NEW PROGRAM TO FOCUS ON RESILIENCE IN HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS AFFECTED BY BLACK SUMMER BUSH FIRES

A new $290,000 program to build community resilience will be delivered at Bellingen High School thanks to funding from the NSW Government’s Bushfire Community Recovery and Resilience Fund.

Landcare NSW, Gotcha4Life and Surf Life Saving NSW (SLSNSW) have partnered to deliver the program with the aim of zero suicides by looking at all elements of resilience in communities where people are mentally and physically fit, connected to country, to nature and to each other.

Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience and Minister for Flood Recovery Steph Cooke said the recovery process in the wake of a natural disaster requires collaboration between communities, organisations and Government.

“The NSW Government’s Bushfire Community Recovery and Resilience Fund was designed to support social and emotional wellbeing, and I’m delighted that this new alliance between SLSNSW, Landcare NSW and Gotcha4Life will do exactly that,” Ms Cooke said.

Member for Oxley Melinda Pavey said the $290,000 program would focus on younger people who experienced significant disruptions during the Black Summer bush fires.

“One day each week, a class at Bellingen High School will take place outside where the students help with habitat restoration, spend time with nature and connect with one another,” Mrs Pavey said.

Chair of Landcare NSW Stephanie Cameron said whilst this project is targeted to bush fire recovery regions, the aim is to create connected and resilient communities.

“A resilient community is one that can withstand and bounce back from natural disasters. With changing climates, more extreme droughts, bush fires and adverse weather events, we need to support resilience now more than ever,” Ms Cameron said.

“Resilience isn’t just about surviving fire. Resilience is the ability to face all types of adversity and have the tools to look after ourselves and those around us. This project aims to do exactly that to support Bellingen High School and the wider community.”

The majority of the project is working with Bellingen High School on a pilot which sees students educated outside, in nature, using the available resources to teach across the curriculum.

Founder of Gotcha4Life Gus Worland said this partnership would be a game-changer.

“This partnership aims to tackle a myriad of issues that contribute to poor mental health, poor educational outcomes and communities that are not resilient. By strengthening connections to community and to country and by embedding the curriculum in nature, this partnership will lead to support communities with the ability to withstand the challenges that we all face due to the environmental changes,” Mr Worland said.

“Our vision at Gotcha4Life is to take action to end suicide by delivering community-based mental fitness programs that give people the tools to deal with challenges at every age and stage of life. To encourage people to be open, honest and supportive in their relationships and comfortable expressing themselves when they are not OK. To give people the skills to speak more openly about their feelings and experiences, encouraging people to identify someone in their life they can talk to when things get tough.

“The vision of this partnership is that no one worries alone and teaches people about how to build and maintain healthy well-being and feel more connected to their community and country.

“The past couple of years have been devastating for so many rural and regional communities so we’re working together to help provide support where it is needed most.”

Bellingen High School Acting Principal Tim Laverty said the benefits of this program will be far-reaching for the students.

“We need our students to become empowered, energised and contributors to the community. This  program will give our children the tools to work on their resilience, to improve educational outcomes, the health of our environment and promote reconciliation,” Mr Laverty said.

SLSNSW Chief Operating Officer Daniel Gaffney said SLSNSW was excited to join forces with Landcare NSW and Gotcha4Life.

“Our organisation plays a powerful role in protecting life, whether it be by saving people on our beaches or through saving them from poor mental health by building resilience and fostering healthy, connected communities. In addition to running traditional First Aid courses, we also run Mental Health First Aid courses to ensure we are all looking after the mental health of ourselves, friends and family,” Mr Gaffney said.

Landcare NSW CEO Turlough Guerin, Project Manager Mel Tyas and North Coast Aborginal Landcare Officer Michael Kennedy.

In addition to the program being delivered in schools, other elements of the project include:

  • Gotcha4Life will runs a series of workshops in the community and the local school, with representatives from Landcare and SLSNSW;
  • All workshops will start with a Welcome to Country to provide a connection to the local Aboriginal People and to Country;
  • The local Landcare group will partner with the school to provide on-site education, including propagation, planting, weeding, growing vegetables nest box building etc. This will give the students an opportunity to get their hands in the dirt and benefit from the bacteria that raises serotonin levels; and
  • SLSNSW will also provide mental health first aid training to those who want to learn more.

Funding for this pilot program has been provided by Resilience NSW through the Bushfire Community Recovery and Resilience Fund.

To find out more about the project, contact Melanie Tyas, Landcare NSW on mtyas@landcarensw.org.au.

About Landcare NSW
Landcare NSW’s mission is to care for the land and the environment. The Landcare movement is a community-based approach to managing and protecting our natural resources – creating more productive and sustainable farms, conserving our environment, and building more cohesive and resilient communities. Landcare connects you to on-ground activities where you can volunteer with like-minded individuals who have a passion for caring for country.

