19 August 2021

It's a bright sunny, clear day and 9 women stand facing a glistening body of water, holding hands which are raised above their heads in joy

Parents and carers of both children and adults with disability in Hervey Bay, Queensland are being given support to help better manage their mental and emotional health.

The ‘Get your happy on’ project is a series of six weekly half day evidence-based workshops for care givers of children with disability.

The workshop ran from May through to July 2021 in Hervey Bay, located on the stunning Queensland coast, about three hours north of Brisbane.

As a series, the sessions were designed to teach self-care tools and resilience strategies, develop informal peer networks, and improve confidence to participate in the community.

This initiative is thanks to a collaboration between Special Needs Fraser Coast, Every Level Wellness, Fraser Coast Disability Services and APM Communities.

It was generously funded by the Australia Post 2020 Community Grants Program and Wellways Carer Gateway.

An over-the-shoulder-shot of a woman at a craft table, working on colouring a rainbow on a smooth stone. The table is scattered with art supplies around her.

The need for more support was identified through two large local surveys that looked at the main barriers preventing parents or carers of children with disability from connecting with community.

The two key issues highlighted were overwhelming anxiety and childcare. Women account for the largest proportion of carers, so 10 places in the workshop were given to women.

All participants were screened for their suitability. If any of the participants identified barriers to participating in the workshop, funded childcare and respite were arranged to support them.

The course was facilitated by certified Integrative Health Coach, Kimberley Robyn from Every Level Wellness.

“Family stress is one of the most dangerous types of stress – it is chronic and it’s toxic. It’s relentless and it’s constant.”

“Throughout the workshops you learn self-care strategies and stress-management techniques and actually practice them."

The program is now being looked at for funding carers across the region and creating similar workshops specifically targeting men, families and siblings.

After just one run of the workshop there is already a keen community of people signed up to hear about future programs.

Fraser Coast APM Local Area Coordinator, Sarah Reed who was part of the team that initiated the program believes the project was successful in meeting the objectives to reduce stress and anxiety for carers, making for happier homes and less potential for burnout.

“The project was definitely a success” she said.

“Participants learnt some very good, practical strategies to manage and reduce stress and anxiety. They met new friends which in turn, increased their support network.”

And it’s not just the carers who benefit from these workshops.

“The mindfulness techniques that the caregivers learnt have been used in their own homes with their children. The flow-on effect is endless” Sarah said.

These techniques gave participants the opportunity to move forward in a positive direction.

“The Get your Happy on course is life changing. From our weekly group sessions, to retreat, I felt supported and heard” said workshop participant Louise.

“It was a beautiful, non-judgemental space and I walked away at the end not only feeling mentally and emotionally strong but like I had found my village.”

As part of the NDIS Partners in the Community program, APM Communities help people with disability in several regions in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory to access support.

It's a bright sunny, clear day and 9 women stand facing a glistening body of water, embracing by wrapping arms around each others' waists


Natalie Woodbridge

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