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

Community stories eNews: 27 September 2021

In Coorow, WA, a rural town 270 km north of Perth, the community had been shaken by a series of tragic mental health incidents. 

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

Coorow Community Resource Centre (CCRC) is a local organisation providing professional services to the community, and they clearly saw the need for more informal, activity-based gatherings to support the local community thorough a challenging time.  

The 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 guests speakers for the ‘On Speaking Terms’ event – ordinarily the high cost of travel would reduce access to such talent, and guest speakers Peter Rowsthorn, Ernie Dingo and Karl O’Callaghan were a special drawcard to get the community together. The events were held at the Coorow District Hall in March, July and October 2019, on dates that worked within the local farming activities timetable for the people of the Shire of Coorow and surrounding shires of Perenjori, Carnamah and Moora.

Each event in the series 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 attendees 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. 

Deborah Maley, Coordinater at CCRC said, “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 to 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 expected they might get 100 attendees to the event, but their smart plan enticed 224 people 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 info sessions, so they are hopeful that the message is reaching some of those local people that will benefit from mental health support.