By Gillian Sellar
In 2005 Denmark (WA) received a HealthWay Health Promotion Grant to assist the community to improve the town’s health and quality of life.
A partnership project between the Shire of Denmark, Denmark Health Service and HealthWay, the Healthy Community Project has covered a lot of ground since its inception in November 2005. It uses a “whole of community” approach to build social capital and encourage
the community to participate in identifying and addressing issues that are seen to influence health and wellbeing.
Denmark’s diverse population and numerous natural and human assets make it a potentially “wonderful place to live”, but despite this, Denmark like many other rural towns has its share of problems and issues.

Some of these issues are social isolation, family functioning, depression, domestic violence, youth, aged care and access to services. The local committee has already identified the need to promote tolerance of diversity and the coordination of activities towards the promotion of health and improved communication between groups and individuals through better and more equitable community consultation processes.
An information brochure including a community survey was created and distributed to all Denmark residents and ratepayers. The main findings identified mental illness, as a result of domestic circumstances and substance issues, positive relationship building with the Denmark Council/Shire and provision of more youth, senior and intergenerational opportunities, as the community’s major concerns.

Numerous local community groups and individuals have already become involved in the project’s activities, like the Denmark Relief Assistance Network, which assists struggling families with food and furniture, working with volunteers from local churches and the Community Collective.
Volunteers are the backbone of most of our social and community groups in small country towns. Without volunteers very little would get done and it is time their contributions were more widely acknowledged. The Healthy Community Project is actively working with volunteer organisations to attract and keep more volunteers and an online skills registry will be created in 2007 on the Denmark WA Learning Community web portal www.dwalc.org.au

Denmark frequently has its fair share of highly contentious and debatable issues and often many people do not feel they have a voice or an opportunity to be heard. The Healthy Community Project has promoted its ‘Speaking out is Healthy!” campaign through the Sunday Village Soapbox event held every third Sunday in the month (since April 2006), at the Fig Tree Plaza right in the heart of town. Locals are encouraged to have their say and ‘get stuff off their chests’. While debating and polite heckling are allowed, the throwing of rotten tomatoes is definitely discouraged!Denmark recently acquired $460,000 through the Federal Government’s Communities for Children initiative. This is a significant opportunity to achieve and sustain better outcomes for children 0-5 and their families and communities through education and awareness programs for healthy young families.
Contact Gillian Sellar on 9848 3514
or gillian.sellar@health.wa.gov.au

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