Health & Wellbeing – Castlemaine, 20 May 2016

Twenty-seven community leaders from around the region visited Castlemaine last week to explore leadership on issues around health and wellbeing.  The 2016 participants of the Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program (LMCLP) heard from and shared conversations with many local leaders on this important issue.  Who would have thought such a broad topic of Community Wellbeing could be covered so comprehensively in a single day?

“This is an extremely important matter for our local communities. A healthy community is a vibrant community and this applies to both our physical and our mental health,” said Emma Shannon from Castlemaine.

Councillor Bronwen Machin kicked off a session about ageing well in community by workshopping how a council develops a strategy to deal with such a complex issue. Phillipa Calwell gave an overview of her work with ageing, in particular dementia, and Carol McDonough touched hearts and minds with her unique and personal lived experience on the topic.

Jeremy Forbes from HALT (Hope Assistance Local Tradies) spoke at length on the “tradie” culture of bullying, jokes on apprentices, alcohol and other “traditions”. These have become generational, but the mental health issues associated with them and other parts of life are buried. HALT seeks to bring these issues into the open and reduce suicides as a result. The objective is to get people talking about their issues and seek assistance early.

After a quick and inspiring tour of the new Mill site courtesy of Phil McConachy, participants then travelled to the Castlemaine Football and Netball Club to explore the importance of sport in community. Club President Ian Bracken spoke on the importance of club culture and the relationships that are built through sporting clubs, while Alana Wearne showed how her leadership has impacted at a club level and also as a school teacher at Castlemaine Secondary College. CFNC are in a strong position to be influential community leaders on many issues and as such are taking a strong stand on lifestyle choices around drugs, alcohol and gambling.

The day continued with a session on living well in community with a disability, with participants learning about some of the difficulties they face in our communities, particularly around access and jobs. The group was mesmerized by a moving performance from local dancer Ned Middleton who also shared his story of participation and living an interesting and creative life with Downs Syndrome. This session was also supported by Ned’s mother Jo Middleton. Chris O’Connor from Windarring who talked about the benefits and challenges of the upcoming roll out of the NDIS, and Donna Petrusma who spoke about her volunteer work with the Office of the Public Advocate.

The day concluded with a session focussing on health and wellbeing which explored the importance of strong community health services from Cath Butler and a GP’s role in the broader health and wellbeing of communities courtesy of Dr Richard Mayes. There was an emphasis on aboriginal health and wellbeing issues within our communities led by inspirational aboriginal leaders Kathryn Coff and Alan Parsons.  There was a clear message that one size does not fit all, irrespective of race, colour or creed.

“The biggest message I took away from the day was the importance of inclusion in our communities. We need to recognise and accept the differences in each other and ensure that our communities are both welcoming and inclusive to all who wish to join them,” said Ric Raftis, from Wedderburn.