Warrnambool's Let's Talk foundation will strengthen its outreach to Colac and Hamilton thanks to a $300,000 funding boost.
The Freemasons Victoria Foundation has worked closely with Let's Talk to provide $100,000 of funding and has raised another $300,000 to target the continuation of the Let's Talk satellite group in Colac and to establish another in Hamilton.
Let's Talk board member and the worshipful master of Mortlake's Masonic Lodge Craig Wood said the recent funding announcement would be allocated over three years.
"The funding is to help us set up additional hubs in Colac and Hamilton," he said. "It will also see the expansion of the foundation throughout these regions.
"A lot of what we do as Freemasons is charity work both in our own communities and as a whole organisation.
"We had local events to raise money for Let's Talks and Freemasons Victoria saw what we were doing and got 100 per cent behind us. They're even talking about looking to expand the charity to Gippsland.
"What started as a small community group has expanded into a major mental health charity."
The $300,000 contribution will enable Let's Talk to employ a community engagement officer in Hamilton and Colac to support the establishment and continuation of groups in the towns to cater for the wider south-west region.
The Let's Talk foundation was created in 2016 after an increase in suicide rates in the Warrnambool community.
Foundation coordinator Jacinta Roache said the contribution would focus on the expansion of the initiative to other regions and cater to the needs of individual communities.
"The funding will allow us to have people on the ground in Colac and Hamilton who know and understand their own community and have existing relationships," she said.
"We've been working with the Freemasons for a number of years and they understand our work and know what we've been doing has been making a real impact.
"We'd like to see the Let's Talk model replicated all over the state with communities adopting the concept and tailoring the work to what their community needs. There are Freemasons groups in Gippsland who are already volunteering to do just this."
Ms Roache said the Warrnambool and district base of Let's Talk would continue to be the lead foundation for future expansion of the mental health charity.
"We are the lead group here and we will be supporting each of the other developing groups," she said. "What we do here as a community is really important to show others what they can create too.
"Then these clubs, schools, workplaces in new areas can begin to take responsibility for the people they care about and work with."
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