WayOut funding announced

Member for Macedon, Mary-Anne Thomas, yesterday announced that Cobaw’s WayOut program will receive $195,000 to continue to deliver youth suicide prevention programs supporting LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex) young people in the Macedon Ranges and surrounds.

The announcement was made at an event organised by Kyneton Secondary College students celebrating Wear it Purple Day which seeks to recognise and support the gender and sexual diversity of young people.

Cobaw CEO, Margaret McDonald said WayOut has accomplished a huge amount in Macedon Ranges and across Victoria and the $195,000 grant will allow Cobaw to support more young people through initiatives and events such as this.

“Programs such as WayOut are vital in providing support to young people and let them know that they are not alone. We want to give young LGBTI people the support they need to be themselves and live in a society that respects them for who they are.”

Across the week, Cobaw staff have been wearing purple to show rainbow (sexuality and gender diverse) young people that they are supported, celebrated and respected exactly as they are.

Wear it purple

Cobaw Bendigo merger not to proceed but working partnership to continue

Cobaw Community Health and Bendigo Community Health Services have agreed not to proceed with the planned merger following a review of the current environment.

The plan to merge was originally agreed in principle by both Boards mid last year. Due diligence was completed in September 2014 with members of Cobaw voting to endorse the plan to proceed with the merger negotiations in November.

Since then both organisations have thoroughly worked through the complex elements of the merger, with the commitment to ensuring communities and services would be enhanced and strengthened as a result. It became apparent that there was an unanticipated risk that some funding may have been lost to the community making the merger less appealing.

“For the Cobaw Board and staff, our central concern was always the people of the Macedon Ranges and the provision of programs and services to support our communities,” said Cobaw Community Health CEO, Margaret McDonald.

“We embarked on the prospect of a merger more than a year ago, when the environment in which we deliver services in terms of funding and community demand was different. It has changed over that time, and we need to take that into account,” she explained.

Ms McDonald said Cobaw was in a stronger position than it was 12 months ago following significant effort in regaining government funding for various programs and services, and recognition of the growing demands on the services and programs provided to the region: “Some programs have been de-funded, however we have regained funding in many areas and that has meant we can confidently plan, and deliver the services this community needs.”

Cobaw will continue to work in partnership with Bendigo Community Health on a number of regional programs which are already established: “We have a strong connection to Bendigo Community Health and our working relationship will continue to strengthen,” she said.

“Cobaw remains a responsive local organisation in our region providing services and supports to our communities, employing local people and engaging local volunteers. It’s business as usual for us. In the complex health environment, we welcome strategic opportunities to develop and innovate our partnerships and our programs, with our aim to service and support our unique community always remaining our central guiding principle,” Ms McDonald concluded.

At the rainbow flag raising ceremony at the Mechanics Institute in Kyneton

Macedon Ranges Shire Council will be flying the flag this week leading up to International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) which takes place on Sunday 17 May. IDAHOT, a worldwide celebration of sexual and gender diversities, was created in 2004 to draw attention to policymakers, opinion leaders, the public and the media of the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people.

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Continuation of Funding for WayOut

The Victorian Minister for Mental Health, the Hon. Martin Foley MP has announced, as part of the 2015-16 Victorian Budget, there will be $117.8 million available over four years for a broad package of mental health initiatives.

Of this money, $5.88 million has been allocated for a set of targeted initiatives to be introduced in the next four years that combat transphobia and homophobia and improve the mental health and wellbeing and promote the rights of same sex attracted and gender diverse young people. Many of these young people are vulnerable to harassment, bullying and stress and are at heightened risk of self-harm and suicide.

A range of health promotion and prevention initiatives will be introduced with a focus on increasing the effectiveness of mainstream youth services, schools and youth mental health services to support the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI)community.

For Cobaw Community Health, this means that the highly successful WayOut program can continue its fantastic work locally within the Macedon Ranges and across the state as part of the Healthy Equal Youth (HEY) project. “The HEY project has been successful in resourcing a unique coalition of LGBTI organisations and mainstream youth and community health services, to improve the mental health and quality of life of young LGBTI Victorians” stated Ms Margaret McDonald.

In addition, Cobaw has also been accredited for the next three years as a Rainbow Tick organisation showing its commitment to diversity and inclusion in its practice and service delivery.

