Mental and health wellbeing support organisation, headspace, will expand its current programs and increase its workforce in Lithgow, thanks to a $726,746 grant awarded to Marathon Health in the latest round of the Australian Government’s Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Grants program.
Member for Calare and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel, Andrew Gee, said the nearly three-quarters of a million dollars will allow headspace to establish The Lithgow Family Support Program, and employ a specialist Family Support Worker to deliver training to parents and carers, as well as siblings of young people experiencing tough times.
“Our region was devastated by the bushfires and recovery is an ongoing process which is going to take years. We’ve already had previous rounds of significant funding and this latest round recognises that we need to keep building through the recovery process,” said Minister Gee.
“With all of the other challenges we’ve had, we need to keep in mind that there are still many people struggling to get their lives, businesses, and organisations back on track.
“Recovery efforts and funding need to occur over the long term and that is what this latest round aims to do.
“Headspace in Lithgow provides trusted vital services to help support young people when they most need it. The professionals here experienced a surge in demand from young people whose homes were destroyed or damaged by fire, as well as those deeply distressed by the devastating Black Summer bushfires.
“Demand for assistance for young people more than doubled between 2019-20 and 2020- 21, with more than 400 youngsters aged between 12 and 17 reaching out for help in 2020- 21 compared to 162 the previous year. It’s clear to see the unsettling and worrying impact the fires had and continued to have, on our young residents. I commend them for reaching out to headspace for assistance. This grant will ensure their parents, careers and siblings will also be trained to help them deal with the longer-term impacts of the blaze.
“The Lithgow Family Support Program involves a Family Support Worker and an Intake Officer delivering specialised training to parents and caregivers of teenagers and young adults about how to recognise the signs of mental ill-health, as well as how best to support them in finding and following a recovery pathway,” Mr Gee said.
The headspace Lithgow Clinical Manager, Bonita Bassett, will oversee the program’s implementation and operations to ensure it addresses any unresolved mental health conditions relating to the bushfires and supports families who have, until now, experienced difficulty finding services to suit their loved young relative.
“Lithgow desperately needs this Family Support Program. We know that many local families feel overwhelmed and simply cannot find services or resources to help them support young people facing tough times. This project will support families by helping to build their knowledge, techniques and practical skills to assist those most at risk,” Ms Bassett said.
“A new Family Support Worker will be a tremendous resource to our Lithgow service. They will work with families to devise individualised support plans, deliver workshops and educational sessions, build a support network for carers and parents and build community resilience to cope with emotional responses to any future disaster.
“There is a clear demand for this service and on behalf of headspace Lithgow and Marathon Health, I thank the Australian Government for this funding that will allow us to expand our service offerings to best help Lithgow’s young residents and their families. We will now start recruiting to fill these positions so we can hit the ground running and start helping those who need it most. I envisage we will be in a position to start delivering workshops and training sessions within months.
“I believe The Lithgow Family Support Program will ensure families and carers of young people feel more empowered to support young people experiencing mental health conditions in the aftermath of the bushfires,” said Ms Bassett.
The Lithgow headspace project is one of 18 projects in the Calare electorate awarded funding as part of the Australian Government’s $390 million Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Grants program.
It is one of 524 community projects funded as part of the $390 million grants program, which was established to assist communities to recover from the devastating 2019-20 bushfires. The Australian Government has added an additional $110 million to the program to provide extra support to those living in affected communities, including Lithgow.
The Greater Lithgow community bore the brunt of the 2019-20 bushfires, with residents still grappling with the long-term impacts of the natural disaster. The Gospers Mountain Fire was the largest forest blaze recorded in Australian history, burning more than 500,000 hectares.
This funding builds on a $326,675 grant through the Federal Government’s Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund awarded to Lithgow headspace last year, which funded ‘Youth Beyond the Flame’ – an RFS cadetship program supported by headspace.
Headspace Orange, Bathurst and Dubbo also most recently shared in $1.97 million in funding, which helped employ two additional youth advocates in each centre.