Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

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Case Study: Women’s Health Loddon Mallee

ProjectAround the Table



ProgramOther Past Programs

This grant was approved under our previous grants policy
Rural and regional Victoria Improve women’s health and wellbeing in the northern Loddon district by engaging them in identifying key health priorities and developing solutions with local service providers.
Extending opportunity Recruit, train and support local women to host conversations within their communities, encouraging women to share ideas about health and wellbeing and to become involved in implementing solutions.
Collaboration and partnership The project is an initiative of Women’s Health in Northern Loddon Alliance, a partnership which includes Women’s Health Loddon Mallee, Boort District Health Service and Northern District Community Health Service.

‘Around the Table’ health project involves almost 100 regional women in finding solutions

It was community consultation at its best when almost 100 Loddon women met in small groups to discuss the main issues affecting their health and wellbeing, then developed solutions which could be implemented with local service providers. Women’s Health Loddon Mallee, a non-government, non-profit organisation which provides health promotion services and support for women, drove the project. It was assisted by a grant from the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust to employ project staff to facilitate the community engagement program. More than a dozen major issues were identified by the Loddon women, and a number of their recommendations are being implemented.

Image Boort College Group

Self-determination is a key component of health, and when Loddon women were supported to share their own knowledge about what makes them healthy, the process became a health-building one as well as pinpointing the services needed.

“We found that one of the most worthwhile aspects of the project was that the women focused many of their solutions on actions they could undertake themselves, rather than simply handballing the responsibility to someone else,” says Marg van Veen, the former project coordinator.

“Where assistance was necessary, they identified the needs very clearly.”

The project was the first to bring four community and health agencies together as partners: Boort District Health, Pyramid Neighbourhood House, Loddon Mallee Women’s Health and Northern

District Community Health Service.

Project aims

These included:

  • Establish a dialogue between women, women’s groups and health and community services
  • Support women to identify their health priorities
  • Develop an action plan that incorporates identified priorities and appropriate actions.

‘Chat Queens’ were recruited and trained to facilitate the discussions groups, and then equipped with a comprehensive information kit.

Group participants ranged in age from 16 to 86 and represented Boort, Pyramid Hill and all small communities in northern Loddon. New migrant issues were raised by a group of Philippine women.

Key concerns

Key medical and health concerns included waiting times to see doctors, specific women’s health issues, confidentiality, diabetes, better access to specialist services and the need for better quality fresh foods. Social contact problems included the need for more support/social groups, youth activities and new resident support. Employment opportunities and the lack of childcare were further concerns.

Communications and isolation were raised, with the need for wider information dissemination, better internet/phone coverage and speed and improved public transport.

The six-month project quickly resulted in the appointment of a second doctor at the Boort medical clinic. The Pyramid Neighbourhood House also gave assistance to the youngest group in the project to set up a new youth club. More solutions are being developed through local community and organisation partnerships.


“We found that one of the most worthwhile aspects of the project was that the women focused many of their solutions on actions they could undertake themselves, ” says Marg van Veen, former project coordinator.