This coming Sunday 17 May is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), a worldwide celebration of sexual and gender diversities. IDAHOT was created in 2004 to draw attention topolicymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media of the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people. The day is celebrated in more than 130 countries, including 37 where same-sex acts are illegal and was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

Cobaw to advocate for clients experiencing family violence

Cobaw Community Health Services (Cobaw) welcomes the Royal Commission into Family Violence in Victoria.

Many of the people accessing Cobaw services are presenting with issues related to family violence. Across all of Cobaw’s programs, family violence is one of the identified issues at intake and varies from 10-50 per cent of clients in areas such as housing, children’s services, counselling and family services.

For many years, Cobaw has worked in partnership with the Centre for Non Violence (CNV) in Bendigo and CNV staff continue to be co-located in Cobaw’s Kyneton office working alongside Cobaw staff. Recently CNV has provided additional funding to employ a Cobaw counsellor to work specifically with children impacted by family violence. This funding has recently been made ongoing, which is great news for the community.

Last year Cobaw supported training to identify and manage family violence issues that was attended by a wide range of community partner organisations.

Cobaw will contribute to the Royal Commission through a number of different submissions to ensure that the impacts of family violence in the community are addressed. Cobaw is an active member of the Macedon Ranges Safety Network and a part of the Loddon Campaspe Integrated Family Violence Consortium. The consortium intends to inform the Victorian Royal Commission on Family Violence by drawing on local research that has captured women’s experiences of family violence and the system’s response.

“Internally we also recognise that family violence impact is not just in any part of the community and last year introduced a family violence policy for staff”, stated Margaret McDonald, Cobaw CEO.

“Cobaw will advocate for our clients and draw on the effects of family violence in addressing the physical and psychosocial health outcomes of the women and children in our contributions to two submissions. Cobaw will provide our own submission that reflects on the impacts on the community we have learned as a community health organisation.

“I have great hope that the recommendations will provide Cobaw with clarity around how we might better provide services to those impacted by family violence”.

Cobaw Walks the Block

Cobaw Community Health staff in Kyneton and Woodend walked around the block on Thursday 19 March – all in the name of better workplace health and productivity. Walk the Block is a workplace health initiative by Victoria Walks, aimed at combating the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle.

Walk the Block

“Sitting is the new public health enemy”, said Dr Ben Rossiter, Executive Officer of Victoria Walks.

According to health experts, sitting could be as dangerous as smoking. There is growing evidence to show that prolonged sitting is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and premature death.[1]

“We sit at our desks or in confined spaces, often for many hours every day. Breaking up sitting time with simple activities such as a walking meeting or lunchtime walk can improve people’s moods and ability to handle stress at work,” says Dr Rossiter.[2] “Incorporating walking into our daily routine is the easiest way to increase our physical activity.”

“It’s fantastic to see Cobaw Community Health support this initiative and encourage staff to become more active,” said Dr Rossiter.

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/health/features/stories/2014/02/24/3947295.htm

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25559067

Men’s Shed Independence Ahead

After many months of work, the formal handover of the Cobaw Men’s Shed to the Kyneton Men’s Shed (KMS) Inc. will occur on Friday 13 March.

Bryan Smith, Cobaw Community Health’s Board Chair, will formally assign the operations to the KMS Committee. The process towards independence has taken many months of collaborative work between both organisations.

“I congratulate the Committee members led by John Mitchell OAM, Chair,” said Margaret McDonald, Cobaw’s CEO.

“This is a significant event and represents the very best of community development processes in the way the KMS Inc., has worked with us to develop a Business Plan and their own processes to lead the operations of the Shed after 13 March.

“To everyone who has continued to support the Shed operations this year, I and the Committee are very grateful. Although John Quinlan is no longer with Cobaw, John had a significant stewardship of the process. Integral has been Stephen Hiley, Community Partnerships Officer, of the Macedon Ranges Shire”.

Men’s Shed Progresses Towards Independence

Participants of Cobaw Community Health’s Men’s Shed who formed an incorporated association in October 2014 are making progress towards independence.

The Kyneton Men’s Shed Incorporated (KMSI) has continued to regularly meet with Cobaw to plan towards independence for the shed.

