Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)
The Shire of Cunderdin serves the small towns of Cunderdin and Meckering in the Wheatbelt region of WA. In addition to the usual Council services, the Shire also supports local community groups to help build a place where residents are happy and proud to live by providing excellent community facilities, services and community resilience.
The Council works closely with the Cunderdin Youth Council. This group of extraordinary young people identified that youth in the region have almost no support when it comes to mental health. This is backed up with research by the Commissioner of Children and Young Western Australia, which identified that many regional and remote communities have inadequate age-appropriate services and limited infrastructure such as transport and recreational facilities. Young people in the Wheatbelt raised concerns about confidentiality, lack of anonymity and stigma as impediments to seeking help for mental health issues. The Youth Councillors identified the desire to increase their knowledge of mental health, how they can access support and also how they can support their friends with mental health issues. This need led to the Youth Wellness Project being created.
The Shire of Cunderdin received a $5,000 grant from FRRR via the Nutrien Ag Solutions Community Grants program. It went toward helping increase the knowledge and skills of parents and carers of young people, as well as that of young people in Cunderdin and Meckering, with a focus on mental health support strategies and how to access external mental health support.
As part of the Youth Wellness Project, the Shire hosted the first Mental Health Parent Information Night. The session aimed to reduce stigma associated with mental health among the community and youth, with a guest speaker from Armed for Life Foundation, which focuses on how to support parents, carers and students with mental health related issues.
Research also identified an acute shortage of services and programs for young people who require early intervention and/or treatment services because they have a mental health issue. Crime statistics for the Wheatbelt show that most issues appear to be more of an anti-social manner, including online / cyber bullying, which at times progresses to physical assaults. Other issues include mindless damage, which largely is attributed to boredom.
The project that the Youth Council put forward to the Shire of Cunderdin also sought to address these critical issues that young people from the Wheatbelt face every day. The second element of the Youth Wellness project included a full day session, designed to be interactive and free flowing, sharing experiences and building the young people’s confidence in identifying mental health knowledge, and when and how to access support.
Nearly 60 students from Cunderdin District High School, along with five teachers, attended the Youth Wellness Day, which was again run by the team from Armed for Life Foundation. While plans fell through for representatives from various allied and mental health agencies to attend the day, handouts provided information on the services that are available to the community.
Liezl De Beer from the Shire of Cunderdin said that while they would have liked a few more attendees at the information night, they were proud that 15 parents chose to attend. She also said that COVID was a big disruptor, causing them to postpone the event at very short notice.
The Shire of Cunderdin and its Youth Council will continue working together with support such as the Cunderdin Community Resource Centre, Cunderdin Police Officers and local schools to continue building and strengthening their relationships to bring about improved support for local youth.