Public meeting to build a stronger community

Former NSW Minister for Mental Health, Cherie Burton

A town meeting has been organised to launch Kiama & District Stronger Community (KDSC), a group focused on improving the collective mental wellbeing of the region.

“We want to focus on keeping people mentally healthy, rather than treating them when they are not so well,” says one of the founding members, Cherie Burton.

“If people are unwell, we will be able to help them contact the services they need.

“There are many mental health services doing a great job, but there is still a perception in the community that not a lot is happening.

“We wanted to break through that perception to inform people what is out there, with our focus really on helping our community with their mental wellbeing.”

The soon-to-be incorporated body hopes to play an overarching role supporting the different groups already playing a role in their communities.

“We want people to know they can come to us and we can help to make things happen,” says Ms Burton.

“As an incorporated body we will be able to apply for grants and raise funds for others to run worthwhile initiatives.”

The founding members of Kiama & District Stronger Community – who also include Councillor Matt Brown, Mark Burns (founder of The Man Walk), Derek McMahon (founding member of Gezza Cares), Cameron McDonald, Brooke Creighton, Ben Wilson, Glen Hayworth, Deb Langton, Michael Emmett, Bob Henderson and Hayley Young – are keen not to reinvent the wheel.

“We are working with the Illawarra and Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative and Council to make sure we don’t cut across any of the great things they are doing, but where there are gaps we will work to fill them,” says Ms Burton.

She brings to the group her experience and skills as the Minister for Mental Health at a time of massive reform under the Iemma Government, and says she was attracted by its long term commitment.

“What can happen is that when there are a number of tragedies in an area, there can be a flurry of activity for a while and it petters off.

“We don’t want to do that. We want to set up a really strong ongoing connection to our community so it can bring about real cultural change.

“When I found out the committee was about long term sustainable programs that really addressed cultural change and the stigma around mental health,
I was really interested in being involved.”

Apart from introducing the KDSC, the town meeting will be an information session featuring expert speakers, including Maggie Dent; updates from Council, the High School and the Collaborative; and an introduction to other local resources.

The organisers are encouraging questions to be lodged ahead of time to assist with preparations for the proceedings (

The community will also be asked to participate in a survey to guide the group.

“We are really keen to get feedback from the community about what the different age and lifestyle sectors need from us to really support people’s mental wellbeing,” says Ms Burton.

With COVID restrictions, bookings are essential to attend in person. The meeting will also be live streamed from the website on the night.

Details: Tues 13 October, The Pavilion Kiama, 7-8.30pm. RSVP by Tues 6 Oct by registering at or email

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