National Volunteer Week

National Volunteer Week 2017, 8 to 14 May, is an annual celebration to acknowledge the generous contributions of Australia’s 6 million volunteers. At Wellways, volunteering is part of our history and culture, with our volunteers currently involved in our Helpline service, Life in Community program, and our 3CR community radio program Brainwaves.

“Many of our volunteers are juggling work and study commitments, yet continue to dedicate their time and energy to support other individuals,” says Chiara Dargin, Wellways Volunteer Coordinator. 

“I am constantly in awe of our incredible volunteers and always grateful for the work they do. Our organisation simply wouldn’t be the same without them!”

Wellways extends its enormous thanks to our tremendous volunteers at Helpline, who take up to 300 calls per month to support individuals and families seeking mental health information, support and referral, as well as our thanks to our many volunteers engaged in dozens of community activities (Life in Community) supporting those recovering from mental health issues, and the volunteer team at Brainwaves, who produce a weekly, award-winning mental health program on 3CR community radio.

Our Helpline service is currently recruiting. For more information, contact Chiara Dargin on 1300 111 400 or head to our website

Carer consultation in Gippsland

The Wellways team in Gippsland recently organised a carer consultation in Bairnsdale that will contribute to a submission for the development of the Victorian Carer’s Statement. The carers attending outlined features of a ‘dream service’ that would include an information hub for supports and services available locally. They acknowledged the importance of peer supports for new carers and proposed a mentoring program for finding relevant information and support.

Carer attendees drew attention to the needs of different diagnostic groups, such as those with dual diagnosis, disability and children with developmental trauma, and challenges associated with the service criteria for different groups. The power of individual advocacy was also discussed, with potential benefits flowing to others in similar situations. The need for trauma-informed practice and education was raised, so that carers can support their loved ones without re-traumatising them.

Chinese Mental Health Consumer & Carer Group

In 2014, the Wellways eastern Melbourne region established a Chinese-speaking group for consumers and carers impacted by mental health issues, many of whom were newly arrived Chinese immigrants experiencing difficulties in dealing with their new life in Australia. 

The Chinese Mental Health Consumer & Carer Group is based on a peer education model, which has been highly effective as a way to increase awareness, change attitudes and promote recovery within the Chinese community. The group’s facilitators are highly qualified and experienced instructors and teachers, who themselves have gained valuable understandings of people’s lived experience of mental illness. Through group activities, including tai chi, art, laughter yoga, computer programs, and the Wellways My Recovery peer education program, participants have significantly enhanced their skills, and continue to experience new activities, gain friendships and enjoy the company of others.

“I am glad to meet these wonderful teachers, get to know more about my peers and become friends with them,” says Ms Zhou, a carer who attends the art group and activities with her son.

“Also, I have learned so much about services for people with mental illness and their families. We can talk freely in our own language. Time flies while we concentrate on our learning.”

Lilei Enright, Wellways peer worker in family services, notes: “Stigma and a misunderstanding of mental health can be well entrenched within our community, creating significant barriers to people seeking treatment or support, especially within Chinese communities. The Chinese Mental Health Consumer & Carer Group has made great strides in addressing these concerns within the Chinese community, so that they might speak to others who understand.” 

For more information contact Lilei Enright, Wellways family services peer worker, by email

Hobart open day

Wellways staff in Southern Tasmania recently held an open day at the Hobart office to provide an opportunity for other organisations, service providers and community members to learn more about Wellways services. Staff presented information on each of the programs available in Southern Tasmania and met with people over lunch to answer questions and make new connections. Wellways was delighted to showcase the outstanding catering talents of Risdon Vale Community Centre, where local youths gain hands-on experience in the hospitality industry.

Frankston NDIS forum

More than 300 community members attended an NDIS forum for consumers and carers held by Wellways in Frankston. The capacity crowd, anticipating the rollout of the NDIS in the region on 1 July 2017, learned about psychosocial disability, mental health and the NDIS from guest speakers Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt and Minister for Aged Care and Indigenous Health Ken Wyatt. In a question and answer session, attendees took the opportunity to raise concerns about support for people who are not eligible for the NDIS, an issue of immediate and growing concern.

Other speakers at the forum included Toni van Hamond, from the National Disability Insurance Agency, who provided insight on NDIS eligibility criteria and the planning process, and Kerry Golding from Carers Victoria, who shared her tips as a carer on navigating the NDIS. Laura Collister, Wellways Director of Mental Health Services, Research and Development, led a panel discussion and Q&A with NDIS participants and experts.

Youth Week in Burnie

The Wellways Child, Youth and Family Engagement (CYFE) program in Burnie recently participated in the region’s annual youth week event, Reclaim the Lane. The CYFE program is for children and young people at risk of, or affected by, mental illness. The program works with young people and their families in the Central Coast and Devonport regions of Tasmania.

The CYFE program provided a number of activities for the popular outdoor Reclaim the Lane event, which attracted close to 1,000 people. The ‘chocolate wheel’ was a stand-out, with participants winning chocolates for correct answers to questions on the topic of mental health and mental illness. Interestingly, staff have found that, over time, participants in this event are learning and remembering facts and returning to the chocolate wheel well prepared with their answers.

Other Wellways CYFE activities on the day included the ‘hand of support’, where people drew an outline of their hand and on each finger identified someone who would be available to them if they needed support, and the survival toolkit of symbolic ‘essentials’: a candle to light your path when it gets dark, a piece of string to tie things together when they begin to fall apart, a sticky plaster to fix all your hurts, and a piece of eraser to erase all your mistakes.

For information on the Child, Youth and Family Engagement (CYFE) program, contact Wellways by email or by phone on 1300 111 400.