Oakey House grant extends hope

13 April 2015

The extension of operations and enhancement of service offerings at ‘Oakey House’, made possible by a successful grant application to the New Acland Community Investment Fund, has brought hope to a community in need.

Oakey House was established in October 2013 to emulate Toowoomba Clubhouse (TCH) after several members of the Oakey community contacted the organisation to fill a need in relation to an ongoing string of community suicides.

The Toowoomba Clubhouse (TCH) operates a range of innovate programs ranging from a high school education program, educating students about mental illness, and mental health social inclusion programs across South West Queensland.

The organisation has been responsible for developing four innovative social enterprises that employ individuals living with a mental illness and have assisted more than 150 people into employment over the last three years.

It has also developed an innovative self-funded housing program that works with real estate agents and local regional partners to develop housing options for participants facing homelessness through mental illness.

Executive Director of Toowoomba Clubhouse, Luke Terry, said the TCH and its outpost’s main objective is to do whatever it takes to create opportunities for people living with a mental illness on the Darling Downs to live a meaningful and contributing life.

“The Oakey facility was developed specifically to work with individuals in the Oakey community that have been isolated because of their mental illness.

“The objective of Oakey House is to create a community for people living with a mental illness where they can connect with peers who are going through a similar journey and to build the confidence needed to take part in active community participation and citizenship.

“This grant from New Hope has enabled us to focus upon maintaining and enhancing an environment that supports these individual’s mental health. 

“This funding ensures the resources needed to have a staff member working with individuals at Oakey House for two days per week (as opposed to the previous one day a week) for another twelve month period are provided.

“The role of Oakey House is to work with these individuals to assist them to regain the confidence needed to live a meaningful and contributing life in the Oakey community,” he said.

Mr Terry said there is widespread research on existing Clubhouses that shows the benefits of the Clubhouse model for ongoing community safety, health and welfare at a broader community level. 

“The results documented from Clubhouse International Clubhouses show our programs result in such things as higher employment, reduced hospitalisation, reduced incarcerations, and improved well-being.

“And all that adds up to a reduced cost of services overall,” he concluded.

Mental Health Rehabilitation Officer Eva Coll has been charged with managing the Oakey House activities and raising local community awareness of the program and what it offers.

“This little community has a high suicide rate – and a high unemployment rate.  That leads to low morale. 

“Every community group meeting I attend and just chatting to people in the street - they all say the same thing ‘thank God you are here – this service is filling a very real need in Oakey’,” she said.

 The New Acland Community Investment Fund assists not-for-profit community groups and organisations to develop long-term outcomes for communities around the New Acland Coal Mine.

Not-for-profit groups and organisations within the Toowoomba Regional Council area are eligible to apply for grants of $10,000 or more under the fund.

New Acland General Manager Andrew McDonald said applications to the fund are assessed by the New Acland Community Reference Group (CRG).

“CRG members, who represent a broad cross section of community interests in the area surrounding the New Acland Coal Mine, assess applications and make recommendations to the New Hope Group on appropriate community initiatives to support,” he said.