Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

FRRR has awarded $200,000 to 11 locally-led community initiatives that will provide mental health and wellbeing support for remote, rural and regional communities.

Healesville Primary School has been awarded a grant to conduct the Let’sTALK Program. The Let’sTALK Program is a shared mentor training run through schools including at Mount Pleasant Road Primary School (pictured)

Funded through the In a Good Place (IAGP) program, these grants provide support for community-driven initiatives that reduce social isolation, increase social participation and encourage people in remote, rural and regional communities who are at risk of, or are experiencing, mental health issues to seek help. The national grant program, now in its fifth year, is funded by CCI Giving, the charitable foundation of Catholic Church Insurance (CCI).

This year, the IAGP grants awarded range from $12,000 to help local businesses and their employees in Kingaroy, QLD to support and improve mental health and wellbeing through a series of workshops, through to $20,000 to provide immediate, person-centred, and compassionate care for community members experiencing mental distress by establishing a peer-staffed, community drop-in centre in Castlemaine, VIC.

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said it’s critical to offer this program, as many rural communities across Australia don’t have access to the level of resources that they need when it comes to mental health and wellbeing support.

“Many rural people rely on a sense of strong community to get through the difficult times. But, after a year and half of COVID-19 restrictions, the events and activities that would usually be a way for people to connect and heal, haven’t been able to go ahead. So, many people are feeling increasingly disconnected and socially isolated,” Ms Egleton explained.

“On top of the cumulative impact of natural disasters like drought, fires, flood and cyclones, this has meant that many rural Australians now have an even greater need for both preventative mental health measures, as well as non-clinical support for mental health and wellbeing issues. It also means that communities have had to think outside of the box and find new ways of helping people to connect and care for their mental health.

“That’s why it’s really encouraging to see so many innovative, community-led initiatives that are geared towards helping people in remote, rural and regional communities gain better access to the mental health support that they need.

“We’re grateful to be able to partner with CCI Giving to support these local projects, which we know will really make a difference,” said Ms Egleton.

Jeremy Yipp, CCI General Manager, General Insurance Claims and Chair of CCI Giving, said that improving rural Australia’s access to mental health resources is crucial.

“The In a Good Place program provides important support that is now, more than ever, vital for the mental wellbeing of rural Australia. We are pleased that through our partnership with FRRR we are able to provide funding for these community-led initiatives designed to support and connect the community to the tools they need to care for their mental health and wellbeing,” Mr Yipp said.

Some of the 11 mental health initiatives funded include:

  • Wesley Mission Queensland – Murgon and Cherbourg, QLD – Marcus Mission – Building Suicide Prevention Community Capacity in South Burnett – $18,619 – Boost the community’s ability to support vulnerable males by training and supporting local men to deliver the Marcus Mission suicide prevention initiative.
  • Pro Patria Centre Ltd Ashmont, NSW – Kitchen Garden to Plate: Nutrition for the Mind, Body, and Soul – $17,160 – Support the mental health and social connection of veterans, first responders and their families by developing a kitchen garden to support future therapeutic gardening and nutrition programs.
  • Quorn Community Sporting Assoc Inc – Quorn, SA – Don’t Wait til You’re Stuffed! – $13,900 – Encourage people to come together and boost community resilience by bringing in a guest speaker to share vital tips and advice.
  • Dignity Supported Community Garden – Nubeena and Dodges Ferry, TAS – DIGnity Supported Gardening Sessions – $19,440 – Improve social participation and support mental wellbeing of vulnerable community members by providing expert mental health counselling and Occupational Therapist support to participate in therapeutic horticulture sessions.
  • Healesville Primary School Healesville, VIC – Let’sTALK Program at Healesville Primary School – $20,000 – Empower staff, students and families to feel safe to talk openly about their mental wellbeing and provide skills to encourage and support help seeking behaviours through a shared program of learning.

To support grants like this through FRRR, make a tax-deductible donation at https://frrr.org.au/giving/.

The full list of grant recipients and their projects are below:

