Knowing your neighbour, knowing where to turn for help, knowing how to talk to a mate about how they’re faring, and confidently volunteering for things that are important to your community…..this is the stuff that keeps communities connected.
When the Agency talked to people about what helped them start the long recovery from the 2019 North Queensland flood event they said the way their neighbours, friends, businesses, council and local services just got on with doing whatever needed to be done made a huge difference.
The tremendous community pride was obvious as we worked with communities on After the flood: A strategy for long term recovery, which is why “Fostering connected and cohesive communities” is one of its five strategic priorities.
Being part of a connected community with a sense of belonging and emotional wellbeing leads to improved physical and mental health, improved social and economic recovery, and helps halt population decline.
The strategy outlines several steps people said they wanted taken to keep their communities connected and cohesive:
- Health services working together to make sure people have what they need, where and when they need it.
- Reducing the stigma around mental health so people are comfortable seeking support as early as possible.
- Specific support for children’s health and wellbeing
- Facilities and events that bring individuals, families and communities together
- Growing people’s leadership skills and supporting volunteers
- Harnessing people’s experiences from the flood event and other past natural disasters and challenges to create a disaster management centre of excellence that helps people prepare for, manage and recover from an event
- Broadening locally-based educational opportunities
What this might look like
The Australian Government allocated $58 million to kick-start the strategy’s implementation. Much of this will go towards locally-developed measures and services that support community connection and resilience. There’ll be more information soon.
There are many examples from both within and outside the regions that show what a ‘connected and cohesive’ community looks like.
The RFDS with funding from the Australian and Queensland Governments is helping people to better connect with others, feel confident to start a conversation about mental health with family, friends and colleagues, and encourage people to speak to their GP if they’re not doing so well.
The North-West Queensland towns of Cloncurry and Winton have been through drought, flood and COVID-19, so community events have been critical. Residents agree that the events they’ve held since the flood have made a huge difference, and that a continued focus on community cohesion is vital for ongoing recovery.
The HEAD YAKKA mental health and wellness program, an initiative of Outback Futures, Barcaldine Regional Council and University of Southern Queensland, is a great example of a program that’s created with the community. The area’s been dealing with a long and difficult drought, on top of the added stresses of living in a remote part of Queensland, raising families and managing businesses.