Fonterra GoodSorts taking GoodYarn to the next level


Mental health is something that touches the lives of many but is often an issue people find hard to talk about. At Fonterra we’ve got a dedicated bunch of people who are working to change this.

Terry Buckingham

Health and Wellbeing Manager NZ

“GoodYarn is a story of helping everyday people talk about mental health,” says Terry Buckingham, Fonterra Health and Wellbeing Manager, New Zealand. “Recently, our team of Tanker Operators asked if we had any tools to help them talk about mental health and help others.”

“Kiwi men are often the first to help someone, however they’re often the last to ask for help for themselves. When I went looking for some tools it started a special relationship with the GoodYarn team, which lead to GoodYarn workshops being delivered across our operations.”

GoodYarn is a peer delivery programme, which was initially formed as a programme that could be delivered by Farmers for Farmers.  It's the peer delivery model that has been the key to the success of GoodYarn. There is a growing realisation amongst experts that peer delivery is as effective, if not more effective, than expert led mental health promotion. 

Following on from the first successful year of GoodYarn workshops, the Farmsource Team delivered it to their Technical Sales Reps. Distribution Centre teams also rolled it out last year and now at our Fanshawe Street office the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Committee have taken GoodYarn to the next level by adding GoodSorts.

GoodSorts is a group of volunteers who are recognized as a champion of mental health awareness and have the same or similar skill set to Mental Health First Aiders – with the addition of delivering GoodYarn workshops.

Michelle Ortega

Supply Planning Manager – Fanshawe Street Health, Safety and Wellbeing Committee Chairperson

“The GoodSorts programme was born out of a strong desire to use my own experience with mental illness to support others going through a similar journey,” says Michelle Ortega, Supply Planning Manager.

“Last year as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, I got up in front of a packed auditorium and spoke about my journey living with clinical depression.  From moving out of home at 15, working in a café to support myself through High School, feeling incredibly alone and suffering the torment of being physically alive while emotionally lifeless. To finally seeking help at 18, eventually graduating from University, travelling the world and recently buying my first home.  

“In the days leading up to this event, I remember feeling physically sick. I struggled to get out of bed, tormented by thoughts that were reminiscent of my darker days. You are crazy. You are worthless. Who do you think you are? If you do this, they will think you are weak, self-centred, a liability. 

Looking back, the only thing that held me together was knowing that if I got through to at least one person that it was all worth it.

Michelle Ortega, Fonterra Supply Planning Manager

“And you know what, it was.  

“When I stood up in that room, paralysed by self-doubt and ashamed of what I was about to share, I knew there was no turning back. But I also knew things had to change. No one should ever have to feel like their mental illness defines them, that they are a lesser person because of something they can’t control.  When I told my story, I was not only giving myself a chance to get better, I was unknowingly paving the way for others who were still waiting to find their voice.  

“Through that one session, we witnessed the power that openness has on our ability to talk about a topic which is heavily plagued with stigma. It also brought about a feeling of hope that things can change, one person and one conversation at a time.  

“Not long after I spoke, someone reached out to me and said they were struggling and wanted to talk. And with this, a GoodSort was born,” says Michelle. 

Louisa McClure

Digital Marketing Capability Lead and GoodSort

“There is a distinct feeling in your life where things can feel overwhelming. Where your thoughts and words may seem scrambled or somehow just don’t flow as they should,” says Louisa McClure, Digital Marketing Capability Lead.

“Although we all have 24 hours in a day to sleep, work, take care of life admin, kids, pets, fitness, cooking and beyond - our mental health and wellbeing can often be an afterthought. It’s almost as if we only notice it when things feel ‘off’ or overwhelming.

“I first started noticing things weren't quite right for me in 2018 when my sense of purpose felt lost, I’d go home at the end of the day and feeling exhausted and drained. I decided I needed make a change and undertook training in mindfulness.

“Realising I wasn’t in a role that gave me my sense of purpose - I left and had the summer off with my son. It took me seven months to find a company and role which felt right, and in August this year, I joined the Fonterra family.

I quickly realised at Fonterra we’re open to helping and supporting our people. A few weeks after joining, I was interviewed and accepted onto the GoodSorts programme. A small group of us are trained to run workshops and openly discuss the idea of mental wellbeing.

Louisa McClure, Digital Marketing Capability Lead and GoodSort

“I’ve learnt it’s not about being perfect or having all the answers. Simply being open to a chat and being more aware of the people we spend our working life with - can make a world of difference and change your sense of purpose for the good,” says Louisa.