‘In this together’ and the importance of local media and sport

National Reconciliation Week logo

Rachel Yates welcomed everyone and acknowledged the Ngunnawal people as the traditional owners of Country where the Alliance is situated, and also acknowledged the traditional owners of other lands around the country. We recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and communities and pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders past and present.

Rachel acknowledged it was National Reconciliation Week and mentioned the theme is ‘In this together’—which is very apt at present.

Leanne Coleman, who was also on Ngunnawal country, shared the ‘Build ‘em up!’ music video, which fits nicely with the Reconciliation Week theme. Leanne acknowledged all the contributions submitted from the rural health sector, including Ans van Erp and her wonderful dance moves, and Gordon Gregory on the lagerphone. Leanne encouraged everyone to promote the video by whatever means they can, including through email and social media.

Lynne Strathie reported that, during the week, her quarter acre garden was the venue for a dinner hosted by Total Recreation. There were ten people present, including a busker, and dinner was delivered from a local restaurant. Lynne and her daughter Caitlyn have been involved with Total Recreation for many years. It was a wonderful evening and Lynne said she had never heard such raucous laughter. She said it was an outstanding success and so lovely to see people so relaxed. Lynne is on Larrakia Nation land and the dinner is another example of ‘In this together’.

Empowering our members for more than twenty eight years in the Territory we follow a pathway to genuine social inclusion. Our programs allow members to participate in the programs of their choice that best suit their needs and desired outcomes.

A non traditional disability service provider, Total Recreation staff are primarily trained in sport and program delivery focusing on active "support" rather than "care". Members determine activities and programs, they set their own goals and we support them to achieve their desired outcomes.’  Total Recreation

Ans van Erp acknowledged the Giabal and Jarowair people, the traditional owners of land in the Toowoomba area. Ans thanked Friends of the Alliance for creating the opportunity to contribute to the musical video. She loves the idea of these online collaborations and, when she read about it, was keen to be involved. She had so much fun and her biggest challenge was keeping it to 30 seconds because she was having so much fun dancing!

Referring to the ‘In this together’ theme, Ans said she was pleased there were very low numbers of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Toowoomba. There is still a lot of testing going on but they are slowly returning to some sort of normality. She is reminded every day that we are not out of the difficult times yet. In regards to National Sorry Day, this year saw a very different type of celebration with various online events.

Gabrielle O’Kane reported that the Alliance is moving to the second stage of its Reconciliation Action Plan—Innovate. While the Alliance has high level aims of closing the gap and reducing racism, Gabrielle is keen to get staff involved to contribute and learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and culture.

Janine Turnbull advised that she is currently reading Tell Me Why by Archie Roach and will be pleased to share this story with staff at the next meeting. Leanne said she is also reading that book and looks forward to discussing it with Janine.

A powerful memoir of a true Australian legend: stolen child, musical and lyrical genius, and leader. Not many have lived as many lives as Archie Roach—stolen child, seeker, teenage alcoholic, lover, father, musical and lyrical genius, and leader—but it took him almost a lifetime to find out who he really was.’  Simon and Schuster

'An extraordinary odyssey and offering. Archie has come through snares, pits and suffering to bring us an inspiring tale of survival, grace and generosity. This book should be in every school.'  Paul Kelly

Gordon Gregory commented that, when one is retired and in lock down, occasions like this are a great opportunity to stay engaged, particularly for those living on their own. It is more difficult to remember to celebrate important occasions like Reconciliation Week—which is another reason why these meetings should continue. 

Gordon congratulated Friends of the Alliance, Small Town Culture, and everyone who contributed to the ‘Build ‘em up!’ music and video. He gave particular credit to Josh Arnold, Stephen Kingston and Leanne for their work on the project. He said it is a great piece of music and everyone should share it as widely as possible and get the whole world listening to it!

Martin Butler endorsed Gordon’s comments about the importance of these gatherings, but not just for the retired. These meetings are stimulating and important for practitioners and organisations working in isolation. They are a fantastic way to connect and network, including after the meetings. 

Martin sadly reported two young men were killed on quad bikes in his region recently. There have been about 22 quad bike and farm accident deaths this year and Martin suggested this issue needs to be pursued at a policy level to encourage farmers and hobby farmers to undertake education around quad bikes and farm safety. He said it was important that those selling quad bikes also offer training workshops. Farm safety is a passion of his and he’d be happy to work with the Alliance on this issue.

Gabrielle referred to new legislation in relation to the need for safety bars for new bikes. Martin said there are issues around the retrofitting of safety bars, but there has to be a better way to encourage training and safe use of quad bikes.

Martin’s other passion is palliative care in rural areas. There is a lack of resources and training and he is particularly concerned about this post-COVID-19. This is another important issue that needs to be addressed.

Martin referred to his national rural and remote social worker conference that was scheduled to be held in Albury this July—he will keep Friends informed of developments (Rural and Remote Social Work Action Practice Group).

Adrian Schoo said, when talking about Indigenous health, palliative care, farm safety, and also drought and bushfires, he thought it might be an idea for the Alliance to get in touch with Rotary Australia. They do a lot of work in all of those areas and also a lot of work in rural communities. Gabrielle and Adrian will catch up about that idea.

