• Tony Bosworth

We love where we live but comms and government services are poor – Macdonald Valley residents

Over 80 per cent of people who completed the Wellbeing Survey for the Macdonald Valley say it’s a great place to live - citing the environment and surroundings and saying it is a safe place to live - but almost all residents who took part in the survey visited a GP in the last 12 months.

Common concerns are poor telecommunications, a lack of public transport and government services, not enough food and grocery stores, and drug and alcohol use.

Some 97 per cent of residents who completed the Well Being Survey - which was possible thanks to a grant from Wentworth Healthcare – have accessed a GP in the last 12 months and 75 per cent travelled more than 51kms to access medical services.

A worrying 13 per cent said they found it difficult to manage daily tasks, though

60 per cent said they were happy within themselves and their relationships, while almost 20 per cent were dissatisfied with their life as a whole and not optimistic about the future.

“We want to thank our community members for completing the Well Being Survey, said survey Project Manager and St Albans local, Kate Stuart.

“Some 107 people responded, more than we expected, and we loved reading the comments on why living in the Macdonald Valley appeals to locals so much,” Ms Stuart said.

Macdonald Valley residents love where they live

The Well Being project grew out of the bushfire emergency period of 2019/20 as a way to help promote and explore mental health and well-being for residents of the Macdonald Valley.

The project began in September with a survey to help identify some of the issues concerning residents. The survey was sent out to all residents of the Macdonald Valley through the post and via email.

Almost 80 per cent of responses came from residents who live there full-time, aged between 51 to 80 years, and more than 57 per cent were received from women in the community.

Most responses came from Upper Macdonald (28 per cent) followed by Lower Macdonald, St Albans and Central Macdonald.

Keeping in touch with families is important to Valley residents

There is a high level of social connectedness in the Valley – 90 per cent of respondents were in touch with their families, and 85 per cent had chatted to their neighbours, 76 per cent spent time on hobbies or creative activities, and 46 per cent volunteered with local groups.

Some 20 per cent of respondents had sought mental health services in the past 12 months and a high 72 per cent rated those services as poor.

Having a positive effect were community spirit, the local weather, improved roads, a range of social groups, including the Macdonald Valley Association, the church, and the RFS.

Welcome social activities keeping people connected included community events, friendships, local book and coffee groups, and exercise classes.

Areas viewed negatively were, alongside unreliable landlines and very limited mobile communications, traffic and tourists on the weekends, ferry queues and crossings, dusty and unsealed roads, distance to shops and crucial services, impact of fires and floods, and lack of community meeting spaces.

According to the survey – here’s what people want:

· Dedicated spaces to meet for coffee, exercise, library, repair items and sharing of resources

· Mobile medical services that include general check-ups and lifestyle information as well as a focus on men’s health and the health of older residents

· More regular engagement from Hawkesbury Council and more frequent recycling of non-bin materials

· 60% asked for physiotherapy services

· 52% wanted help with preparation for the fire season

· 35% want mental health support

· 24% want help at home

Following on from the survey, over the next few months the MVA will explore ways to bring aged care services to the Valley.

This will start with a workshop to introduce people to aged-care packages, showing what is already available, and to find out more about what people need – for example, Peppercorn support services.

Residents generally keep in touch with friends and neighbours but there is a need for mental health services and workshops

“We are also going to arrange for a number of mental health sessions/workshops to be held in the Valley,” Ms Stuart said.

“We’ll explore options for physiotherapy services, seniors fitness groups, and we’ll also look at options to bring mobile medical services to the Valley, as well as establishing a community volunteer scheme to assist local residents.”

There are also plans to hold specific sessions/workshops, for example livestock talks, and others relevant to the environmental conditions and livestock in the valley.

The MVA will work closely with other local activities that bring people together – for example, plans for a community garden are underway - and they will also explore ways to equip the valley residents with skills to assist them in remote areas – such as First Aid and CPR skills.

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