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  • Boosting physical activity participation to support mental health

    Author: Charlotte Mitchell

Australians living with mental health conditions from rural and remote, culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD), lower socio-economic and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities received a significant boost in access to physical activity participation recently.

Australian Minister for Sport, Senator Richard Colbeck announced a grant of $216,251.20 for Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) to deliver the HEALing Mental Health project, a mental health version of the Healthy Eating, Activity & Lifestyle (HEAL) program designed to support lifelong healthy eating and physical activity behaviours.

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ESSA’s program is one of several programs sharing in a $10.3 million investment in the latest round of its Participation Grant Program which provides opportunities for Australians to connect or return to sport and physical activity.

The funding will allow ESSA to partner with HEAL™ providers from across Australia, including Geraldton (WA), Joondalup (WA), Pinnaroo in the Mallee (SA) and Mudgee (NSW).

ESSA CEO Anita Hobson-Powell welcomed this funding. In an official statement, she said that “Sport Australia has provided ESSA with the opportunity to showcase how an evidence based lifestyle behavioural change program can change lives.”

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“We are grateful for the opportunity to provide leadership to the Australian community on becoming more active.”

In his announcement, Minister Colbeck said that “it is vital to provide greater access to exercise activities to people living with mental health conditions in regional, rural and remote locations.”

“The Australian Government is proud to be able to support the national rollout of this innovative program being delivered by ESSA. Free access to exercise classes and lifestyle education will help address these Australians’ long-term recovery from the mental health impacts of COVID-19,” the Minister said.

He noted that “ESSA’s program is ideally placed to give Australians with a mental health condition more choices for an active life.”

There were 34 other programs that have also received key funding from Sport Australia’s Participation Grant program.

“These grants will help increase participation in sport and physical activity by delivering free, inclusive and high-quality programs for everyone to enjoy”, Minister Colbeck said.

“Through this grant program, we’re making communities stronger, more resilient and active.”

Another successful grant recipient was AUSTSWIM, with their program to address a shortage of swimming and water safety teachers by re-engaging with swimming teachers who have left the industry.

AUSTSWIM CEO Simon Weatherill said the initiative aims to bring the number of swim teachers back to pre-COVID levels.

“While demand for swimming and water safety lessons has recovered quickly, the training and accreditation of teachers has not kept pace, leading to a shortage in swimming and water safety teachers.”

Funding received for the “Creating Jobs, Saving Lives” project will support 900 swim teachers by covering the costs associated with getting and maintaining their qualifications.

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Charlotte Mitchell

Charlotte is a published journalist and editor, with 10 years of experience in developing high-quality content for national and international publications.

With an academic background in both science and communications, she specialises in medical and science writing. Charlotte is passionate about creating engaging, evidence-based content that equips the community with important information on issues around healthcare, medicine and research.

Over the years, she has partnered with organisations including the Medical Journal of Australia, Cancer Council NSW, Bupa, the Australasian Medical Publishing Company, Dementia Australia, MDA National, pharmaceutical companies, and state and federal government agencies, to produce high-impact news and clinical content  for different audiences.