…drought-affected communities working together to build
resilience and improve mental health outcomes.
WEATHERING THE JOURNEY: CLIFF’S STORY
FROM MUSICALS TO BUSINESS WORKSHOPS TO RITES OF PASSAGE, UNITING COMMUNITIES HAS PROVIDED VITAL SUPPORT TO PEOPLE IN DROUGHT- AFFECTED AREAS THIS YEAR THROUGH OUR WEATHERING THE JOURNEY INITIATIVE.
Aimed at building resilience in rural communities, the program focused on supporting and developing existing regional programs through a community development approach.
Weathering the Journey provided support and funding to a number of programs, including The Rite Journey, a program developed by Andrew Lines for high schools that involves a rite of passage for children to make the transition to adulthood.
The initiative also included a series of workshops on the business of managing a farm, support and funding for ‘Murray the Musical’ by the Milang and District Community Association,
and a self-esteem program for girls in Year 9 run by Larissa Jones, also known as the ‘Beauty Heartist’.
“We wanted to invest in things that were already happening in the community,” explains Malcolm Dean, Community Development Worker at Uniting Communities.
Communities couldn’t have been better,” Cliff says. “It was good to be able to concentrate on delivering the programs as opposed to having to deal with all the background logistics. That was fantastic. The team did a great job - we were in close contact all of the time, so if there were any hiccups or obstacles we were able to liaise and overcome them.”
The idea was to support community programs so that they would be self- sustaining in the long term.”
Cliff Sweetman from the Strathalbyn Communities Suicide Prevention Network, said the support from Weathering the Journey was invaluable. Cliff delivered two programs dealing with depression and suicide risk to regional South Australian communities – ‘My Travels with Shadow’ and ‘Being a Ready Friend’.
“The support from Uniting Uniting Communities Annual Report 2016 | 21
Cliff sees depression and mental health as a significant issue in regional communities. “It is a real issue for rural towns – but people in regional communities often know each other really well – they just need motivation to step up and offer support.”
Cliff says the community development approach adopted by the program was the right way to go.
“The top-down approach doesn’t work – it’s got to come from the community. We need to empower drought-affected regional communities to build on their own skills, strengths and spirit.”
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