It is so hard to believe that I am writing to you for the first time this year and it is already the end of February. There has been such pain and struggle in the opening to 2019 for so many of our communities, whether it be dealing with the reality of ongoing drought or experiencing drought broken by devastation.
Thank you so much to those of you who have supported us to begin the process of walking with these flood affected families and for those of you who keep asking how can you help - I say please don't forget. As the initial time of visible crisis wears off, and media coverage slows down, the daily pain continues for the Outback. It is so easy for us in the city to go back to life, with new stories in the paper and on TV, fairly quickly forgetting the enormity of what has taken place. This is the sort of loss where each time it feels like the end must surely be drawing near, another disaster strikes and we discover new lows. Months and years of adjustment, attempting to find a new normal and some sense of hope, are ahead for many of our families. At the same time, we don’t want to forget those who are still waiting for rain, grieving for the overwhelming loss of their neighbouring shires, but still feeling the dust and dryness of their own reality and all that means for them.
So please stay with us in this, even when it becomes invisible to those of us in urban areas.
We are so looking forward to staying in touch with you as we do life with our rural and remote communities this year. Stay tuned for all that is ahead.
Tim Shaw (Royal Flying Doctor Service) and Sandy Shaw (West Queensland Primary Health Network) with Outback Futures CEO Selena Gomersall.
West Queensland Flood Response
On Tuesday 12 February the Outback Futures team responded to a call for help, and travelled to Winton to connect with the community in the wake of the devastating flooding. The primary aim of this trip was to position ourselves to respond to immediate requests for debriefing and counselling support, to equip the local community to understand what might be happening for different groups within the community and to listen to what they felt might be needed in the weeks and months ahead. A major focus for our school engagements was around the levels of anxiety and stress experienced by their students and how schools can best support their students and their families during these incredibly challenging periods.
Over the two days in Winton, our team was able to support the Winton community by providing:
15 individual counselling sessions and connecting many of these clients with ongoing support
2 school staff debriefing and support sessions at St Patrick’s School and Winton State School
1 council/staff member debrief and information session for 20 people
17 informal disaster related conversations with community members
2 interviewswith ABC Rural and Queensland Country Life, advocating for the situation in Winton and offering some insights into what people could expect emotionally in the upcoming months, particularly for children.
Throughout these engagements, it was reinforced that there are many levels and phases of critical concern to be addressed in times of crisis. There is this initial time of shock and trauma, often known as the safety and stabilisation phase where many families and individuals are still struggling to manage the practical aspects of the crisis. Whether this is finding safe accomodation, sufficient food supplies or support for the clean-up process on their properties. Our team also encountered many experiencing a real sense of helplessness around how to support their friends and neighbours and how to keep the community afloat, especially on the back of past traumas, loss and natural disaster experienced by these communities in recent years. The grief and recovery phase is going to be long and will require consistencyand longevity in clinical support. We are with Winton and the West Queensland region for the long haul. If you would like to show your support for our partner communities, please consider making a donationtowards our ongoing clinical support for the children and families of Winton.
Often the toughest period comes in the next phase of this sort of crisis or trauma. As the practical challenges of the flooding are addressed, the real grief and sense of mourning will begin. We have assembled a specialist team to return to Winton for face-to-face Resilience Clinic this week, including a number of counsellors and psychologists. We also plan to continue to offer community debriefing during our time in community, offering a safe space for people who might not be accessing our support services directly, to connect with us and understand the support avenues available to them. After the Resilience Clinic, our team will continue to provide remote telehealth support to the children and families requiring ongoing support.
2019 kickoff in Barcaldine and surrounding communities
Last week marked our official kickoff for Resilience Clinics in 2019 with a team of 15 travelling to Barcaldine, Muttaburra, Aramac, Alpha and Jericho. The team of Counsellors, Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Pathologists, Clinic Coordinators and our Stay With Me Specialist were fully booked for the entire week in community. Support from our partners on the ground continues to make our work possible. A big thank you goes to the Barcaldine Regional Council, George Bourne & Associates and all our local schools, child care centres, sporting clubs and community groups who continue to advocate for our support and welcome us so warmly in to your communities.
Our ever growing Outback Futures team of 33 came together on the first weekend of February for our 2019 retreat. Kindly hosted by Trinity Theological College in Auchenflower, we spent the two days revisiting our core organisational values, exploring the strategic direction of the organisation and exciting new partnerships on the horizon for 2019, and hearing from key people involved in our organisation including our Chairperson, Peter Whip and CEO Selena Gomersall.
As our footprint grows and we explore partnerships with new remote communities, we recognised the need to prioritise cross-cultural training. We took the opportunity to explore this in depth during the staff retreat. The half-day session was facilitated by Billy Williams, who encouraged us to explore our own cultural backgrounds and how this affects the way in which we engage with the people and situations around us. Our team spent time deconstructing our own perspectives and trying to understand how we can best position ourselves to provide culturally-appropriate support to our partner communities.
This session was invaluable for our team on so many levels and we would like to thank Billy once again for his honesty, warmth and challenge throughout his engagement with our team.
At the end of the two-day retreat, there was an air of excitement around the year ahead and what it will bring. Thank you to our wonderful, passionate and dedicated team for all you do for our partner communities.
Introducing new team member Peter Trask
Peter became registered as a psychologist in 2007, after completing a Masters degree in Applied Psychology. Prior to that, Peter had worked in the IT industry in Melbourne and wider Victoria for many years. Peter has significant experience in working creatively with communities and engaging with them around their growth and development. More recently, Peter moved with his wife and youngest son to the Sunshine Coast in mid-2018, and restarted his career in Qld. He is now very pleased to be working with the Outback Futures team as a Community Engagement Psychologist. Peter is looking forward to the potential of this strategic mental health and leadership work in the communities in which we are now located. He is passionate about his work and supporting and educating individuals, groups and organisations about the multitude of benefits of enhanced mental health.
We continue to rely on the generosity of people like you to advance our efforts to renew hope, build resilience and strengthen community in rural and remote Queensland. Please consider making a donation to supporting our Outback Families.