Sitting together and speaking up in WA’s mid-west

Community stories: 26 May 2021

In Coorow, WA, a rural town 270km north of Perth, the Coorow Community Resource Centre (CCRC) provides professional and friendly services to the community, from access to information through to community development, arts and culture, training and more.

The township has a population of 200 and is the business and social hub for many small surrounding localities in an area dominated by farming. The industry in WA’s mid-west is changing, with businesses amalgamating, so the family farm is now often part of a larger enterprise. Businesses rely more on casual workers, reducing the local population and having a flow on effect with isolation, as a result of there being greater distances between farming families.

The community had been shaken by a number of tragic mental health incidents, after which the CCRC saw the opportunity for more informal, activity-based gatherings to support the local community.

Coming together to support one another

Our In a Good Place program was the perfect fit to support this group in their aims. They successfully applied for a grant of $10,350, funded by CCI giving, and got to work planning a series of motivational community dinners to encourage the Coorow community to come together for shared learning and social interaction.

The FRRR grant enabled the group to engage guest speakers for the ‘On Speaking Terms’ event, helping cover the high cost of travel that often precludes bring well-known talent to the community. Guest speakers Peter Rowsthorn, Ernie Dingo and Karl O’Callaghan were a special drawcard to get the community together. Events were held at the Coorow District Hall in March, July and October 2019, on dates that worked within the local farming calendar for the people of the Shire of Coorow and surrounding shires of Perenjori, Carnamah and Moora.

Each event also included presentations from mental health services in the region such as Wheatbelt Mens’ Health, Midwest Health service and the Desert Blue organisation. Dinners were catered by the CCRC and four school students from the area volunteered as wait staff. A ‘goodie bag’ was given to attended to take away, including a Health Services in the area booklet compiled by the CCRC. The evenings were advertised and reported on by local newsletter, the Coorow Magpie Squawk.

An engaged community

In acquitting the grant, Deborah Maley, Coordinater at CCRC wrote, “The Coorow CRC achieved everything we set out to with this program. We delivered three evenings with high profile speakers and had an amazing attendance at each and every one.

“Each speaker had a different way of putting forward their message and this meant that everyone could relate in different ways. All speakers created conversations within the attendees and also with the community as a whole.”

The group estimated they might get 100 attendees to the event, but their smart planning and promotion enticed 224 people in total to attend the series, a remarkable outcome for a town of just 200 people. They have since reported that health agencies represented at the dinners have been contacted by community members following the information sessions, so they are hopeful that the message is reaching some of those local people that will benefit from mental health support.