Justine Cooney apologised for joining late; she was on South Australian time!

Renee Strazzari referred to the ‘In this together’ theme and Gordon’s comments about connectivity, and said she feels supported by people checking up on her professionally and personally. It has been important to have this while working from home and isolated. One of the initiatives of her local PHN is to increase the connectivity in local Aboriginal communities, to help them access health care they might otherwise miss out on during this time. On the palliative care issue, Renee shared that she has a grandmother diagnosed with terminal cancer. Their appointment with the palliative care team was in Queensland and she was 7 km inside New South Wales. Because of interstate differences where palliative care is concerned, her grandmother would have better access to palliative care if she lived on the Queensland side of the border.

There was discussion about Australia being a federation and issues with equity across states and territories. Rachel said there has been some good progress on this in the university sector, with states joining up to address the COVID-19 situation. Her hope is that what we have gained isn’t lost in the post-pandemic phase. We need to continue to advocate on these issues where different policies exist.

Sue Wade was on Wiradjuri Country, one of the largest Indigenous groups in Australia. She acknowledged the Elders past and present. Sue said they have recently lost the local Forbes Advocate newspaper, which means that she and others have no idea what is going on for Reconciliation Week in her area. Sue said there is a very nice Dreaming Centre (includes interactive map) near the wetlands in Forbes that has some beautiful bronze totems and sculptures by Brett ‘Mon’ Garling from Peak Hill (view launch). Sue is currently reading Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe.

Wendy Downs said she is concerned about the closure of local rural newspapers. Her local newspaper, the Regional Independent (formerly the Bungendore Weekly), is relied upon by various social groups and is a great way to link people. It is now being produced in Sydney and recent editions have little local content or contacts.

Martin referred to the story on ABC TV’s 7.30 Report last night about 16-year-old Jack Ward from Ararat, Victoria, who is providing the news for locals in that area following the closure of the Ararat Advertiser: www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-22/student-provides-the-news-in-ararat-after-newspaper-closes/12167796

Gabrielle said her husband was a journalist at The Land 12 years ago—they were feeling the pinch even then. She commented that there is so little money in it and we are left with ABC Radio and online news.

Chris Moorhouse said it is typical of these Friends cuppa sessions that so much important content is discussed. He assumed today would be about positive progress with COVID-19 but instead we are talking about vulnerable sectors of the community. He said this includes older people and those with disabilities, particularly in parts of Tasmania where they are poorly served and in difficult circumstances.

In relation to quad bikes, Chris looked out his window to see his quad bike parked beside a couple of hundred dairy cows. He feels it will be a long haul to get people to abide by the new criteria but new provisions will hopefully make it a little more likely to get people to sign up.

Chris brought his kelpie mate to the meeting today and said mates (in various forms) are so important at this time.

Chris said he was at the launch of Dark Emu about three months ago in Tasmania and that there is some really important Indigenous literature available.

Chris ended by saying it is really important that we are ‘All in this together’, particularly as things ease up and restrictions are being lifted.

There was further discussion about the importance of local newspapers, which are significant to rural communities.

Gordon commented that one of the things COVID-19 has done is to speed up trends which were already in place and that, as individuals and organisations, we need to assess the trends, stay informed and act faster when issues concern us. 

Martin gave an example of where local newspapers are critical. He said several issues in relation to the Camperdown, Victoria, bushfires two years ago have only been sorted out recently because the local newspaper (Camperdown Chronicle) has been badgering state and federal politicians. The paper galvanised the locals and gave them a voice. Thankfully the Chronicle hasn’t disappeared, but it is pretty thin in terms of what it is producing. He said tragically the significant social fabric stories will be forgotten or not even acknowledged and this will disadvantage people in smaller communities.

Lynne Strathie was very pleased to inform us that Robyn Williams—a former member of the Friends Advisory Committee, nurse, and lecturer at Charles Darwin University—has just received her PhD. Congratulations to Dr Robyn Williams from Friends of the Alliance!

In true rural fashion the discussion turned to stories of local sport and people they know in common. Gordon reflected on how important community sport is to rural regions and noted that the commercial structure of the AFL is being reconsidered. It will be interesting to see whether they look after grassroots sport and how sport will look post-COVID-19.

Martin said he was checking out ’READ the PLAY’, a mental health literacy program designed for the junior level of sports clubs. It imparts information about mental illness through engaging young players in fun and interactive games, thereby helping to remove stigma and increase help-seeking behaviour.

Justine mentioned a Facebook webinar being organised by South West Sport this evening: ‘Tackling the Stigma—a conversation about the role of sport in mental health’ by Dr Jodie Fleming (The Psychology of It), Linda Holland (Lifeline Australia) and John Parkinson (Let's Talk Foundation) to discuss the relationship between sport and mental health.

This webinar was recorded and you can watch it here: www.facebook.com/watch/?v=256809102096625

Lynne closed the meeting by mentioning that, at long last, there is going to be a full investigation into price gouging of fresh food in remote communities in the Northern Territory.

Janine mentioned that the Alliance is hosting a free food security webinar on 29 June 2020. For details go to: www.ruralhealth.org.au/events/webinar/foodsecurity

Martin headed off to the shed and said he looked forward to continuing the conversation next week…

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