Rural Resilience Programme
Individuals and families in Australia’s rural and remote communities experience unique ongoing challenges such as geographic isolation, economic stress, lack of access to services and the impacts of natural disasters. These are challenges that most people living in cities just don’t face.
In light of the drought, and responding to the call of local communities, the Federal Government in 2014 initiated what has become a highly successful community mental health and family and relationship counselling services programme in drought affected communities.
This programme has begun to break through the social and cultural barriers to people in need of support, linking people in to the services they need, supporting families who are trying to cope in the face of an ever worsening drought, and building more resilient and cohesive communities.
Unfortunately the 2016 Federal Budget did not provide funding to extend this programme beyond 30 June 2016.
In consultation with our member agencies, Catholic Social Services Australia has developed a Rural Community Resilience Programme. This programme, drawing on the success of the earlier model, enables counsellors to go into rural and remote communities and extend mental health, family and relationship support to people in their homes, on their stations, and at community events.
The establishment of the Rural Community Resilience Programme recognises that challenges faced by rural and remote communities are ongoing. The unforgiving Australian climate seems to offer only the narrow choices of drought, flood or fire. Building a baseline of resilience and support will enable people to face the unique challenges arising in this environment and, we believe, significantly reduce the tragic incidence of suicide and family breakdown within these communities.
Download the Rural Community Resilience Programme proposal (opposite) to find out more.
Our drought stricken rural communities need support
An opinion piece by Marcelle Mogg, CEO CSSA
Jack, a farmer in western Queensland, has been under financial pressure for many years now, thanks to the drought. The unrelenting stress and anxiety about the future are putting strain on his marriage and his family. He works very long days and is isolated from extended family and friends. Who can he turn to?
Simon, another man on the land, is struggling under the weight of grief following an accident that killed a member of his family. He’s having trouble talking to his wife who is also grieving, and the whole situation is making it hard to deal with the daily challenges of running his large dairy farm. Who can help before it gets to a crisis situation?
Up until June 30, both of these men were able to access tailored community mental health, and family and relationship counselling services that were established two years ago to support drought affected communities. Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA) members are among the providers who have been delivering these services, often one-on-one, usually by visiting people on their properties over a period of time, at their request, or through a community event setting, such as men’s sheds, afternoon teas, or stands at agricultural shows. However, in a blow to rural communities, the 2016-17 Federal Budget ended the ongoing funding for these crucial, and successful, services. So, from July 1, these vital, on-the-ground mental health services ceased.
Where will people living in rural and remote communities turn when they are doing it tough? The government has said that from 1 July, they can access traditional mental health services, such as telephone counselling and clinical mental health counselling through Primary Health Networks, but existing evidence shows people in rural and remote areas are reluctant to seek support through those channels. This is due to the stigma of accessing mental health services in rural communities, fears around lack of anonymity, or the lack of specialised mental health services. The high rates of depression and suicide in rural communities are clear evidence of the need for counselling support in these areas.