GIPPSLAND communities will soon have the chance to access mental wellbeing information tailored to the needs of country-based men, at Rabobank-hosted events in Sale and Trafalgar.

The ‘Blokes, Bites & Beverages’ events, which will be held mid-March, providing rural and remote communities with an opportunity to discuss mental health awareness in the bush. This initiative, spearheaded by the local regional Rabo Client Council – a group of Rabobank’s farming clients who volunteer their time implementing programs that contribute to the sustainability and wellbeing of rural and regional communities – is funded by the Rabobank Community Fund.

Offered to attendees free of charge, this event will feature mental health advocates Mary O’Brien, founder of ‘Are you bogged mate?’, and Tom Boyd, ex-AFL footballer and author.

Rabo Client Council member and Westbury-based dairy farmer, Chris Griffin, said mental health and wellbeing awareness was a “critical conversation our rural communities need to be having – particularly for men living and working in rural areas”.

“It’s important we keep an eye on our mates and check how they are coping,” Mr Griffin said.

“Rural communities are often dealing with challenging weather conditions and volatile commodity prices – it’s important we know what to look out for and can identify friends that may be at risk.”

Mr Griffin said the workshops, which are an initiative of Rabobank’s Southern Victoria and Tasmanian Rabo Client Council, align with one of the council’s key pillars of improving rural wellbeing.

“Isolation and difficulty accessing health services are some of the challenges faced by rural and remote communities. These workshops are aiming to increase awareness on the importance of farmers’ well-being,” he said.

“These men-only events aim to provide the audience with a down-to-earth approach to understanding mental health – so come along, and you may be able to help a mate.”

Mr Griffin said the Rabo Client Council was looking forward to bringing two mental health advocates of this calibre to Gippsland.

Ms O’Brien established ‘Are you bogged mate?’ in 2018, as an initiative designed to connect country residents with lifesaving support services.

Community: Mental health advocate and ‘Are you bogged mate?’ founder, Mary O’Brien. Photograph supplied

In addition to running ‘Are you bogged mate?’, Ms O’Brien is a Queensland-based spray drift risk management specialist who has spent her career working closely within rural communities.

“After spending her whole life working in rural and remote Australia, she knows country people,” Mr O’Brien said.

“She’s worked with them, for them, beside them and most importantly, she knows how to talk with them. It is this down-to-earth perspective that makes ‘Are you bogged mate?’ resonate with rural and remote communities.”

Tom Boyd, who will be joining Ms O’Brien at this event, believes his mental health was more important to him than football fame and success.

The Western Bulldogs premiership hero has been helping others deal with their own mental health issues.

Last year, Mr Boyd published a book – Nowhere to Hide – that takes readers on his journey.

With football as the backdrop, it’s a book focused on mental health, honesty with yourself and what it takes to overcome depression and anxiety, and create resilience.

Rabobank’s regional manager for Southern Victoria and Tasmania, Deborah Maskell-Davies, said the bank’s Client Council network is comprised of small groups of Rabobank clients from diverse commodity sectors who meet regularly to identify and discuss the challenges facing the agricultural sector and rural communities.

“We listen and learn about the issues that are most important to our clients, our rural communities and the wider food and agriculture industry,” she said.

“Together with the councils, we develop meaningful grass roots initiatives to support agricultural education, rural health and wellbeing, sustainability, and help create rural/urban connections.”

Event date and location details:

Tuesday, March 12 at Sale Turf Club from 6pm to 9.30pm.

Wednesday, March 13 at Trafalgar Bowls Club from 6pm to 9.30pm.

Food and drink provided (including non-alcoholic beverages) at both events.

These events are for blokes only and registrations are appreciated (to assist with catering requirements), however walk-ins are also welcome.