Active Farmers raise awareness for mental and physical health in WA

Community stories: 29 March 2023

According to Beyond Blue, one in seven Australians will experience depression in their lifetime. For people living in remote, rural and regional areas, access to adequate physical and mental health care can be tricky. In fact, getting people to talk about mental health issues can be just as hard as finding the appropriate support.

Organisations like Active Farmers are working hard to breakdown the stigma surrounding mental health and raise awareness and understanding of the benefits of regular exercise and healthy eating. One way they do this is by hosting events like the Active Farmers Games.

In 2019, the inaugural Active Farmers event was held in NSW, and again the following year. Both events were a total success with people travelling from all over the country to attend. Post-event feedback strongly endorsed running it again, but suggested it should head to Western Australia.

The small town of Torbay, located in the Great Southern region, was selected to host the Games. The region is dominated by farmland, which produces livestock, dairy, wool and grows crops. Known as one of the most productive cereal grain and pastoral areas of the state, they have also been severely impacted by drought, bushfires and of course COVID-19. On top of this, the population of the Great Southern area of WA is predominantly aged over 50 years, with the proportion of adults aged over 65 years projected to increase by 54% over the next five years. For people in this age group, physical health concerns can often be managed by regular physical activity and exercise. This demographic also has a large population that lives in regional Australia, where they may lack access to health and wellness services due to remoteness.

The one-day event involved traversing a 3.5km farm-inspired obstacle course (think hay bales, tyre stacking and fence climbing!). The aim was to raise awareness of the importance of physical and mental health and to promote connectedness in the bush. The course was designed to symbolise real life obstacles and how we are able to better overcome these obstacles if we have a team of people around us.

In total, there were 30 obstacles that 150 participants had a go at. There were three teams that consisted of men, women and children. The course was designed to accommodate everyone with the youngest participant being six years old and the oldest participant in their 70s. The event was also a tremendous show of community participation with 40 volunteers to help things run smoothly and another 90 spectators who came to cheer the participants along.

Using a $6,340 Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) grant, funded by FRRR, Active Farmers were able to host a successful event that fostered a strong sense of connection and joy within the community and surrounding areas.

They were also able to raise much needed funds to establish the Active Farmers group fitness classes in up to six additional locations in WA. Check out this fantastic video that showcases the day’s activities.