We are delighted to announce that we will provide 10 years of funding and on-ground support to the Kangaroo Island community to work long-term on mental health in the wake of the bushfire disaster.

This funding will be provided as part of an expansion of our multi-million dollar Our Town initiative, which was launched last year with the aim of funding two South Australian towns or regions for a decade.

Our Fay Fuller Foundation chair David Minns says: ‘We were already working with Kangaroo Island as part of the Our Town Initiative. Given recent tragic events, our foundation has decided to expand how many communities this initiative will support and make the decision now to provide one of those places to the island.’

Walking alongside this community to help build and design approaches to mental health will be The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI), Clear Horizon Consulting and the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR). Across 10 years this will be a collaborative approach where each organisation will play a pivotal role in partnering with communities to surface the valuable lived experience and local knowledge to guide this emergent process.

‘We didn’t want the application process for the Our Town Initiative to be an additional stress at this point in time; we wanted to ensure they could focus on their short term needs, knowing they could engage with the initiative when they were ready to look towards long term mental health challenges the community may face’ David explains.

Darren Keenan is part of the wonderful team that we will be working with on Kangaroo Island as Our Town unfolds.

‘Being advised of the Our Town funding by the Fay Fuller Foundation for mental health support, could not have come at a more important time for Kangaroo Island,’ Darren says.

‘With bushfires still burning, much devastation and everyone in our communities affected, the support of this program will help to build the capacity of our community to support ourselves, to strengthen our resilience and to ensure our ongoing wellbeing, long after the fires are put out and the spotlight moves away from Kangaroo Island.’

The towns of Kimba, Berri, Ceduna, Cummins along with a cluster of communities in the Mid Murray region are other communities that have been shortlisted for the remaining two 10-year funding allocations. In 2020 these communities will receive seed funding and support to develop long-term plans to build mental health capability.

Our Town differs from other mental health initiatives as it is not about putting additional services in place or recruiting new mental health professionals. The initiative seeks to fund and empower rural and regional communities to build sustainable internal capability to meet the mental health challenges their communities face.

The funding will complement the Federal Government’s $76M for mental health in bushfire affected areas announced last weekend, which will focus more on service provision such as counselling.

The communities who applied to us identified challenges they wished to address including reducing the stigma around mental health, bringing community members together – especially those who were more isolated and upskilling locals as mental health first responders.

We’re looking at partnering with communities in a very sustainable way to find solutions that will have a legacy far beyond our program.