Building communities through a simple "G'day"

“That’s what kicked off the organisation – one or two people going around properties, knocking on the door and just saying hello. Since then it’s grown, and so have our services - but that’s what we’re about at a base level.”

Sometimes, a meaningful conversation is all it takes to make a profound difference in the life of another.

This idea forms the basis of Rural Alive and Well (RAW): a not-for-profit organisation that aims to build healthy communities and support individuals facing challenging life experiences in rural areas.

Northern Outreach team leader Tony Barker said the program provides many individuals with a chance to have a simple and open conversation with a friendly stranger which is an opportunity they may not otherwise come across.

“Sometimes a simple conversation can be very beneficial," he said. "Many people feel isolated where they work and don’t have a lot of social contact besides close family. We’ve also got the networks to then refer people onto a GP, provide help accessing Centrelink, or other related services if necessary. That’s what we do.”

Mr Barker said that farmers face many challenges and the decline in  community engagement only adds to the problem.

“If you think back a generation or two, there were a lot more activities going on in local areas,” he said. “Back in the day, country areas would have a local community centering around a hall or a church group – that would be the real hub of the community.”

“I suppose these days people tend to go further afield, and there’s a larger variety of things going on. So maybe there’s not that same close-knit sense of community.”

The organisation was founded in 2009, but was initially borne out of an apparent need for mental health and suicide-prevention services following severe drought in 2006. 

“It first started off in the Central Highlands and Southern Midlands at a time when Tassie was going through a pretty severe drought. At that time, it was noticed that men were doing it hard with limited access to services for a range of reasons.”

“That’s what kicked off the organisation – one or two people going around properties, knocking on the door and just saying hello. Since then it’s grown and so have our services, but that’s what we’re about at a base level.”

“We are branded as 'Talk to a Mate', so that is really what we are about. We’re just there as someone to talk to who can get a foot in the door.”

The organisation promotes thriving and inclusive communities as the ones that produce the most productive and healthy lives through their Healthy and Resilient Communities (HArC) project.

RAW also offers a number of free and confidential services through Outreach: a program provides support to those who are facing challenges, either over the phone or in-person.

RAW has ten outreach workers – between them they cover all rural areas throughout the state to ensure an equal provision of services to those who are doing it tough.

You can find out more about RAW at http://www.rawtas.com.au/ or by visiting their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/raw.tas/