Every few months, facilitators from Quest journey to rural and regional areas affected by trauma or natural disaster to provide empowering, practical one-day workshops to people living in these communities. Participants learn ways to strengthen their resilience through practical tools, strategies and skills.
Quest’s “Your Life Matters” workshops are possible due to generous grant funding that supports communities living with challenging circumstances. This is an account of how the week went from facilitator Margie Braunstein…
On the road again
Bright and early on Sunday, 12 November, Kate Szymanski and I took to the road in the marvellous and brand-new Quest vehicle to deliver another week of “Your Life Matters” workshops to people in north-western NSW.
Our first leg was Sydney to Moree. As we left the city and headed further north, we marvelled at the landscape around us. Big blue skies, along with grain silos and errant cows, reminded us that we were not in Bundanoon anymore!
First stop: Moree
We reached Moree in the early evening and were greeted with a blast of 38-degree heat and overly friendly flies. With drought currently being declared in many regions across NSW, we were instantly reminded of the challenges faced by the people we were about to meet.
We had a small, but wonderful, group of people in Moree with several members of the newly formed Moree Aboriginal Legal Service attending, as well as locals such as Sonny, pictured below, who is a self-confessed ‘bush man’ born and bred in Moree. What a fantastic character and advocate for mental health in the bush!
After a heart-warming day with special people like Sonny, we got on the road for the trip to Gunnedah with a few unexpected traffic delays along the way.
Tuesday found us in the Gunnedah Bicentennial Arts Centre as guests of Gunnedah Shire Council. Twenty-four wonderful local women showed up. They were a vibrant and engaged group who told us about the challenges faced by their community.
We started each day with a whiteboard exercise, where we asked people to name challenges that could be either personal or community issues. These were written on a whiteboard and gave people a sense of validation and mutual understanding (see photo below).
Just some of the challenges our participants listed across all four locations on this trip were: floods, Covid, natural disasters, lack of resources, drugs/crime, divorce, exhaustion, mental health problems, and the list goes on…
“Each session was fantastic – I’ll take home this knowledge to enhance my life!”– Joanne, Gunnedah
Many of the towns that we visited and drove through have clearly suffered since the Covid lockdowns. Their quintessential wide streets are lined with empty shops, ‘for lease’ signs and boarded up windows, giving them a ghost town effect. However, Gunnedah was surprisingly vibrant and bustling. Locals told us that this is largely due to mining, rather than farming, as it keeps the money flowing in.
While many serious subjects were discussed on the day, the wonderful women of Gunnedah insisted on a having a bit of fun, too! They truly are resilient women on a mission to stay well.
Wherever we went, there were people attending from a wide variety of community groups alongside local residents. Some of the groups represented this time were:
- Gunnedah Shire Council staff
- Local business owners
- RAMHP coordinators (Rural Adversity Mental Health Program)
- Farmgate peer support workers
- Aboriginal Legal Service Moree staff
After a great day in Gunnedah, we headed off to Tamworth and the ultra-modern UNE Study Centre. There we met yet another group of enthusiastic folk, some of whom have attended Quest for Life residential programs in the past. Kate did a beautiful job setting up the bookshop at every location and people were so grateful for the resources.
We met some wonderful people like Margaret, pictured below, who is an active senior in the community and who loves life and cooking for others and is keen to contribute to the mental health initiatives in Tamworth. She is a regular competitive master cake baker at the Royal Sydney Easter Show. What a legend!
“Presentation style was excellent, professional, engaging and relevant. So glad I came today and so grateful for Quest and the sponsors who make rural workshops possible.”– Marlene, Tamworth
Petrea’s ‘4 Cs’ are the foundation to each of our workshops. It’s clear from the feedback that the concepts and practices shared are tools that people will use in their lives to improve relationships, face ongoing challenges, and find peace amongst the chaos and uncertainty of rural life.
Weary but with a little more left in the tank, we headed off to our final destination, Singleton. This town has been hit hard with a recent horrific bus crash and has now been drought-declared for the first time in decades.
Participants told us that the Hunter Valley is not usually hit as hard as other places, but they are really feeling the drought this time around, making it hard for farmers to thrive. This affects everyone in their community.
“Wonderful day – Margie and Kate were great presenters.”– Sheryl, Singleton
Local RAMHP coordinator, Matthew Milne, dropped in to say hello and offer resources to the group, along with peer support worker, Pam, from Farmgate, which is an initiative established during Covid that has been granted ongoing funding to serve people in the bush.
Long-time locals, like Stephen, demonstrated a sense of resilience and a strong show of care for their community. Pam from Farmgate is an angel on earth, delivering care and compassion in her role as a peer support worker.
Kate and I returned home on Thursday night feeling confident that we will meet many of these people on programs in Bundanoon in coming months. We gathered a large pile of wonderful evaluation forms from our lovely participants who were all singing the praises of Quest! There was so much gratitude for the effort made by Quest in bringing Petrea’s ‘recipe for peace’, and the much-needed mental health strategies it provides, to the bush.
We both felt so grateful for our time with so many fantastic people.
Until next time! Margie
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
Browse our Events Schedule for specific program information and dates.
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.