Going the distance for good mental health

With a population equating to one person per 32,000 acres, central west Queensland is one of the most remote regions in the state.

A new program, supported by Carinity’s Collaborative Community Projects, is helping to increase social connections and support the emotional and psychological wellness of isolated people in rural communities.

Outback Connect supports the mental health and wellbeing of people living in isolated situations across western Queensland
A program run by a Longreach Baptist Church is supporting the mental health and wellbeing of people living in isolated situations across western Queensland.

Outback Connect, a Longreach Baptist Church ministry, focuses on community-led care where individuals “provide a listening ear” and “encourage and support isolated people.”

Longreach Baptist Church Pastor, Steve Ballin, said mental health is a major issue for those living on the land.

“The prevalence of mental health and wellbeing issues is higher in rural and remote communities and the impact runs far deeper. Social, economic, and geographic barriers to help-seeking prevent many from accessing support, leading to poor mental health outcomes,” Steve said.

Outback Connect has facilitated community events called ‘paddock days’, aimed at building relational connections between farmers and “linking people to the support they need so they can stay healthy and move forward in life”.

“For our first three paddock days I travelled over 1,000km – including a significant amount on dirt roads – to hold events on properties at Winton, Aramac and Yaraka,” Steve said.

“I was surprised about the depth of people sharing. The really significant thing was farmers who are often really hard to engage with were now self-reflecting and saying, ‘It used to be if you saw someone you would stop and check how they’re going; now we just fly past each other because we’re so busy’.

Paddock Days are a key component of Longreach Baptist Church's Outback Connect program
Paddock Days are a key component of Longreach Baptist Church’s Outback Connect program.

“We had experts presenting around nutrition, business and community and all of them focused on what it means to be resilient. It deepened people’s perspectives. I could see what we were doing impacting on people so the next time a difficult challenge like drought happens they will be better prepared.”

Over $350,000 was allocated to 14 Queensland Baptist churches through the inaugural Carinity Collaborative Community Projects.

Funded outreach programs help promote connectivity for vulnerable people, relieve and mitigate disadvantage, and increase the strength of local neighbourhoods.

The grants scheme builds on the positive outcomes of the Carinity Innovation Grants, which saw 92 churches deliver 137 community projects over the 14 years to 2019.


Read more stories from Belong: Spring 2022 | Edition 27

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