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2015;- a new group of students in REAL Options and a new venture. The students have made a trailer with the Wodonga TAFE metal work dept to transport the boats previous students built as part of the unique River 2 Recovery course, designed by Wodonga TAFE. Thanks to teacher Duane Hicks WIOT. 



INTRODUCTION;- The River 2 Recovery (R2R) group is made up of people living with mental health issues who are undertaking a boat building project. R2R members are supported by Wodonga TAFE and St Luke’s Mental Health Recovery Services. The goal of the group is to complete the construction of five row boats, in which they will commence a two week journey down the Murray River. The R2R members will row from Albury in early December 2013, arriving in Yarrawonga about fourteen days later. All participants will have essential roles to fulfill during their journey – be it rowing down the river or being actively involved in the support team.

This project is designed to raise awareness in the local region of mental health issues and to reduce stigma by highlighting the strengths and capabilities of those living with mental illness. The aim of this project is to promote the mental health of participants and to connect participants to their local community.In keeping with St Luke’s philosophy the River 2 Recovery group aims to bring hope and create opportunities for lasting change for those involved. A partnership has been formed with Wodonga TAFE. R2R participants are engaged in a one day education program specifically designed to build their knowledge, create new employability skills and reduce social isolation. Some participants have elected to attend the Certificate 11 in Woodwork in which the five boats are being built.

Social inclusion The goal of social inclusion is already evident as R2R participants connect regularly in the classroom and provide each other invaluable peer support.Fundraising and promotional activities undertaken by the group are not only highlighting positive mental health but also creating important connections to local community. In turn, the community support received   is establishing hope and building opportunities for participants to extend their networks and reach out for greater benefits. Activities and events will be planned and organised by the R2R group and some expected outcomes will be;

  • Personal growth and development.
  • Enhanced communication skills.
  • Organisational and management skills.
  • Improved mental health.
  • Improved physical health.
  • Connections to local community.
  • R2R Trivia Night held 18 October and sponsored by Commercial Club & Albury Rotary.
  • Teamwork.

Participants who are engaged in the TAFE studies component of the R2R project are studying and completing competencies under the guidance of Wodonga TAFE Foundation Studies Teacher, Bryan Winnett.  Bryan has created a unique learning environment and his personalised teaching method instils confidence that promotes personal growth amongst participants. TAFE modules and class time activities provide a focus on relaxation techniques and overall health and wellbeing.                           Education, Vocation & Employment (EVE) goals ;- The future opportunities for pathways to further education and employment for R2R members is enhanced by their participation in the classroom and the skills gained by physically building the boats. Subjects studied are designed to build on existing skills and create new ones. Some of the subjects undertaken are as follows:                                                                        Boat Building – Woodwork Certificate II – Wodonga TAFE

  • Media studies, promotional work and photography.
  • Cultural Awareness and Indigenous history.
  • Digital imaging and cinematography.
  • Planning and goal setting, behaviour management, communication skills.
  • Logistics.
  • Event organising.
  • Boat building – woodwork, use of hand tools, following plans, construction and finishes.

Physical health & wellbeing:;- As part of course activities, R2R participants are developing goals to achieve maximum physical health and improve overall wellbeing. Some group members have already commenced fitness goals with outcomes already evident. This includes 2 x R2R members that have lost a total of 50kg between them to date. Participants are showing great personal motivation by joining  the Gym Group and Low Impact Exercise Group and incorporating fitness and strength into their routines.

Basic First Aid Training is also on offer and all R2R participants are keen to undertake training. During Semester 1 of next year, Wodonga TAFE will conduct a swim and survive program (with specific events such as falling out of a boat and getting back in, etc) to further enhance abilities and minimise risk.                                                       Media coverage of the R2R project is anticipated, highlighting the goal of the group and Mental Health Awareness. Media exposure has the potential to raise the profile of:

  • The R2R group.
  • The Murray River journey.
  •  Mental Health Recovery.
  • Wodonga TAFE.
  • Sponsors and supporters.
  • Mental Health Awareness.
  • The local community and region.
  • The Murray River.

The overriding and biggest benefit is to the participants themselves’ and it is anticipated that their growth, skills and knowledge will continue to strengthen in an environment that nurtures self-determination and covers all domains of wellbeing. We look forward to your valued support of this unique, exciting and inspiring project. Sponsorship and partnership opportunities are being sought and any enquires are very welcome.

With sincere thanks – on behalf of R2R members.    You may wish to follow the students on the ABC.  Thank you to Bronwen O’shea, producer Goulburn Murray ABC.



2 thoughts on “Partners

  1. Having just seen a recording of your services on the Compass tv program (“River to recovery”), I am wondering if you might be able to help me and my family?

    There are so many issuses! One of them is how my mental illnesses are affecting my son, my mother and husband! I do not have the skills to live with my mental disorders (identified at the age of 15yrs as bipolar plus in the last 4-5yrs ADD. I am now 41yrs old).

    I do not feel the numerous perscribed medications are really the appropiate combination for me. Though I will keep taking them untill someone has a better solution.

    I believe there is a medical and physcological approach needed.

    I was hopping you could give me some advice.

    I know your program is really for people with mental illness but maybe it might also benefit my son (who may or may not have
    inheritated a mental illness which his father and mother both have)? He is now 17yrs turning 18yrs in March.

    I was thinking the actual trip on the river would build trust in his parents and self confidence. It has been, because of us his parents he has had to deal with so much!!!

    Maybe my whole family (the 3 of us) would benefit from your river program.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my email.

    I do apologise, as people say I am hard to understand at times.

    Regards Yvonne

    • Thanks Yvonne,
      We are entering the 2nd phase of the R2R project now. At this point it is a local venture regarding the boats in partnership with St Lukes recovery service in Albury. Wodonga TAFE has provided vocational training options for students with Mental health issues for over 12 years now . Each year catering to the needs of local students under the course name of REAL Options. The same 5 boats will be introduced to other rural groups this year along with a mentoring programme offered through our REAL Options cours units.
      Hope this helps.
      Bryan Winnett Wodonga TAFE.

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