Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

The Grease and Oil Change organisation knows how important it is to look after your mental and physical health. It is especially important in rural and remote areas, where resources are scarce and communities may be struggling with unique environmental challenges. Since 2016, they have run workshops aimed at fostering a healthier and more resilient community, and reducing the stigma associated with mental health by facilitating opportunities for individuals to discuss common issues and problems and to seek solutions from others and from health professionals.

The areas of Bedgerabong and Trundle, in Central West NSW, have been tackling drought for many years now. Agriculture is a big industry in the community, and this has been adversely impacted by the ongoing drought conditions, which has led to hard times for everyone.

An $11,200 grant from the FRRR’s Tackling Tough Times Together program, funded by the Australian Government, meant that Grease and Oil Change workshops could be run in both towns. Experts were brought in to talk to locals about their mental and physical health, as well as run practical workshops teaching them a range of skills.

The workshops are now in their fifth year of operations. In each year since its inception, over 60 people have attended the event, with one workshop having over 200 attendees. By providing a casual and relaxed atmosphere, participants feel more at ease in listening and perhaps sharing experiences of poor mental health. Community partnerships with local allied health groups such as Beyond Blue, Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP), Active Farmers andSober in The Country mean that community members will be more comfortable with reaching out to a familiar face, rather than a stranger.

Cherie Stitt, who founded the organisation, said, “It was a wonderful community gathering in both Trundle and Corinella. Apart from the wisdom gained from the guest speakers, the audiences were able to socialise and speak more openly about mental health – particularly in light of drought conditions and the failure of crops.

“Take-home and practical measures were some of the most valuable insights from the day – all the way from sleep tips, diet and through to communicating with friends and family.”

Since the workshops began, people in these towns have set about creating their own activities to encourage people to come together. One woman organised a bike riding group with some of the people who attended the workshops. Active Farmers now run a personal training group with locals once a week, encouraging them to try new forms of exercise, like yoga.