More than 200 people from Aboriginal communities met to camp under the stars and “get back to country” in outback New South Wales at a forum sponsored by Wellways. The Back to Country Healing Forum held at Gogeldrie Weir, near Narrandera, provided two days of yarning, connecting and inspirational words... along with some native tree planting.

“It was a very successful way for people to come together on country, reconnect with one another, with traditions, and with the land,” said Wellways Community Engagement Coordinator Stephen Smith. “We wanted to get people talking, listening and working towards rebuilding community connections, and to focus on health and wellbeing. 

“This connection to the land is so important to us and is also a way to reconnect with what makes us stronger. It was also a way to get Aboriginal communities to gather and connect to healing,” said Stephen, a Wiradjuri man from Wagga Wagga.

“This event provided a space for people from diverse family groups and tribes to come together to share experiences from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds,” said Wellways Chief Executive Elizabeth Crowther.

“This is a different approach, but a way of engaging people in discussing mental health along with other issues around general health and mental wellbeing as we know the two are closely linked,” Ms Crowther said. 

Former Olympic athlete Kyle Vander-Kuyp and freestyle wrestler Shantelle Thompson spoke at the event held in partnership with the Riverina Murray Regional Alliance. It was held 21-22 May at the Gogeldrie Weir Holiday Park.