If you visited Circular Head in Far North West Tasmania, you’d probably think it was a pretty typical country town.
But in recent years, things have been tough. The Circular Head community has contended with drought, bushfires and a significant drop in milk prices. To top it all off, in June 2016 a flood destroyed more than 150 community structures and homes, causing almost $100 million in damage.
The community has worked hard to reconnect and recover but after such hardship and loss, it is going to take more than simply rebuilding local infrastructure to restore morale.
That’s why Rural Health Tasmania Inc (RHT) stepped in. RHT provide free health services across the North West and Western districts of Tasmania and they recognised the need to prioritise the community members’ health and wellbeing in the wake of the recovery efforts.
In collaboration with other local service providers, they ran two wellbeing events, which they dubbed ‘Talk about it - Save your Bacon’ - one focused on isolated families and the other on local youth.
To help deliver the wellbeing sessions, RHT secured an $8,000 Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR) grant, funded by a private donor.
Talk about it - Save your Bacon
The first Save Your Bacon event was held at the Redpa Football Club at which all community members were encouraged to keep tabs on those around them – to raise awareness of depression and to prevent suicides, especially among men, who often don’t speak up about these matters.
The event was timely as the community had lost two men to suicide in the week prior to the event. The event featured 2017 Tasmanian Young Australian of the Year Mitch McPherson, who lost his younger brother to suicide and subsequently founded the ‘Speak up, Stay Chatty’ campaign. Mitch urged people to “show up for a listen”.
The second event was during the Circular Head Youth Fest and more than 450 students participated. They heard from New Zealand-based youth advocate Marcus Takuhata Brown, as well as Tasmanian Voice finalist, Matthew Garwood, about the importance of family, peer support networks and school-based services to help tackle stress, anxiety and depression.
Taking health checks to the people
An integral component of the events were ‘Pit Stops’ – on-the-spot health checks screening for stress; blood pressure; BMI; alcohol; smoking; testicular, bowel and skin cancer. In total, more than 200 attendees received a health check, many of whom live in more remote parts of the region and don’t access these services regularly.
The success of RHT’s Save Your Bacon events highlight how important it is for health and wellbeing initiatives to be designed and delivered in a way that resonates with the intended participants.
FRRR grants support locally led initiatives in rural, regional and remote Australia. They fund a broad spectrum of community projects that target local issues including education, natural disaster recovery, arts and culture, local infrastructure and health services. Through their diverse grant programs, FRRR has supported many communities to implement health and wellbeing projects, ranging from purchasing hospital equipment, to running CPR training sessions, holding drug, alcohol and risk prevention workshops, and the delivery of mental health initiatives.
Learn more about FRRR’s grants at www.frrr.org.au.
Need to talk to someone? If you need immediate assistance, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression, contact beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.