How walking groups can use an Australia Post Community Grant to connect people in their local community
Walking is a powerful way to boost mental wellbeing and get to know other people in your community. We found out how walking groups have been using their Australia Post Community Grants to create meaningful connections.
The Williamstown Walking Group used their Community Grant to boost community wellbeing.
Every Wednesday, a group of Williamstown community members come together to enjoy a morning walk and a chat.
The Willi Walking Group is an initiative of the Williamstown Community and Education Centre that was founded after the organisation received an Australia Post Community Grant. The centre provides support, skills development, adult education opportunities and social activities for their local community. The walking group is one of their programs that helps to build social connection to improve mental health and wellbeing.
Designed as a weekly activity for local mature aged community members, the walking group aims to build meaningful community connections and decrease social isolation.
The walks are also followed by a chance to connect further over morning tea.
Caroline Baxter, coordinator of the Willi Walking Group, says the weekly routine helps her to stay connected with the group and improves her overall sense of wellbeing.
“You can feel nice and refreshed. You finish your walk, and you feel great.”
Walking groups have found that walking is the perfect way to make friends.
Walking towards wellbeing
Walking is one of the most popular forms of exercise1 —and there are good reasons for this.
Not only is walking a powerful way to maintain physical health, but research also shows that regular walking improves mental health and eases stress, depression and anxiety2.
It’s also the perfect way to make friends and develop meaningful relationships.
Caroline says this social gathering is important for the wellbeing of the people who join in. “We talk about things we’ve been doing during the week,” she explains. “For mental health, talking to people is a huge thing.”
The Williamstown Walking Group added morning tea after a walk to help create meaningful connections.
Using walks to recover from a tough time
The majority of the Williamstown Community and Education Centre’s clients come from vulnerable groups such as low socioeconomic, culturally and linguistically diverse and refugee communities. These community members often face challenges with isolation, inequality, and access to peer support.
These challenges were exacerbated by the COVID-19 lockdowns in Melbourne, making community members more isolated and disconnected. When asked by the Williamstown Community and Education Centre what they needed, residents of the local area said they wanted to feel part of the community again.
So, the community centre applied for an Australia Post Community Grant to run the walking group and help community members create new connections and re-engage with the community.
Walking is a powerful way to boost mental wellbeing.
“Part of our work is trying to get community members out and engaged in programs,” says Mark Brophy, Manager and CEO of Williamstown Community and Education Centre. “During the lockdowns over the past two years, people were isolated, affecting their mental health and wellbeing.”
Mark points out that the group is also a great way for people who are new to the community to get to know others. “It allows us to get locals to mingle with new arrivals to develop relationships, develop networks and find out about the local area,” he explains.
"The regularity of the walks and morning teas provides a starting point for a change of mindset and positive attitudes.”