Cobaw has financially supported two Kyneton Men’s Shed Inc members to complete their full Health & Safety Representative training certification, with Macedon Ranges Shire Council assisting the Men’s Shed with strategic and financial planning. In addition, Cobaw is assisting the group to develop required policies and procedures. Auditing of all machinery for the transfer has been undertaken.

The transfer of the Men’s Shed is expected to take place in March 2015.

Cobaw’s Acting CEO, Margaret McDonald said that the move to independence is progressing well and congratulates the Kyneton Men’s Shed Inc Committee for the work they have undertaken.

”The association between Cobaw and the Men’s Shed has been a valuable one. I look forward to this exciting development as the participants move towards greater self-determination of the shed.”

Kyneton Men’s Shed Inc chairman, John Mitchell, said he was pleased with the progress that was being made.

“However, we have many challenges ahead of us, including securing land on which to build a new shed, and obtaining the funding necessary to build a shed – which Cobaw has estimated at between $80,000- $120,000.

“We are already in discussions with the Macedon Ranges Shire Council about the availability of land, while both the Member for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters, and the Member for Macedon Ranges, Mary-Anne Thomas, have each pledged to support us in finding both land and funding.”

Mr. Mitchell said that the KMSI could not start seeking funding until it had land.

“Land is our first goal,’ he said. “Then comes the massive task of seeking funding.”

Cobaw’s WayOut High Court win ends long running legal battle

The High Court today rejected an application by Christian Youth Camps Ltd (CYC) for special leave to appeal to the High Court against a finding that it discriminated against Cobaw Community Health Services.

CYC were seeking special leave to appeal against a decision of the Victorian Court of Appeal that it breached the state’s former Equal Opportunity Act by discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. In 2007, the WayOut program tried to book a camp at a CYC facility on Philip Island to facilitate a suicide prevention workshop for same sex attracted, bisexual and transgender young people. The booking was refused because of the camp manager’s objection to homosexuality.

The decision by three High Court judges ends the long running legal battle and means that the ruling of the Court of Appeal from earlier this year stands. The judges unanimously agreed that the administration of justice would not be served by the case going to an appeal before the High Court.

Today’s positive outcome reflects the history of the legal proceeding, Cobaw having been successful at every level prior to the High Court. The win supports the evidence provided by Sue Hackney, part of the WayOut foundation team, and the young people intending to attend the workshop.

Cobaw’s Acting CEO, Margaret McDonald said today: “We are relieved that the long-running case is finally over. It has taken up significant resources of what is a small community health organisation. We would like to acknowledge King & Wood Mallesons for their commitment to this case. The barristers involved over the years include Peter Hanks QC, Jim McKenna, Elizabeth Bennett, Kathleen Foley, Emrys Nekvapil and Justice Debbie Mortimer.”

About WayOut

WayOut is a state wide suicide prevention program that works with same sex attracted, bisexual and transgender young people in rural Victoria. It was established in January 2002 as one of two pilot initiatives funded by the Department of Human Services in the Macedon Ranges, Mt Alexander, Central Goldfields and Greater Bendigo.

The main aims of the project were to redress the isolation that same sex attracted young people faced in their community and raise awareness about the nature and effects of homophobia. WayOut has continued to protect and nurture vulnerable young people by providing support, education, facilitating youth groups, and working with partner organisations.

Media enquiries: Margaret McDonald, Acting CEO, 0407 806 870

Cobaw Annual General Meeting

Cobaw Community Health’s 2014 Annual General Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday 26 November at 3:30pm at the Malmsbury Town Hall (91 Mollison Street).

The AGM will provide an opportunity to celebrate the organisation’s milestones and achievements of the past 12 months, while looking forward to an exciting future as part of a merged entity with Bendigo Community Health Services.

Cobaw’s Acting CEO Margaret McDonald said, “Cobaw has achieved significant success this year while continuing to deliver services to clients, many who experience inequality and disadvantage. As we look towards a future full of new opportunities, the AGM will enable us to recognise what has been accomplished. This is a great opportunity for members and stakeholders and we look forward to as many people attending as possible.”

Guest speaker Margaret Augerinos, Centre for Non-Violence CEO, will talk about the role of community health organisations and the role they have in supporting the community.

Afternoon tea will be provided following proceedings. RSVPs are required by 19 November to admin@cobaw.org.au or (03) 5421 1666.