OrganisationProjectLocationGrant
Castlemaine Community House IncCastlemaine Safe Space
Support community members experiencing mental distress by establishing a peer-staffed, community drop-in centre by providing immediate, person-centred, and compassionate care in a non-clinical setting.
Castlemaine, VIC$20,000
Central West Family Support Group Inc In a Good Place
Build mental health awareness in the community to reduce stigma and improve mental health and wellbeing
Condobolin / Lake Cargelligo / Murrin Bridge, NSW$20,000
Circular Head RSL Sub Branch IncCanines Fostering Community Connections - Improving Veteran Well-being in Rural Tasmanian Communities
Improve the social participation and mental health of veterans by supporting their pairing with and training of Assistance Dogs.
Smithton, TAS$19,613
Dignity Supported Community GardenDIGnity Supported Gardening Sessions
Improve social participation and support mental wellbeing of vulnerable community members by proving expert mental health counselling and Occupational Therapist support to participate in therapeutic horticulture sessions.
Nubeena / Dodges Ferry, TAS$19,440
Healesville Primary SchoolLet'sTALK Program at Healesville Primary School
Empower staff, students and families to feel safe to talk openly about their mental wellbeing and provide skills to encourage and support help seeking behaviours through a shared program of learning .
Healesville, VIC$20,000
Kingaroy Chamber of Commerce & Industry IncSHINE - Supporting Mental Wellbeing through Information, Leadership and Education - Stage 2
Boost and strengthen community resilience by running workshops to help local businesses and their employees support and improve mental health and wellbeing.
Kingaroy, QLD$12,000
Pro Patria Centre LtdKitchen Garden to Plate: Nutrition for the Mind, Body, and Soul
Support the mental health and social connection of veterans, first responders and their families by developing a kitchen garden to support future therapeutic gardening and nutrition programs.
Ashmont (Wagga Wagga), NSW$17,160
Quorn Community Sporting Assoc IncDon't Wait til You're Stuffed!
Encourage people to come together and boost community resilience by bringing in a guest speaker to share vital tips and advice.
Quorn, SA$13,900
Southern Yorke Peninsula Community Youth on Yorkes
Help local youth-focussed organisations to understand and support young people to develop mental fitness and resilience through the employment of a dedicated youth worker.
Yorketown, SA$20,000
The Southern Highlands FoundationGrand Friends
Foster friendships and increase social connection by bringing together residents from the local aged care facility with primary school children for shared activities.
Bowral / Moss Vale, NSW$19,268
Wesley Mission QueenslandMarcus Mission - Building Suicide Prevention Community Capacity in South Burnett
Boost the community’s ability to support vulnerable males by training and supporting local men to deliver the Marcus Mission suicide prevention initiative.
Murgon / Cherbourg, QLD$18,619

Tackling stigma around youth mental health

Mental health difficulties are the most common health challenges for young people, with between 20-25% of Australian adolescents experiencing a mental health or substance abuse issue in any given year. In the Bega Valley, youth mental health has been identified as a major issue facing the region. With a lack of public transport, limited education opportunities and few social spaces for young people – outside of playing a sport – a youth dance organisation has become an important alternative and a vital hub for self-expression and creativity.

Bega-based fLiNG Physical Theatre provides opportunities for young people to work with local and visiting professional artists to create original contemporary performance projects. They aim to give voice to regional perspectives, and designed a powerful youth-centric research and performance project called ‘My Black Dog”, which set out to learn about and support the mental health of young people living in the Bega Valley.

The project had two components; the creation of a moving, original performance exploring youth mental health, and the design and delivery of wellbeing workshops for high school students exploring how they can creatively and practically support their wellbeing. But to deliver it, they needed increased resourcing and capacity.

A grant of $17,700 from FRRR’s In a Good Place program, funded by CCI Giving, was awarded and spread across the project to help realise the final performance outcome. It enabled the employment of two fLiNG Alumni, who returned to the Bega Valley to perform in the work, demonstrating potential future pathways for younger fLiNG Company members, who look to these people as role models. Funds also supported a local year 12 fLiNG Alumni to be employed to co-deliver the Art & Wellbeing workshops in schools around the region, ensuring the program is relevant and speaks on the level of those it’s being delivered to.

The live performance, entitled ‘My Black Dog’, was co-created with fLiNG Company members (14-18yrs) across all aspects of activity. The work’s themes – isolation, disconnection, grief and bullying – were set in a school context, and recognisable for many in the young audience. The uncomfortable territory also revealed the characters’ resilience and capacity for them to reach out and support one another.

It ran for a season of eight performances. This project reached more than 750 individuals, and the Art & Wellbeing workshops were delivered to 152 students in local schools. It all helped to break down stigma, learn about what is occurring in the community, and help generate conversation on an issue that is often difficult to talk about. Each performance was supported by local mental health professionals.

The community response to the show was exceptional, and many were inspired to share their own stories. Exploring and talking about the difficulties that young people come up against is the best way to begin to solve and heal them, and fLiNG Physical Theatre is contributing to the conversation in a highly creative and collaborative way. It was the recipient of the 2019 WayAhead Mental Health Matters Award for Youth, and shortlisted for an Australian Dance Award.

Gabriella Rose, fLiNG’s Co-Artistic Director, explained that the project has enabled a deeper understanding of how mental health issues may present in a young person, and what things can be done to support them.

“It has also revealed the enormity of the problem in regional areas, the lack of infrastructure and support available to isolated people. Through round table discussions with school welfare officers, mental health workers, parents and teens, it revealed how overwhelming the situation can be, but also how hard people are working to build better support structures around vulnerable young people in our community.”

The project’s final report also notes:

“Ultimately the My Black Dog project reiterated that within our community, mental health issues are common, and they can impact everyone. fLiNG’s Artistic Directors saw the Bega Valley community take up the offer to connect with this work and to start a conversation. The more we talk about mental health, the better we will become at looking after ourselves, recognising when we need support, and helping each other get through it.”