Upper Hunter Community Services 'Walk With' Gateway Family Services' online initiative to assist farmers

Rebecca Eveleigh (Upper Hunter Community Services), Anne Crestani (Gateway), Janelle Eades, Skye Bennett, Michelle Owen (Upper Hunter Community Services) and Joanna Brown (Gateway)
Rebecca Eveleigh (Upper Hunter Community Services), Anne Crestani (Gateway), Janelle Eades, Skye Bennett, Michelle Owen (Upper Hunter Community Services) and Joanna Brown (Gateway)

THERE are not many similarities between Muswellbrook and the Blue Mountains.

But, both communities are banding together to help those men and women on the land affected by the dry conditions.

Earlier this month, Gateway Family Services hosted a one-day disaster resilience workshop in town for staff at Upper Hunter Community Services (UHCS).

The seminar centred on Gateway’s online tool Walk With, which was launched in Springwood on October 29.

The resource grew from the experience of the Blue Mountains organisation, following disaster recovery work in 2013 after major bushfires in the area. 

Walk With prepares and helps community services to deliver the vital practical and emotional support that people need during, and after, disaster.  

“It was great to meet the likes of Anne Crestani and Joanna Brown from Gateway,” Muswellbrook Neighbourhood Services coordinator Skye Bennett said.

“We shared some of the challenges and rewards of supporting our community through the drought,” she explained.

“Some of the UHCS staff also spoke of ‘sparkling moments’ where they were able to make a small but significant difference to people coping with the impacts of the ongoing drought.

“One such ‘sparkling moment’ included assisting a young client to get her hair professionally done for her school formal.

“This was an additional expense that her family could not spare as they struggled to buy feed for their livestock.

“As one of the workers said ‘it’s the small things that help to make a real difference to people’s hope and resilience’.”

Walk With workshop facilitator Anne Crestani was delighted with the interaction with UHCS, too.

“The time we spent with the amazing staff at UHCS reaffirmed the vital role of place-based community organisations in supporting people who are coping with the impacts of disaster, such as the NSW drought,” she said.

“They have first-hand knowledge and personal experience of what people are up against because they are so embedded in their community.

“They told us that when the media spotlight eventually moves on to the next disaster, they will still be there for the long haul, working hard for their community.

“Gateway is very grateful to Blue Mountains Bendigo Bank for helping us to connect with, and support, our rural community service colleagues.”

To find out more about the Walk With resource, go to www.gatewayfamilyservices.org.au