About Gotcha4Life
Gotcha4Life is a not-for-profit foundation taking action to end suicide by delivering community-based mental fitness programs that give people the tools to deal with challenges at every age and stage of life. Our programs run in schools, sporting clubs, community groups and corporations with the purpose of giving people the skills to speak more openly about their feelings and experience. To encourage people to identify someone in their life they can talk to when things get tough, and teach people how to build and maintain their mental fitness. We offer a range of programs suited to teenagers, teachers, parents, as well as people in the wider community. The ultimate purpose? To equip people with the skills needed to maintain a better level of mental fitness so that they don’t reach the point of suicide. We’re all about early intervention to teach people how to connect, who to connect with and why it’s important to connect. We want everyone to have a Gotcha4Life Mate – a go-to person you can rely on and talk to about anything when times are tough, so no one has to worry alone. Gotcha4Life was established as a not-for-profit foundation by media personality Gus Worland in 2017.

About SLSNSW
While the role of the surf lifesaver is to be a first responder, Surf Life Saving also plays a powerful role in protecting life, whether it be by saving people on our beaches or through saving them from poor mental health by building resilience and fostering healthy, connected communities. In addition to running traditional First Aid courses, SLSNSW also runs Mental Health First Aid courses in areas that are not covered by RAMHP. SLSNSW clubs are also used as emergency evacuation points during natural disasters and for workshops held by Landcare NSW, Gotcha4Life and other community organisations.

Why the Coalition and what does it aim to achieve?
Our Vision: zero suicide in the towns where the program is rolled out. The vision and beliefs of the organisations involved are closely aligned. Building emotional, physical, social, and community muscle – to protect against poor mental fitness – is the glue that binds the partnership. Investing in this relationship and harnessing the extensive networks across the partners means thousands of people in NSW will be able to access and benefit from the connections this partnership brings.

MEDIA RELEASE – TEAMING UP TO BUILD MENTAL FITNESS IN RURAL AND REGIONAL COMMUNITIES

Joint Media Release: Wednesday, July 8 2020

People across regional NSW will benefit from mental health and wellbeing workshops focused on ‘prevention through connection’, thanks to a four-way collaboration between the NSW Government funded Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) and Gotcha4Life, Landcare NSW and Surf Life Saving NSW.

Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said the partnership would bring together a wealth of experience and knowledge to provide support for regional communities who were facing ongoing challenges.

“It continues to be a really tough time, especially for people living with the triple challenge of drought, bushfire and the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mrs. Taylor.

“It is completely normal for people to be having confronting thoughts and feelings, and this is about making sure that people have strong connections in the community and know where to go to for specialist help when the going gets really tough.”

“Each of the partners has a good understanding of the unique local challenges as well as a great deal of trust within the community, which means they are well-placed to make a difference from the ground up.”

The RAMHP is a major project of the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (CRRMH) in partnership with each of the rural NSW Health Districts, and is funded by the NSW Government. There are currently 20 RAMHP Coordinators who live and work across NSW. RAMHP works to address the short and long-term mental health needs of rural and remote communities in NSW by connecting people to the help they need.

RAMHP Program Manager Tessa Caton said continuing to find new ways of building mental fitness and capacity in rural communities was essential.

“RAMHP will provide the advice that only a ‘local’ knows about each rural community and where to get help for your mental health.”

“We are looking forward to working with Gotcha4Life, Landcare NSW and Surf Lifesaving NSW to ensure our rural communities have access to a full suite of mental fitness programs and are equipped with the skills and tools to cope with ongoing challenges,” said Ms. Caton.

Founder of Gotcha4Life and media personality Gus Worland said the not-for-profit foundation’s vision is a world where people are open, honest and supportive in their relationships and comfortable to express themselves when they are not okay.

“We envisage a society in which everyone has a Gotcha4Life mate who they can open up to, warts and all, and rely on no matter what. This collaboration will be vital to help engage people across NSW who are battling with the effects of drought, fire and COVID-19,” he said.

Dr Adrian Zammit Chief Executive Officer at Landcare NSW said that while the organisation’s mission is to continue to care for the land and environment, it is founded on a series of close-knit communities that they support.

“The value we all gain from investing in these relationships and harnessing our extensive network means thousands of members across NSW will be able to have access to the mental fitness programs and powerful messaging that Gotcha4Life can bring,” Dr. Zammit said.

Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steven Pearce said the visions and beliefs of all the organisations are closely aligned, and the concept of building emotional muscle to protect against poor mental health really resonated.

“While the role of the surf lifesaver is to be a first responder, Surf Life Saving also plays a powerful role in protecting life, whether it be by saving people on our beaches or through saving them from poor mental health by building resilience and fostering healthy, connected communities”.

If you have any concerns about yourself or a loved one, please contact the NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511 or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

MEDIA:

Richard Shute (Dept Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women) | 0409 394 232

Samantha Stratton (Landcare NSW)  | 0487 767 955