Early on Sunday, 25 June 2023, I set off another round of Building Resilience workshops for people living in Western NSW. After collecting a great hybrid vehicle for the journey, I then headed for Sydney where I picked up the ever-delightful Kate Szymanski. She accompanied me for the week as support person, trainee facilitator and great all-round companion.
First stop: Cobar
After a pit stop in Orange, we had a mammoth – and thankfully uneventful – drive out to Cobar where we arrived just after dusk. As we left the confines of the city, we were amazed by the beauty of the wide plains dotted with tea tree scrub, the immense skies and the richness of the red earth. With plenty of goats, roos and the odd emu flanking the roadside, we were relieved to reach Cobar just before a glorious hot pink sunset enfolded us into the darkness of night.
Cobar is a quintessential country town with wide streets, old fashioned shops and long lazy footpaths. Next morning, it did not take us long to work out that the best coffee could be located by gravitating to where the locals and their dusty utes were gathered!
Every session was valuable and informative and it’s about learning great techniques for me. I know if I include at least one part of the training I will achieve my goal. I just need to listen to my body and take care of me.– Patricia, Cobar
Our first workshop was in the Cobar Bowling Club (‘the Bolow’) with a lovely group of people. Some attendees were local to Cobar and some were from neighbouring Bourke. Big thanks to Gaby Shultz and her colleagues from RAMHP – Rural Adversity Mental Health Program, for supporting these workshops and attending (and took the photo for us).
A few of our participants worked in local NGOs and spoke of the drug and alcohol issues facing youth. An Aboriginal elder spoke of the difficulties accessing resources for mental health in the bush, which is an ongoing and serious problem for many in the community.
Through the years, Cobar has been a gold mining community, which has kept the town alive through tough times. However, it doesn’t have a river, so the community relies on water from neighbouring towns – making the prospect of drought even more anxiety-provoking than for people in nearby towns that have better water supplies.
We left the lovely people of Cobar with a promise to return and to provide support where we can after meeting some incredible people doing fantastic work.
Learning about rural hardship in Nyngan
The next day found us in Nyngan (pronounced ‘Ning-Gan’) at the RSL & Civic Club, a pretty little town full of heritage buildings and surrounded by grazing land. It’s populated by both pastoral families and ‘townies’ who make up a vibrant community of dedicated, compassionate people.
We met with another group of wonderful and appreciative residents hoping to learn something that could add value to their lives. We met a vibrant, engaged and caring group of inspiring people.
Plenty of great ideas that I can put into practice for myself and my childen.– Dee, Nyngan
Here’s Kate presenting the second 2Cs in our charming course room for the day (see photo, below left)!
In Nyngan we met people from all parts of the community, from retired folk and community support people to those living on the land and doing it tough financially. Some people have to weigh up the cost of buying food against the cost of driving into town for social contact, which is a real and present challenge they contend with every day.
There were stories of tragic loss, financial hardship, people being diagnosed with cancer and the financial and geographical challenges associated with having to drive long distances for medical treatment. We also heard more about the mental health crisis facing people from the bush and the devastating lack of support during times of crisis.
The challenges in Dubbo
As we left Nyngan and headed towards our next workshop in Dubbo, we were greeted by gentle rain falling along the way. Here’s a pic of the red earth that turned into red mud as we approached Dubbo!
We passed many hundreds of what we later learned were feral goats, a couple of errant emus, copious rabbits, incredible flocks of birds and beautiful wild kangaroos travelling elegantly across the land.
The goats were obviously thriving, as they grazed by the side of the road in the ‘long paddock’ which was rich in grass and delicious tufts. Goats can be a problem for pastoralists, who need to cull them occasionally to protect the land from too much degradation.
The following day, Dubbo (or ‘DubVegas’ as the locals have coined it) welcomed us with open arms and warm hearts. We had a very sizable room in the Dubbo RSL, where we had visited exactly one year prior in June 2022.
A large group attended, many of whom knew the work of Quest and some who have attended our programs in Bundanoon. One kind gentleman even donated money to support our work. How lovely is that?
I found everything valuable and will be spreading to friends and family word of these opportunities! I found identifiers and tools most helpful.– Sally, Dubbo
Here’s a pic of only half of our huge spread-out room (see photo, below left)!
People told us yet again about mental health issues, the drug crisis and accompanying soaring crime rates the town is experiencing with not enough mental health support available. The resultant issues of homelessness, poverty and crime have been hard to tackle but people remain optimistic. An outlook of hope prevails, despite the serious challenges the town is experiencing.
Eugowra: a community that pulled together
As we headed towards Forbes, for our final workshop in Eugowra, the rain cleared, and we were once again gifted with sunshine and a magnificent landscape with a big blue sky and rolling green pastures.
With an overnight stay in Forbes, due to the lack of accommodation in Eugowra, we headed off early for our last workshop, which was held at the Eugowra Bowling Club, the only venue available since floods destroyed so much of the town in late 2022.
Our group was comprised of locals who had suffered due to the floods and people from neighbouring towns like Trundle, who wanted to take advantage of the opportunity we provided. We heard from community health workers who have been overwhelmed with high demand and the trauma of people like young parents who had to watch their baby being winched to safety from the roof of their home.
Our participants spoke of a loving community that had “pulled together” to rebuild and distribute funds equitably to support both people who had “lost everything” and those struggling to rebuild.
All was excellent – the world should experience this workshop!!– Helen, Eugowra
One beautiful story was about the food van in town. It received funding to distribute free meals for many weeks as the water subsided. The food van was the only place to get food in the early stages of recovery. With a bright yellow bicycle outside the van, signalling optimism and hope, it remains the only place to get coffee and food until their sister cafe reopens again soon.
With so many homes lost and unrecoverable, pods have been erected for people whose homes are not habitable. Many people are struggling to process the trauma and grief caused by the onslaught of an unexpected natural disaster such as this.
Here are some of the folk who joined us in Eugowra including Kylie Jeffery from RAMHP (in the beige coat) who is working with her colleagues to support people in the community as they recover.
Feeling grateful and inspired whilst holding stories of hope and struggle, Kate and I made the trek home travelling through the more verdant landscapes accompanied by flocks of cockatoos and amazing cloud formations.
From the evaluations collected at each of the workshops, we are confident that Quest for Life has made a useful impact on the lives of those who attended and we trust that some people will make their way to Bundanoon for longer stays in future. With happy hearts, we travelled back to the coast knowing that we will be back to visit our bush friends again soon.
Until our next trip to the bush…
Help those in need in regional areas
As a charity, we rely on income from donations from people like you to subsidise the cost of attendance at our residential programs and to facilitate our free community outreach workshops in regional communities.
By donating to Quest, you’re helping other people grow through their biggest challenges. This, in turn, ripples out to create a more compassionate society that supports and encourages each of its members.
Your donation will help people on limited incomes or people in need of respite after a natural disaster by helping to cover the cost of their attendance at one of our programs. Donations will also be used to deliver more community workshops in regional areas for those who can’t travel to Bundanoon.
Thank you for your consideration and support.
CEO and Founder
Quest for Life Foundation
Upcoming residential program dates
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Generous subsidies available
Generous subsidies are available to assist people to attend Quest’s residential programs for a wide range of circumstances, thanks to generous donations from the community.
For a confidential chat, please call our Programs Team on (+61) 1300 941 488.