Where There's A Will founders Pauline and Hilton Carrigan express their gratitude to Upper Hunter community

WHERE There’s A Will (WTAW) founders Pauline and Hilton Carrigan have offered their thanks to the Upper Hunter community.

The Scone couple is more than appreciative of the efforts, from everyone, over the past 12 months, which has seen the not-for-profit organisation scale new heights.

“It’s coming to the end of our first full year of operation and what has been accomplished is a little beyond our wildest imagination,” Mrs Carrigan said. 

“While the impact of all the foundation’s work might not be fully seen for several years, we think everyone in this community deserves a huge congratulations for starting the wheels of change turning – and for not sitting around relying on others to take action.

“Thanks to the amazing fundraising efforts and the willingness of so many in the Upper Hunter to step up and meet the challenge of mental illness, the past 12 months has witnessed many achievements.”

Those include:

* Eighteen Year 11 and 12 students from the five Upper Hunter high school travelling to St Peters College in Adelaide for the National Student Leadership Summit based on Positive Education principles;

* Those students then hosting Leadership Summits in their own schools, spreading the word of Positive Education;

* Twenty-three teachers travelling to Sydney for the Positive Education Schools Association annual conference;

* Thirty-four teachers completing a Professional Certificate of Education (Positive Education) through Melbourne University with lectures delivered in Muswellbrook;

* Six schools completing their first year (of three) implementing the Bounceback! Program, with the impacts of this to be studied by the Australian Catholic University’s Institute of Positive Psychology;

* Three-hundred and sixty people completing fully-accredited Mental Health First Aid training, with courses held in Muswellbrook, Denman, Merriwa, Aberdeen, Scone and Murrurundi;

* The success of the pilot program for Year 10 Teen Mental Health First Aid training, ensuring that it is likely to become an ongoing part of Year 10 curriculum for all high schools in the Upper Hunter from next year;

* One-hundred and fifty Year 8, 9 and 10 students from all five high schools participating in the Burn Bright leadership program in Scone;

* Twenty GPs and Practice Nurses from across the Upper Hunter completing advanced training in suicide prevention; 

* One-hundred and twenty people from all sectors of the Upper Hunter participating in an Appreciative Inquiry Summit focusing on how we can create change to wellbeing based on the strengths that already exist in this community;

* A network of Upper Hunter principals and educators meeting every eight weeks to collaborate on initiatives to promote student and staff wellbeing; and

* The Upper Hunter dominating (ie provide 64 per cent of responses despite only representing 4 per cent of the population covered) a federal government survey to determine the allocation of resources and funding to improve mental health and reduce mental illness. 

In addition to this Where There’s A Will has:

* Presented at the State Government Inquiry into the Prevention of Youth Suicide;

* Been in consultation with the Primary Health Network (federal) to develop a plan to replicate the approach the Upper Hunter is taking to mental wellbeing in other communities. We remain in constant dialogue with them about the service offerings for the area;

* Highlighted the concerns of the community to local, state and federal politicians; and

* Held discussions with education departments to ensure the smooth rollout of positive education programs across schools in the Upper Hunter.

“Then there’s the extraordinary events happening in the community every week that are encouraging conversations about mental health,” Mrs Carrigan said.

“The cricket days, the golf days, the rugby fundraisers, those incredible Where There’s A Will socks, the Group 21 Rugby League round, the Ravensworth dump truck, the Show Society Balls, the rodeos, the cake stalls, the wedding present donations, the trivia nights, the quiz nights, the Gratitude days in schools, the dress up days, the race days and the jockey silks.

“Hilton and I would like to offer a huge thank you to the principals, teachers and schools of the Upper Hunter who have embraced our vision with open minds and hearts to join together on this extraordinary journey of Positive Education and Wellbeing.

“Quite simply, we could not have done it without them.  

“We thank and congratulate them for engaging with such enthusiasm and commitment.”