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May 03 2019

Hawkesbury Be & Co. Launches

I am excited to announce the first of our Well-Being Grants to Support Farming Communities recipients launched their project yesterday.

Hawkesbury Be & Co. is a fortnightly pop-up social event that aims to foster community connections and improve access to support for isolated people.

Our Well-Being Grants to Support Farming Communities is funded by the Federal Government’s Empowering Our Communities project, which was introduced as one of several measures to support communities affected by drought.

Much of NSW is experiencing long-term social, economic and emotional distress and hardship as a result of ongoing drought, with 99.5% now considered in drought or drought affected and our region is no exception. The Hawkesbury is famously known as “Sydney’s Food Bowl” and is home to many orchards, mushroom and turf farms. Despite much of the region now being suburbia, there are still over 33,000 hectares of farmland within the Hawkesbury, and over 450 enterprises in the agricultural sector.

Coming from a farming family myself, I understand the financial and emotional strain extreme weather conditions can have on farming families and the wider community. Rural and farming people know that this strain doesn’t always end when the drought ends. Drought brings with it risks of extreme bushfires, and when the rains do come, they can sometimes bring extensive flooding.

I am passionate about building the capacity and resilience of our communities and helping to provide well-being support. Not just for this drought, but for the inevitable future weather events and natural disasters that we cannot control.

We know that there are strong links between social isolation and poor mental health outcomes. There is also an acknowledged lack of access to mental health services in the Hawkesbury. This collaborative community-led social enterprise will provide an opportunity for people to meet, share skills, and build community while connecting with well-being services

Hawkesbury Be & Co. will also provide an opportunity for young people who are involved in the Transition to Work program which will help them gain practical, hands-on experience in hospitality and customer service. I had the pleasure of talking to some of our local youth throughout the morning who were full of enthusiasm and gratitude to be a part of such a great initiative.

Four other applicants were successful in securing grants in Round 1, ranging from $1,000-$50,000 and we look forward to sharing these initiatives with you as they commence.

We are now looking ahead to Round 2 and 3, and we are excited to see what ideas our communities will put forward.

Applications for Round 2 close on Friday, 3 May. Remember to share these details with your relevant networks! Application guidelines can be found on our website.


Pictured: Michelle Hookham, Founder of Be & Co. and Wentworth Healthcare CEO, Lizz Reay with a Transition to Work volunteer. 

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Lizz Reay is the CEO of Wentworth Healthcare, provider of the Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Network. Previously Deputy CEO of Nepean Blue Mountains Medicare Local & Nepean Division of General Practice, she has an extensive background in public health.

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