In early 2020 the Macdonald Valley Association received a grant from Wentworth Healthcare Ltd for a Well-Being grant. The grant aimed at promoting mental health and well-being by encouraging socialisation, reducing stress and increasing access to health services for residents of the Macdonald Valley.  After several months delay because of COVID-19 restrictions the project commenced in September 2020. The first stage of the project was a survey to help identify some of the issues that were concerning residents and to get a better understanding of well-being parameters and social connectedness within the community. Results of this exercise were not only expected to raise awareness of the particular aspects of well-being, but also helped to guide the project’s focus and advocacy for any interventions that were required, eg. access to aged care services, counselling services, practical home help.

One hundred and seven residents responded to survey. The survey results highlighted several areas where people wanted information and support; physical and practical home support; mental health support; opportunities for connection to others in the valley. The data from survey proved to be useful for those preparing for grants and submissions and the report has been cited by Councillors and used in a presentation to a recent Royal Commission.

From February 2021, the Project team developed plans for sessions covering a range of topics.  These sessions were designed to inform and connect people in the community. For many of these sessions we engaged local residents with skills in the particular area to conduct the workshops.

These sessions included:

  • Regular Exercise classes (Tai Chi, Low Impact, Strength)
  • Gardening sessions, including a visit to Hawkesbury Council nursery
  • Wildlife sessions (including WIRES Course, Backyard Poultry)
  • Pasture and weed identification sessions
  • Mental health support sessions (Blokes of Tomorrow, Mindfulness training, Accidental Counsellor)
  • Aged care support sessions
  • Preparation for the fire season

Between February and June 2021, there were 9 face to face sessions held, with 131 people attending (excluding the weekly exercise classes).  From mid June to November 2021 activities were curtailed due to further COVID stay-at-home restrictions. The Project transitioned to online for exercise classes and training opportunities in gardening and wildlife care. Four people completed online gardening courses and 15 completed WIRES 101 training. The weekly exercise classes – Low Impact and Tai Chi commenced in February and up to 10 people attended each session. These remained popular when they were transferred online and included people from outside of the area. An additional exercise class for strength training was added online in September 2021.

Other activities undertaken by the team prior to June included liaison with Uniting Care and Meals on Wheels, Northwest Medical Service to support better home care and aged care services in the Valley.  Uniting Care and Meals on Wheels are now more active in providing home care services within the Valley.

During November/December 2021 when some of the COVID restrictions were lifted, we were able to hold face to face exercise classes in the Hall and 2 workshops on Pasture and Weed Management with good attendance. However, restrictions again were applied in late December 2021 and January 2022 limiting our ability to conduct face to face sessions. This period was followed by a major flooding event and telecommunication problems in the Valley. Many of the planned activities were unable to proceed and once again we lost momentum with project activities.

Since March 2022 the Project has supported weekly Low Impact exercise classes and is making preparations for the seniors fishing trips. The first two trips are scheduled for 27 May and 24 June.  The Project is also supporting Valley for Wildlife activities over the next couple of months. The Project will continue through to end of December 2022.