25. 05. 2018
Same same different different
I’m writing this from Bordertown, the last stop in the research for the Euphoria project. On Wednesday night we talked with a group of Afghan men at the Migrant Resource Centre, and on Thursday morning we sat in on the women’s English lesson. The men told us about their journeys to Australia as refugees, and the women talked about the peace they’ve found here after the war in their home country. It was a privilege to be included in their conversations, to laugh with them and learn a few words of their language – which I’m sure we pronounced very badly.
Over the last eight weeks, Euphoria has taken us to Berri, Lameroo, Whyalla, Streaky Bay, Ceduna and Mount Gambier. We’ve met younger people and older people, farmers, shopkeepers, factory workers, teachers, nurses, doctors, poets. People whose families have worked on the land for generations, people who have only just arrived. We’ve been up in a gyrocopter. We’ve been down into a sinkhole. We’ve spent time in acute mental health wards, schools, aged care homes, and a lot of motels. All of this will feed into the play I’m about to start writing – taking in the highs and lows of life in regional towns, looking in particular at mental health.
Some of these towns are coastal, some are inland. Some are focused around farming, some around industry, some around tourism. But a common theme has emerged: in smaller communities, people are there for each other. When things get tough, they help each other out. And on the flip side: everyone knows everyone’s business, and it can be hard to keep your private life out of the rumour mill.
In terms of mental health, people in regional towns struggle with all the same things that people in cities struggle with, but in country communities it can be harder to get help – GPs move on, mental health teams are stretched, and the locations of acute wards and specialists can mean you have to travel a long way from your home and your family. Spending time on the acute wards and talking with clients, peer-support workers and staff has made it very clear that we’re all somewhere on the mental health spectrum, we all have good times and bad times, we all sometimes need support.
I’m off to see some white kangaroos, and lead a playwriting workshop at the Bordertown high school, before we get on the road for the long drive back to Adelaide.