Guest Blog – Marie Kelly
Thanks Annette for inviting me to Blog – it is my first time!
I have been living in the Far West NSW for 25 years, moving here as part of my nursing career. Originally from rural South Australia, settling into this region was really easy. Most of my time in that 25 years was spent at Menindee, but I have worked, relieved, or socialised in all communities in the area.
I have been a CWA Ivanhoe branch member for eight years, the last two as the Secretary. The friendships gained through CWA have been great. Our monthly meetings have a social aspect, and we have fun when catering and participating in community events. Attending Group meetings and State Conferences’ involves travel time, and we make that fun too.
In January 2015, I was appointed as the Rural Adversity Mental Health (RAMHP) Coordinator for the Far West Local Health District. I am one of 14 people in this role working across rural NSW. After being appointed to this position, I moved to Ivanhoe where my partner of 10 years, Wayne, lives.
The RAMHP program is about raising awareness about mental health issues and connecting people to appropriate services. We do this through our training programs, providing information and resources and building partnerships with organisations and individuals. I provide workshops, attend events, and network with people.
This role requires me to be away from home three or four nights a week, and driving anything from 600 to 2,000 km a week. Music and podcasts help me on these long trips. Wayne works away from home too, so both of us lead fulfilling lives.
I am fearful and cautious of long distance dirt road driving. A milk crate containing water, baked beans, instant soup, toilet paper, hat, beanie, matches and glow sticks, dusters, rain coat, blanket, poly tarp, high vis shirt, pocket knife and insect repellent sits next to the second spare tyre. I also have a trolley jack, impact gun and jump start/compressor kit. A few other little tools and gadgets are wedged between these things and all my mental health resources. Most of these things have been used at some stage.
A couple of the challenges are changing tyres when the temperature is over 40 degrees and having to ‘go the long way round’ by bitumen roads when the dirt roads are closed after rain. For example, the 210 km trip to Menindee can become a 910 km trip via Hay, Wentworth and Broken Hill. Of course sometimes it starts to rain when I am halfway through a trip or an isolated storm has fallen in the middle of a route and then the fun begins. Driving in mud is not one of my favourite past times. My biggest challenge is a lack of phone and internet service in much of the area I travel.
The role in RAMHP is very rewarding and I like to think this work is making a difference to the lives of some people living in the Far West. I certainly have become more aware of looking after my own mental health and make sure I do something each day to stay mentally healthy.