Conversations for a cause


Regional communities have embraced the first Get Talkin’ Tour of 2019 with more than 1,500 people participating in the six-region, two-week tour.

With a focus on NSW drought affected Hunter and New England regions, the Tour visited schools and clubs within the rugby strongholds of Terrigal, Newcastle, Maitland, Quirindi, Tamworth and Armidale.

Over 1,300 high school students and more than 200 rugby community members from the regions participated in Get Talkin’ Tour activities.

An initiative of the NSW Positive Rugby Foundation and youth mental health organisation batyr, the Get Talkin’ Tour is about upskilling communities to look out for one another and conversation is a key component.

During the day the Tour offered High School students the opportunity to have a rugby experience with NSW Rugby staff and NSW Waratah players, but importantly followed this up with mental health workshops run by batyr, that focused on looking out for mates and smashing the stigma around mental health.

Each night the tour provided local clubs with a coach education session run by NSW Waratahs rugby coaches such as Chris Whitaker and Shannon Fraser, followed by a mental health ambassador training workshop, to empower rugby clubs to become confident leaders of mental health conversations within their communities.

Through interactive sessions, participants were given practical advice to support themselves and the people around them.

NSW Waratah, Alex Newsome said the simple act of talking can make a difference.

“I’m really lucky to have family and friend support,” Newsome said.

“With my own situation, I live with a couple of mates in Sydney and we’re always picking each other up and having conversations about how our days went and looking out for each other,” he said.

The Glen Innes local attended Tour stops in Quirindi, Tamworth, Gunnedah and Armidale.

“At the moment there’s challenges for families and communities in the bush, obviously a major factor is the drought,” Newsome said.

“Famers and graziers are spending a lot of their spare time on the farm that they would otherwise spend on hobbies. The drought has consumed all their time.”

The 24-year-old said it was important for regional communities to lean on each other.

“Families are doing it tough and this is the least we can do.

“it’s about using rugby as a vehicle to have conversations and address the stigma surrounding mental health.

“The sessions show people they are supported and also educate the community about the mental health networks that are available in regional communities,” Newsome said.

Douglas Biffin has strong ties to the Tamworth community and said the Pirates Rugby Club offered locals a reprieve from the issues they’re facing.

“Often is the case in a small country town, the rugby club is the first place you go to get some camaraderie, some of my best mates are involved in the club,” Biffin said.

“The guys who are struggling on the farm can come in here and have a run around, it’s good for their mental health,” he said.

Biffin said batyr had ‘worked wonders’ in the Tamworth community.

“I am seeing the benefits of it through people I’ve had conversations with,” he said.

“The exposure that’s it’s had in my generation, it has had some impact, but I think the flow on from school leavers and around adolescents and teenagers, I think it’s going to have a positive impact on them in years to come.

“It’s going to make some drastic improvements on spreading the awareness and exposure that it’s ok to be not ok,” he said.

Tom, another participant at the Tamworth event, said he was lucky not to have experienced mental ill-health, but was better equipped to support others after attending the session.

“Tonight has been good for me to understand what other people can go through and how I can possibly help them,” Tom said.

“It’s difficult if you’ve never experienced mental ill-health to get your head around what other people can go through. In terms of that, the education is priceless.

“(Knowing) the services that are available, ways of engaging in conversation with other people to help them know there is help and other people are there to listen and that they’re not alone.”

Future Get Talkin’ Tours have been slated for Wollongong, Coffs Harbour and Lismore with more information to come. Stay tuned to the NSW Waratahs website for details.






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