Inspiring personal accounts of triumph after tragedy will be at the heart of a weekend of events to cultivate hope and healing in the Henty and wider community.
From evocative art projects and a communal mural to moving presentations and a happy festival, The Henty Mental Health, Grief and Loss Weekend (October 10 to 13) has been described as a "beautiful and intriguing" way to unite people on a personal and community level.
As citizens across the globe prepare to speak their minds on World Mental Health Day tomorrow, this project closer to home aims to remove the shame around mental health and invite open and healthy discussions about grief and loss.
One of the main facilitators for the weekend is Melissa Lubke, a Tasmanian artist with a strong connection and pull to the region.
Her late husband Andrew Lubke, who grew up at Henty and attended St Paul's College at Walla, was killed in a motorbike accident in 2016.
Ironically his grandfather Wilhelm Lubke also died in a road accident not far from his Henty home in 1954.
Melissa will facilitate a series of events and activities throughout the weekend designed to foster community wellbeing through creativity.
Among the highlights will be the Rays of Light mural drilling workshop at the Henty Men's Shed.
Everyone is invited to attend this hands-on workshop, on Saturday from 10am to 2pm, that will create an "astronomical piece of community contemporary art" by drilling thousands of holes to form images of people and things lost to the community.
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The final artwork will give the impression of thousands of stars giving off rays of light during the day and, if backlit, also during the night.
"This activity aims to reach out to men and others in the community and unite them to get their hands onto tools and process emotions in a practical, distinctive and effective way," Melissa says.
"The process of reflection is one of healing.
"The final mural will be acquired and used as a sculpture screen in the township at a later date."
The workshop is based on Melissa's own art therapy to process the grief after her husband's death.
"We cannot know the days we have on this earth, just as we cannot count the number of stars in the sky," she says.
"What matters is our attitude and outlook.
"We remember what we have lost or could lose - our loved ones, our dreams, our property, our animals and although they are shadows in our lives we also see rays of hope of a brighter future as we embrace solidarity as a community."
The weekend's main event will be the Out of the Blue social night on Friday at the Henty Community Club from 7pm to 9pm, which will feature courageous accounts from people who have processed their grief in positive but very different ways.
Among the speakers will be Henty farmer Steve Scott who ran three marathons in one year after a good mate took his life and Albury's Cristy Jacka, who helped launch a care bag for cancer patients after losing her husband Karl to the disease in 2017.
In addition, Melissa will share how creativity can help with healing and there will also be a presentation from the Black Dog Institute as well as a Q&A session.
Henty health advisory committee spokesman Mick Broughan said Henty and surrounding communities were renowned for supporting and looking out for each other.
But he said the impact of drought coupled with the country's crippling suicide figures and escalating rates of mental illness meant it was vital to safeguard the wellbeing of rural communities.
"I think overwhelmingly though we want this weekend to be a mesage of hope - and that there can be a positive way forward out of despair," Mr Broughan said.
"Our speakers have suffered terrible grief and loss and yet look at what they have achieved after these tragedies have occurred."
The weekend's events have been made possible thanks to a Murrumbidgee community grant as well as support from the local area health committee, Greater Hume Council, Riverlife Church, and community groups.
The idea was initiated by Melissa who has found a new purpose in life after her husband's sudden death.
She is using her artistic skills to develop programs that build on the health and wellbeing of communities.
This weekend she will also bring along an interactive "grieving booth", created from her own experience of loss, designed to help people with the healing process.
She plans to take this art installation on a further tour of public spaces and events to collect the nation's symbolic tears through written expressions encapsulated in glass droplets.
Melissa says she has been "blown away" by the community spirit demonstrated at Henty.
"I have fallen in love with this little town," she says.
"I am so honoured to be able to bring some drought relief and work with some of the wonderful people here.
"I can see how the beautiful culture of Henty and surrounds influenced my late husband's generous, relaxed and kind character."
- Tickets to all the weekend events are free but booking is required for catering and administration purposes. Go to Henty Library on Facebook or eventbrite.com.au for details.
- TOMORROW: A Border family's campaign goes global on World Mental Health Day .
What's on for the weekend
- Present Weakness Textile Art Workshop - When: October 10, 7-9pm Where: Living Word Culcairn (for women; free child minding)
- Out of the Blue Social Night - When: October 11, 7-9pm Where: Henty Community Club What: Melissa Lubke, Cristy Jacka and Steven Scott discuss how they dealt with their grief positively, a Q&A and Black Dog Institute presentation.
- @HappyPlaceHenty Photographic Exhibition - When: October 12-13, 10-4pm Where: Henty Creative Gallery What: An exhibition of the community's creative response to their happy place.
- Rays of Light Mural Drilling Workshop When: October 12, 10-2pm Where: Henty Mens Shed What: All invited to join in a community mural by drilling a few (or thousands of) holes to form images of people and things lost.
- My Happy Place Family Festival - When: October 13, 1-3pm Where: Henty Memorial Park What: Cardboard cubby building, jumping castle, games, skateboarding demo plus more. Free sausage sizzle, tea and coffee.