Training West Coast Locals to Reach the Quiter Voices in Their Communities

People on a lookout overlooking a landscape in Queenstown, Tasmania
Dr Suzie Waddingham is a research fellow with the Collaboration, and the lead researcher for Strong, Liveable West Coast –  a community-led project to improve health and healthcare services for people living on the West Coast. Here, Suzie shares more about the project.

What’s this project about?

Strong, Liveable West Coast is a community-led project where locals are trained as Community Facilitators, who learn how to host ‘Kitchen Table’ discussions with groups of people they know. This is about locals talking with other locals to discuss health and health service needs in a comfortable and familiar environment – listening and learning what health issues they’re experiencing every day and the services they need the most.

It’s about reaching out to the quieter voices in rural Tasmania who do not usually attend community consultation events or fill out surveys. We are involving a range of voices in the community to find solutions that are meaningful and helpful to them.

The project is a partnership between the Collaboration, Health Consumers Tasmania, and the West Coast Council.

Tell us about the Kitchen Table Discussion that happened on the West Coast recently?

The kitchen table discussion is one method we’re using to hear from rural Tasmanians along with observation journaling, surveys and a community forum.

In November, with support from the West Coast Council’s Growth and Change team and with Health Consumers Tasmania, we trained six community facilitators at an in-person workshop and four online. The training was to equip participants with the skills to facilitate future health conversation sessions with the community groups they are connected to.

What insights can you share with us about the realities of a community-led approach?

That we need to be flexible, bumps in the road happen and patience and persistence is key. We really need to make the effort to understand what else is happening in communities and that timing is everything.

What’s next for this project?

The community facilitators will host Kitchen Table Discussions with the support of the research team. They’ll meet with their local groups to talk about their health issues and service needs.

From there, information will be collated, interpreted and a report developed with priority health needs, which will be shared with community groups for comment and at a community forum for further input.

The final report will then be presented to the West Coast community and other stakeholders including the West Coast Council, Department of Health and Primary Health Tasmania.

Get in touch if you’d like to know more about the Strong, Liveable West Coast project.