Art is a symbol of hope

Heidi Kraak

Lifeline Gippsland will be able to visit fire and drought-affected communities to determine what their needs are in relation to mental health thanks to a $50,000 “top-up” from the state government.

Mental Health Minister Martin Foley visited the Latrobe Valley on Wednesday to announce the funding for Lifeline and visit a sculpture by a local artist made from scrap metal recovered from the ashes of the 2009 Victorian bushfires in Traralgon South.

Mr Foley said recent bushfires across Gippsland, combined with ongoing drought, could have an impact on the mental health of affected individuals.

“In recognition of the extra pressure the service is under, we’re announcing a top-up of $50,000 to get Lifeline over the hump they are currently dealing with in the demand put on their services,” Mr Foley said.

Lifeline Gippsland chief executive Michelle Possingham said the funding would be used to visit individual communities and speak with them about what their needs were.

“Following a trauma, connection with community is of the utmost importance for recovery,” she said.

“We will be going out to each individual community and talking to them about what they would like to see happening in that area.”

Linking people into hope, Ms Possingham said, was important for people affected by trauma.

“We have the most incredibly resilient community here in Gippsland. They face floods, fires droughts but sometimes things really get too much,” she said.

“We’ll be looking at things that bring families together … family-friendly activities and within those activities we’ll also be providing psychosocial supports.”

Mr Foley also met with artist Jo Caminiti and the Traralgon South community to view a new sculpture erected near the men’s shed to stand as a symbol of renewal and hope a decade on from the fires that devastated the community.

“This project shows how art and creativity can bring people together and help express what can be difficult to put into words,” Mr Foley said.

“It will stand as an enduring symbol of hope and recognition.”