Our town retreat group

Our Town: Join us behind-the-scenes at our recent Kangaroo Island retreat

In March 2021, the six Our Town teams – Ceduna, Cummins, Kimba, Kangaroo Island, Berri and Mid Murray – gathered on Kangaroo Island to share reflections, learnings and plan for the future

Our Town is a long-term mental health initiative that aims to build the capabilities of regional towns in South Australia to develop and test community-based responses to mental health. Designed by regional communities for regional communities, Our Town strives to bring everyone’s voice to the table, particularly those who are not always heard. 

The initiative includes a strong emphasis on early prevention, engaging with individuals whose voices are often not gathered or overlooked and addressing the range of social determinants that underpin vulnerabilities. 

In late 2020, our funding partner Fay Fuller Foundation announced the three towns chosen from an original shortlist of nine towns and regions to receive 10 years of funding and support to reclaim the mental health and wellbeing of their regions. 

The three towns are Ceduna, Cummins and Kimba. They join Kangaroo Island, who were early recipients of the funding after the island’s 2019-2020 catastrophic bushfires. Two more towns, Berri and Mid Murray, are being provided with bridging support from Fay Fuller. All six towns are invited to be a part of the ongoing Our Town Network that starts in late April 2021.

Ceduna/ Far West Our Town team member Sandy Taylor on night one of the retreat, sharing her points of connection with others present and her love of paddle boarding along the Ceduna coast.

We’ve never experienced anything like this before. The bottom up approach means that we actually get to listen to community and what they want, so that we can have greater ongoing impact to mental health.

Our Town team member

In March, the six towns joined forces on Kangaroo Island

Two members from each Our Town team were invited to attend the two day Kangaroo Island retreat, along with members of the support team from TACSI, Fay Fuller and Clear Horizon

These two days provided space and time for us all to come together and collectively reflect upon and share the exceptional work that each town had completed in 2020. 

Ceduna/ Far West Our Town team member Simone Miller of the Kokatha tribe in South Australia and Wongatha tribe in Western Australia shared her experience as a sistergirl growing up in the Koonibba Aboriginal community and her peer mentorship and advocacy work supporting other young sistergirls and brotherboys across Australia.

Suicide has been an ongoing problem in our community but a lot of people didn’t see it that way. Our Town gave us the discovery part that meant we could dig a little deeper and find the real source of what the problems were, rather than just working with assumptions.

Our Town team member

We also talked about each town’s depth of understanding about the needs of their communities, the issues underpinning these needs, and the methods each town had used to discover this information.

“I am continually inspired as I see the immense talent in communities and the passion and determination of individuals to proactively facilitate well being and improved mental health in their communities,” says Our Town lead Marion Wands.

Our shared goal is to create a new approach to mental health and well being across Australia for the benefit of all.

Our Town lead Marion Wands

Our guest speaker Sabrina Davis, a KI resident who lost her home in the 2019-2020 bushfires, shared her amazing story about how she initiated Humans on Kangaroo Island. Her story of resilience, community and the power of connection was heartwarming.

We dug a lot deeper and the insights we’ve gained (from community) really did reach the heart and soul of where mental health was coming from, and that has changed the way we look at making changes in the future.

Our Town team member

On the second day, we traveled to the beautiful Remarkable Rocks in Flinders Chase National Park to reflect upon our shared experiences, strengths and how we plan to continue to work together to promote wellbeing in regional towns, share our findings and learnings more broadly, and keep building on the wealth of knowledge that is the Our Town Network.

The Our Town community representatives and support team at the Remarkable Rocks on the final day of the retreat.

Clear Horizon Support Team member Alessandra Prunotto, in quiet contemplation at the Remarkable Rocks as we reflected on the years ahead and the potential broader impact of the Our Town Network.

For more information on Our Town, get in touch with Our Town lead Marion Wands at marion.wands@tacsi.org.au or call 0414 726 826.

More photos from the retreat