About The River 2 Recovery.

24.10.13 Student update
Seven minutes on student’s thoughts so far.


This is an inclusive project that builds skills, builds lives and builds boats! It’s a team-focused venture that brings together people living with mental health challenges, with a shared purpose: to build five rowboats and journey down a stretch of the Murray River, from Albury to Yarrawonga/Mulwala.30augboatbuildingproject 035

As well as enabling lasting change for those involved in the project the aim of this activity is to raise awareness about mental health issues, and to reduce stigma by highlighting the strengths and capabilities of those living with mental health challenges.

This two year project commenced in February 2012 and will run until the end of 2013 – culminating in a 10 day (225km) Murray River journey from Albury to Yarrawonga/Mulwala. Some team members will row the boats whilst other members will act as an ‘on-ground’ support team.

A St Luke’s worker, Mark Johnstone, rowed solo down the length of the Murray River some years ago. He shared his story with participants of a D2DL bushwalking group who then posed the question “How do we do something like that?” Over the next couple of years a plan was developed in collaboration with the Wodonga TAFE Foundation Studies Unit to facilitate skill development/educational requisites.

Participants continue to achieve personal goals and their journey is documented through video journaling and Individual Plans developed in the class. The measure of success is demonstrated in the outcomes already evident, including;

•  Five row boats have been built by River 2 Recovery team members over the past 12 months. The boats have been constructed and modelled from plans – they are near completion with seats currently being fitted.

•  In the second year of running the group continues to grow with numbers now surpassing initial enrolment projections by 30%.

•   In preparation for the journey, three R2R participants have achieved a combined weight loss of 80kg. They attribute this success to their engagement in the group.

•   R2R participants expressed a desire to obtain First Aid skills. A training provider was sought and all team members have successfully gained their First Aid Certificate.

•    R2R participants are well engaged at all levels of project planning, including being active in Steering Group Committee Meetings, conducting weekly Team Meetings and also the  development and management of fundraising activities. All funds are held in trust by St Luke’s and managed by the R2R group.

Attainment of competencies undertaken at Wodonga TAFE include Certificate 1 – Timber Studies (Boatbuilding); Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Studies; Environmental & Ecological Studies; Media, Technology & Communication Studies; Photography & Cinematography; Personal Development – including, Interviewing Techniques & Public Speaking; Water/River Safety & Rowing Skills; and Job Club.

Other challenges that presented at the onset of the R2R project were transportation issues, literacy levels, anxiety related to long-term social isolation & re-engagement of education and development of group dynamics and cohesion. To support participants to overcome these barriers, St Luke’s allocated two Mental Health Recovery Workers to provide transportation to and from TAFE.

The budget for this activity includes significant fundraising by the student team members. A Trivia Night was held during Mental Health Month in 2012 – River 2 Recovery team members organised the event, developed the questions, campaigned for gift donations for prizes and hosted the event. 130 guests attended. The evening was a huge success and feedback from the event was extremely positive.

The Albury/Wodonga community has contributed in various ways. For instance the material and labor for the forward facing oar device were heavily subsidized. A trailer to transport these boats will be built/accessed primarily using community resources.

For further information about the R2R project and team members please contact;


Bryan Winnett – Foundation Studies – Wodonga TAFE 02 60556531


The River 2 Recovery

Posted on June 4th, 2012 by ‘The team’.

Members of the Albury/Wodonga community in conjunction with St Luke’s Albury and as students of Wodonga TAFE, are building five wooden boats to travel down the Murray River to challenge and to change people’s perceptions of and raise awareness about…,

  • Mental illness
  • Difficulties with maintaining Mental Health
  • People with disabilities
  • Emotional issues

People who have mental illness, can get out there (the World) and participate in the community (give things a go).

Why are we doing this?

  • We want to help others to be aware that there is light at the end of the tunnel by demonstrating our capabilities
  • Most people receive support in one form or another to achieve goals and carry out their daily life, people with mental health difficulties are just the same.

.2015.   The original concept of R2R evolved from two years of student collaboration. To date the consumer driven project has not reached it’s full potential. Despite funding received to further the concept. So far the boats have become mobile thanks to the current REAL Options TAFE students building a frame for a trailer purchased by St Lukes. The original mentoring plans of consumers supporting and mentoring consumers has not progressed. Funding would obviously assist, ie;- the promised NSW govt funding and an independent perhaps an incorporated consumer body to manage the boats,.  Phase 2 of R2R unfortunately has not occurred as yet. The wonderful idea developed by TAFE students R2R, remains unfulfilled but still has massive potential should consumers of mental health services and those on the path of recovery regain ownership of the concept they developed at TAFE.


16 thoughts on “About The River 2 Recovery.

  1. I think this is an amazing project. I have been both fortunate and privelaged enough to be able to sit on some class time, in watching some of the preperation for this. Truly inspiring, keep up the good work guys

  2. Just met the group in person. Sensational. Ticks all the right boxes. Can’t wait to see how they go over the next few weeks and beyond.

  3. A very inspirational project. I enjoyed the TV feature very much. As we live at Paynesville , on the Gippsland lakes i and a few friends were quite taken with the design of the boats and wondered if plans could be available for such a project on our waterways. There is a men’s shed here and there are many would be and could be boat builders in the area . Any information 2would be most welcome. Thank you.

    • Thank you for your feedback. You would be welcome to contact our woodwork department at Wodonga TAFE 0260556676 . The boat is a fife with a forward facing rowing device. It was built via blue prints which were researched by Mark Johnstone from St Lukes Albury. The course incorporated basic wood working units and Cert 1 in Transition education. As stated in my recent post the R2R project followed a staged self directed learning model that is used for all of the courses I teach for students with mental health issues. Hope this helps.
      Bryan. 0260556531

  4. Like Joe Murphy I am very impressed with the design of the boats as well as the forward facing rowing device and am wondering if these boats can be built to sell to the public or even if we can purchase the plans to build ourselves. We would really appreciate any information you can forward via email.

    Regards, Janet Reinhardt

    • Hi Janet,
      Wodonga TAFE continues to run courses specifically for students with mental health issues. We are entering phase 2 of the R2R project this year with St Lukes recovery service in Albury. But this is about using the current boats in a mentoring programme to help others. Not a building venture.You could contact St Lukes regarding plans.
      Bryan. TAFE Teacher.

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