The Grit and Resilience program is a community‑led approach, delivered by local community members in partnership with the Rural City of Wangaratta, in north‑east Victoria. It aims to drive positive mental health and wellbeing in the area by supporting the local community to unite, build strength, overcome hardship, and develop courage and a connection with each other.
Ms Jaime Chubb, Director of Community Wellbeing at the Rural City of Wangaratta, said the community was the driving force behind establishing the program, in recognition of several factors posing risks to community mental health and wellbeing in the area, including youth self‑harm and suicide, the effects of devastating droughts and bushfires on people’s mental health, and youth disengagement from education.
There was a significant level of fear, confusion and uncertainty across the board—essentially, our community told us we need the tools to be able to do this for ourselves, we don’t want more services, we don’t want someone to come in and ‘fix’ it. We want to be able to look after ourselves and we want to be able to have conversations.
Ms Bek Nash‑Webster, Coordinator of the Grit and Resilience program, said the first step in establishing the program was engaging a broad range of community members to contribute to the design of the program. The priority activities the community identified were building social connection in the community, creating inclusive spaces, and supporting those bereaved by suicide.
The program is now in its second year, with almost 200 people engaged in volunteer community capacity‑building activities. Representatives from the Rural City of Wangaratta, Victoria Police, the Department of Health, Albury Wodonga Health, Murray Primary Health Network, Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service, Gateway Health and headspace Albury Wodonga provide support, guidance and insights to the community partners.
Ms Nash‑Webster said a flexible funding model with community‑led decision making was key in supporting the initiatives delivered under the program.
The groups have funding for whatever activities they want to do, and while we have a project logic that helps groups to map out the project and determine what they hope to see in 12 months’ time, the activities they decide to do within the community is completely up to the community group that will be designing and delivering it.
Ms Chubb noted that one example of a practical community‑driven activity supported by Grit and Resilience was an idea to help young girls stay connected with sporting activities by providing gym memberships for students to help keep them active.
We did a large youth survey and one outcome was that young girls were disengaging from sporting clubs. The high schools came to us and said, ‘Can we come up with something so that we can keep them engaged and keep them active, because we know if we can get them through those last few years of high school, if they’re still playing sport, their outcomes for mental health will be so much better?’.
Ms Nash‑Webster said as the program had evolved, it allowed the community to be better placed to work together and support each other during times of adversity.
Grit and Resilience has grown legs well beyond its beginnings. The bushfires were evidence of that—it was a demonstration of how quickly this project had embedded itself in our community. We had consortium members at the relief centre providing support, and people saw that this isn’t just about delivering a service, it is about a community protecting themselves from what would be quite a traumatic event and the impacts of it.
Source: RCVMHS meeting with Rural City of Wangaratta, 15 October 2020.