On a recent visit to Tasmania, Liz McAloon, JWF Executive Officer, accompanied by Lorraine Groves mss and Corrie van den Bosch mss visited Bothwell and Oatlands, Tasmania where they met with grant recipients of the John Wallis Foundation 2017 Small Grants Program.

In Bothwell they met with a group of community volunteers and two staff from RAW (Rural Alive and Well). RAW is a non for profit organisation supporting individuals, families and the community through mental health issues with a focus on suicide prevention.  The RAW staff they met were Amity Deans, a Healthy and Resilient Community Facilitator and Kristy Mayne, an Outreach Worker.

As part of RAW’s efforts to de-stigmatise mental health, this dynamic and visionary group of people came together and organised an event entitled “Lift the Lid”, with a programme that included a guest speaker, barbecue and various activities for young and old.   The day had been widely publicised, and they wondered whether anyone would turn up.   But their efforts were hugely rewarded by a great number of attendees and the spirit of the day.

The initial focus of RAW was on the mental health of farmers. It became evident fairly quickly that the wider community also needed such services.  RAW workers are very hands-on in their approach, visiting people on farms and in the towns, making known the services they offer and meeting needs as they find them.   As the Bothwell group shared their stories, it was obvious that they are inspired by a broad vision for the well-being of their community and a deep love for the people they work among.

From its early beginnings, RAW has spread to other rural regions in Tasmania.   It has one office, located in Oatlands, with Liz Little as CEO.   Liz brings to her role wide ranging experience in both Government and private sectors.  RAW’s community workers use their cars to visit their people and communities.   The vehicle also serves as their office.

The John Wallis Foundation contributed to a mental health programme that is about to start. It will provide mental health first aid training to twenty members of the Derwent Valley and Bothwell communities, developing their capacity to support people of all ages at risk of suicide.

Bothwell group
RAW workers and their volunteer supporters with JWF visitors.  From left: Jill Downie, Liz McAloon (JWF EO), Kristy Mayne (RAW Outreach Worker), Sharley Vince, Amity Deans (RAW HARC Facilitator), Anita White, Judy Turner, JWF visitors Corrie van den Bosch mss and Lorraine Groves mss.

From Bothwell the JWF visitors went to Oatlands where they met with RAW CEO Liz Little, and Board members Anne Downie and Ian McMichael who was one of RAW’s founders. They had also invited Christine Waters from St Helens to attend the meeting.   Christine was a recipient of a JWF Small Grant to train in teen suicide prevention.   As both hers and RAW’s grants were about mental health, our JWF visitors thought it would be good to bring them together.

Christine is another dynamic woman with a deep love for her work among students in her role as school chaplain in St Helens and St Marys.  After some teen suicides in the area, Christine decided she needed to do something to help prevent such tragedies.   She reported positively on the training programme she has done, but needs to do a further course, so she can train teens to support fellow students when they recognise signs of mental illness or stress.

Liz Little spoke about her work as CEO, especially the efforts to offer the RAW presence to yet more rural communities.   St Helens-St Marys area is on her list for new outreach.

Networking in Oatlands
From Left: Christine Waters (St Helens & St Marys School chaplain, Lorraine Groves mss, Liz Little (RAW CEO) and Liz McAloon (JWF EO) at the Bothwell RAW Centre.

One of RAW‘s strengths lies in its reliance on leadership of local people to be the backbone of its organisation.  RAW staff work closely with such local groups to ensure that they address the particular local needs and conditions as they go about their work among the people.  The meeting between Liz and Christine Waters provided a good initial contact for RAW as it looks to setting up in the St Helens-St Marys area.

JWF visitors, Lorraine, Liz McAloon and Corrie were most inspired by their visits to Bothwell and Oatlands and all they heard about the great work being done to build Healthy and Resilient Communities in rural Tasmania.  The Foundation’s grants are small, but again and again we are amazed at what people can do for their communities with a small sum of money.