Empowering rural resilience: grants transforming health initiatives

  • Attendees at Deniliquin's Blokes Night In
    Attendees at Deniliquin's Blokes Night In
  • Blokes Night in at Deniliquin
    Blokes Night in at Deniliquin
  • Fireshed Friday
    Fireshed Friday
  • Fireshed Friday at Batlow
    Fireshed Friday at Batlow
  • Fireshed High Tea at Laurel Hill
    Fireshed High Tea at Laurel Hill
  • Left: Fireshed Friday. Right: Fireshed Friday at Gundagai
    Left: Fireshed Friday. Right: Fireshed Friday at Gundagai
  • Left: Legless and Blind at Blokes Night In. Right: Legless and Blind at Deniliquin's Blokes Night In.
    Left: Legless and Blind at Blokes Night In. Right: Legless and Blind at Deniliquin's Blokes Night In.
  • Fireshed Friday at Darlow Brigade Station at Ellerslie
    Fireshed Friday at Darlow Brigade Station at Ellerslie

Promoting positive health outcomes in regional and rural areas is an ongoing challenge, given the unique obstacles faced by communities living in these vast landscapes, such as limited access to healthcare facilities, professionals, and specialised services. When natural disasters strike, the quest for accessible healthcare becomes an even greater challenge.

Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network (MPHN) is playing a pivotal role in supporting rural communities through its innovative grant programs. From aiding communities devastated by bushfires and floods to enhancing social connections, MPHN is committed to building healthier and more resilient communities throughout the Murrumbidgee region.

MPHN’s Bushfire Recovery Grants have been instrumental in supporting communities affected by devastating bushfires, made possible as part of the Australian Government's Supporting Communities in Recovery program.

Acting Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network CEO Narelle Mills said the grants aimed to help communities recover and heal.

“We recognise the significant impact bushfire continues to have on people in our region,” Ms Mills said.

“Our grants enable us to assist affected communities by supporting local community-led initiatives focusing on strengthening social connectedness, emotional wellbeing, and resilience.”

One such initiative, Fireshed Fridays and High Teas, organised by the Community Foundation for Tumut Region, received the Bushfire Recovery Grant and served as a beacon of support for Snowy Valleys communities following the 2019/2020 bushfires. These gatherings created a positive space for connection, mental health support, and educational sessions, involving collaborative efforts with the MLHD Bushfire Recovery Mental Health team and local Rural Fire Service captains.

The success of Fireshed Fridays was officially recognised at MPHN's Primary Healthcare Awards in late 2023, winning the prestigious Community Grant of the Year award. Louise Halsey, who accepted the award, described Fireshed Fridays as a "phenomenon" and emphasised its impact on the broader community.

“We’ve been to 25 firesheds right across the area; we arrive with a sit-down dinner, tablecloths, and we use juvenile growth eucalyptus for decorations as a symbol of regrowth,” Ms Halsey said.

“If we have made a difference to one of those firemen, our job’s done.”

Similarly, MPHN's Healthy Connections Community Grant aimed to support grassroots community activities that strengthen social connectedness and enhance physical and mental wellbeing. The Blokes Night In initiative, supported by this grant, focused on breaking down stigma around mental health, encouraging men to seek help.

The event, organised by Deniliquin Mental Health Awareness Group, brought together 150 men from diverse backgrounds at the Deniliquin Golf Club. It featured a presentation by 'Legless and Blind,' Mike Rolls and Ben Pettingill, focusing on hope, resilience, and mental wellbeing. The initiative received overwhelming positive feedback, with attendees reporting increased mental health awareness, improved help-seeking behaviours, and enhanced feelings of resilience.

"We're proud to fund local initiatives like these, which highlight the resilience, creativity, and community spirit thriving in rural settings," Ms Mills said.

"MPHN will continue to invest in community-led health and wellbeing projects to help the Murrumbidgee region thrive and remain resilient in times of adversity."

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