Guest Blog – Marie Kelly

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.

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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.

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The Golden Thread

The State Executive Committee held their quarterly meeting last week, the first at our new State Office in Mascot.

The week was not all business though and Tuesday evening saw us hosting the Official Opening of 244 Coward Street, which was graciously performed by our joint Patrons, His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d) and Mrs Linda Hurley.

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In my welcome address I gave a brief overview of the history of the task set by members to bring us to this point, as well as providing a brief summary of three projects we are supporting this year.

The journey had been a long and at times uncertain one since 2007 and it has taken until now for the Executive Committee to have the confidence to again substantially invest in and support projects that will directly benefit our communities.

Those projects are:

  1. The Salvation Army alcohol and other drugs (AOD) pilot program which will provide a weekly service to key geographical locations in north west NSW and offer assessment, intervention and education support services to people who are experiencing problems related to their own or another’s AOD use, including families and carers. The pilot will run for two years and is scheduled to commence in the very near future.
  1. A partnership with Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia (R&DVSA) which will see R&DVSA run training sessions in rural and remote areas for those who, in the course of their day, may be asked to assist a victim of sexual assault or family violence. The forums will be rolled out to rural and regional areas in the coming months with the first one being held in Forbes on 1st
  1. Last, but not least, the construction and fit-out of a complete pod, consisting of 14 rooms, at Macquarie Homestay in Dubbo, which will be a patient and family accommodation facility for those who need to use the services of Dubbo Hospital and will benefit people from over one third of the state.

Almost three quarters of a million dollars will be injected into these programs to assist rural, remote and regional communities across NSW.

I also took the opportunity to relate a tale, the substance of which was confirmed by two of our guests a little earlier in the evening and was in regard to the colour of the new Mascot premises during dusk, from the corner of Bourke St and Church Avenue. When viewed from this vantage point, as the sun is setting, the building takes on a beautiful golden hue.

This story must have struck a chord with His Excellency because he elected to not read his prepared speech, instead preferring to elaborate on his thoughts that the colour of the building reflects the ethos of the Association and his belief that the members of CWA are the gold thread that binds communities together. The Governor spoke unreservedly about his and Mrs Hurley’s interaction to date with members of our organisation and was particularly generous in his praise for the work we do to ensure the Aims of CWA are fulfilled and commented that the three initiatives mentioned were perfect examples of that effort.

The whole evening seemed to have a very happy “vibe” to it which hopefully means; not only are we good hosts, but that positive Karma exists within the walls from the mix of history, function and current trends.

Special thanks to Jackie and Donna for their event organising skills. Perhaps a job for you Donna, in retirement …?

On a seemingly unrelated matter, but one that has some relevance to the closing comments in my address, I have just had a conversation with a Telstra employee and when asked if I was happy with the service provided I could not resist the temptation of the opportunity provided to pass comment about our access (or lack of it in the bush) to comparable products, especially in regard to internet services. My final remarks on Tuesday night were about my response to journalists who often query whether CWA is still relevant in today’s world. My reply is usually along the lines of, “whilst ever there are inequities in the provision of services in rural NSW, then there is still a place for CWA”.

Would you agree?

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Ruth Shanks, Dorothy Coombe, Linda Hurley with Tanya