Outback Futures was born in response to an urgent need for mental and allied health support in rural and remote Queensland. In 2011, Brisbane-based psychologist Selena Gomersall was invited to provide intensive counsel and support to a group of approximately 30 women and children in Far North Queensland. As Selena spent time with these families and conducted these counselling sessions, a clearer understanding of the extent of the mental health concerns, as well as the serious issues of accessibility, consistency and quality in mental health and well-being service provision for these remote communities developed.
Over the next few years, Selena and a group of committed volunteers (including a growing mental and allied health team) continued to return to the North, connecting further with these families and their culture and building trusted relationships. A unique model began to organically evolve, founded on shared values and driven by co-designed processes and a bush-informed agenda. As Outback Futures has grown, the essence of our model has been shaped and developed further and is fundamental to our success in working with rural and remote Queensland communities.
Since Outback Futures was formally established in 2013, our team has prioritised the establishment of trusted relationships with rural and remote communities, predominantly in the Greater Western Queensland regions. As our presence in these communities has grown, so has the need for mental health and wellbeing support.
The tyranny of distance creates unique challenge around the provision of adequate physical and allied health support, emotional support and general practical resources. Often rural and remote service providers are limited by vast distances, workforce issues and referral restrictions, and work in the midst of a culture that is naturally averse to help seeking – all of which can mean that meeting the needs of our outback family is not happening as effectively and comprehensively as it needs to. As a result, we have suicide rates, educational outcomes and health and wellbeing figures that are unacceptable and seriously concerning.
Outback Futures is a response to this huge and growing need and an understanding that the approach to the mental health and wellbeing of remote communities, needs to be designed and delivered in a unique and culturally appropriate manner. Outback Futures seeks to build self-efficacy in the bush, assisting remote Australians to find their collective voice by renewing hope, building resilience and strengthening community.
The Outback Futures Community Facilitation model evolved organically in the bush with bush informed direction. It has developed into a nimble, replicable model that is ultimately about a strategic, long term, developmental approach to shifting the rural and remote mental health and wellbeing outcomes.
Outback Futures is committed to collaborating closely with local agencies on the ground and facilitating a cultural shift in remote communities around advocating for their own mental health and well-being and help-seeking behaviours.