¢, the iron ore price moved from $435, $200 to $45," he said. "Our workforce went through the roof and then through the floor. We had two rounds of retrenchments."

Mr Flanagan said doing random acts of kindness and giving improved people's business performance and life expectancy.

People who work fly-in, fly-out have been found to be at more risk of suicide because of the isolation, disruption and impact on relationships involved in such work.

Justice Martin, who opened the conference in place of Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, said the biggest problem in WA's justice system was the gross overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in it.

The West Australian

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