Lockington's Cuppa Connection combats social isolation

  • Group of people seated outside at a large table having tea
  • Group of people seated outside at a large table having tea
  • Group of people seated outside at a large table having tea

Cuppa Connections held in 2024.

In the small Victorian farming community of Lockington, the nature of rural life means it’s easy to go days and weeks without meaningful interaction with others.

The challenge is amplified ten-fold if you’re older, living alone or isolated from family, have mobility or other health issues or simply find it hard to explore social opportunities.

Unsurprisingly, the most recent Australian Census revealed Lockington’s rate of mental health and wellbeing concerns was higher than the State and National averages.

Staff at Lockington & District Bush Nursing Centre and Lockington Neighbourhood House also recognised a need for accessible, grass roots community connection.

In September 2023, they joined together to host a morning tea to mark RU Ok? Day.

The event was an opportunity to promote the importance of good mental health and remind locals to check in with those around them.

It sparked an idea to provide regular, informal catch ups for the Lockington community, designed to enhance emotional wellbeing - particularly among seniors and those at risk of social isolation.

The first Lockington Community Cuppa Connection was held in a shared space known as the Plumber’s Shed in December last year, coinciding with the festive season.

Subsequent gatherings showed a significant growth in participant numbers and diversity, prompting Bendigo Health via the Loddon Murray Public Health Unit to come on board as a supporter.

Cuppa Connection is now established on the second Thursday of each month. There is no cost to attend.

Lockington Neighbourhood House provides the venue and shares catering responsibilities, alternating with Lockington & District Bush Nursing Centre.

Staff from both venues are on hand to chat with participants and provide service referrals and follow up assistance should either be needed.

“Cuppa Connection shows that sometimes simple is best,” Lockington Neighbourhood House Co-ordinator Tanya McDermott explained.

“We provide a place for people to sit down and chat over a cup of tea or coffee and a bite to eat and the magic happens,” she added.

Sheryn Martin, from Lockington and District Bush Nursing Centre, said the response to the project had exceeded all expectations.

“We purchased 20 new coffee cups when we started and didn’t expect to ever need them all. Now we’ve had to top up the supply because we were running out.

“The sense of community and camaraderie that has built up among our Cuppa Connection attendees is really heartwarming,” she said.

“We have lots of laughs, as well as a few tears, but most importantly people have a reason to leave their home and share the ups and downs of life with others and that’s invaluable.”

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