How art is helping strengthen mental health in Charleville
The Charleville and District Cultural Association received an Australia Post People of Post Grant to fund the art classes that were helping people connect and strengthen their mental health.
Video: The Australia Post logo sits in the top right corner. Title: "Charleville & District Cultural Association, 2022 People of Post Grant recipient." Paintbrushes and bottles of paint are stored in plastic containers. Paintings in different styles are displayed on a long table. A dark-haired woman wearing an Australia Post scarf is interviewed.
Text: "Carol Butler, Postal Manager at Charleville PO, Nominator."
Audio: Carol: Very worthy nomination, really. They are the hub of everything. It's all ages, so it's from the very young to the very old. It brings everyone together. Very easy process. There was a lot of support along the way. And be it a cricket club or whatever, you can help. You can do some sort of funding for that so you feel that you're part of your children's career or be it art or whatever, but it's a wonderful opportunity.
Video: In a country town, a post office sign protrudes from a cream building on a corner.
Audio: Carol: We shouldn't feel that we're left out in regional and remote areas, but often we are, so I think it's important that Australia Post are looking out for us and our rural communities. I love Post through and through. I love everything about it. And I'm a proud worker for Australia Post. And I do love that we give back to the community. Makes you feel good.
Video: Carol and a group of women discuss the artworks. One of the women is interviewed near walls covered with versions of the same painting. Text: "Carmel Williams, Charleville & District Cultural Association, Recipient."
Audio: Carmel: And then I had a 73-year-old lady ask me if I could teach her to draw, so I was a bit excited about that. So that lady came with the group that belonged to the cultural centre, so that got me really involved.
Video: Carol and Carmel walk between industrial buildings. Near a wall of paintings, Carmel and three women pose with Carol and another Australia Post employee.
Audio: Carmel: It's been really good for my mental health. So, when I retired I was feeling a little, you know, so I needed to get out and do a bit. I think it's just being together, and everybody's suffering in their own way, and this is a way for them to reach out to each other and to have someone to communicate with. And some of them are widowers, so they look forward to that friendship and it just gets them into the community.
Video: Artworks created using various techniques are displayed on the table.
Audio: Carmel: I'm giving back to the community, and we can help each other and we can learn from each other. So part of our group, there are one or two artists, so they can also offer whatever they know. And if I offer what I know, then together we can do something fantastic, which is what is really happening.
Video: Art supplies are stored in a cupboard, including tubes of paint in many colours. A painting of flowers lies near a portrait of a woman. Pages are covered with cups or love hearts adorned with different patterns.
Audio: Carmel: We purchased the TV, and then we had an initial amount for art supplies - I think there was about $400. Another part of the grant was to buy a tuition package, which I've actually bought a Jacqueline Coates Big Blooms package that we're all going to get together in January and we're gonna use the weekend to try and paint big blooms. So the money's been really handy. Australia Post gives us so many great opportunities.
Video: The Australia Post logo appears on a red screen.
It began with a simple question from a 73-year-old lady. Can you teach me to draw?
This question came at the right time for Carmel Williams. She had just retired after 27 years with Australia Post and was looking to fill her time. So naturally, she said yes.
That art class very quickly went from two ladies to a group of 15 who now gather every Wednesday night at the Charleville and District Cultural Association to chat and paint. That was two years ago. Today, Carmel leads four fully booked art sessions each week.
“The ladies paint pots, do canvases and learn to draw,” Carmel says. “You’d be surprised at how good they are. They’re blown away by their own work too and keep coming back for more.”
When one door closes
Charleville is a rural southwestern Queensland town with a population of just under 4,000. It’s a transient town with people often transferring in and out for work. Carmel arrived in Charleville from Cairns in 1983 – and she stayed.
“Charleville has such a great, friendly little community,” she says. “Everyone knows and supports each other. I was the Postal Manager of the Charleville Post Office for about two decades and it was truly wonderful. It was hard to retire.”
Carmel turned to her art in the first weeks of retirement to keep busy and stave off the loneliness. She decided her new project would be painting pots instead of canvases.
After amassing a little collection, Carmel started gifting her pots to friends and selling them at a local craft shop. Soon after, she was asked to teach her first art session. And it took off from there.
“It’s so rewarding,” Carmel says. “I love their enthusiasm and I’m learning from them too. We sometimes invite guest artists to lead the session but it’s expensive to get them to come out to the bush.”
So Carmel did the next best thing. She proposed a Digital Arts Workshops project that would give her sessions access to online art tutorials. In 2022, her project received funding from Australia Post’s People of Post Grants program.
Funding a worthy cause
Carol Butler is the current Postal Manager at Charleville. She’s also a huge supporter of the Charleville and District Cultural Association for its various community events and activities.
When nominations for the 2022 People of Post Grants program opened last year, Carol immediately nominated the Association for its Digital Art Workshops project. Her nomination won the project a $1,000 grant.
“The first thing I bought was a smart TV which was very exciting!” Carmel says. “I also bought art supplies like pencils, acrylic paints, watercolour sets, brushes and canvases. We’re now like a kickstart for people who want to give art a go.”
“The Association charges $5 a session and I use that fee to replenish the art supplies so we’re not completely reliant on funding. It has worked out really well. Like someone said, where else could you get a great night out for $5?”
Improving mental health through art
Carmel remembers a time when art was her path to healing after losing her son. At the time she committed to a doodle a day to give herself a break from the grief.
“Today the art sessions ease the loneliness and isolation of retirement,” she says. “It’s been good for my mental health. Making art is a wonderful way to cope with things that happen in your life.”
“I’d say it’s the same for the other ladies. Many of them are bereaved or cancer survivors. Being among like-minded people with a shared experience is good for them. The friendships they build help draw them back into the community.”
As a member of the Charleville Art Gallery Committee, Carmel is involved in shaping its exhibitions. She’s currently helping organise an exhibition that pays tribute to famous artists and another around the theme of mental health.
“I'm giving back to the community,” she says. “We help and learn from each other. It’s something quite fantastic.”
Supporting local communities through grants
Supporting local communities through grants
Through the People of Post Grants program, we’re supporting the projects our people are passionate about and helping to create positive outcomes in local communities across Australia.