Luke Wrightson - Digital supports have kept me connected to community

Being isolated at home had potential to be the biggest challenge of COVID-19 for me but digital supports facilitated by Flourish Australia helped me to maintain a sense of community and connection. For several years, prior to lockdown, I visited Flourish Australia in Leeton or Griffith on a weekly basis to take part in group activities. It’s been extremely beneficial for me to have that opportunity to socialise with like-minded people, as part of  a cooking group or movie night, so the loss of face-to-face activities due to lockdown could have really set me back.

However, Flourish Australia quickly set me up with access to digital supports as a way of staying connected. I’m used to using YouTube so getting started with interacting this way didn’t faze me, though I did need a hand to set myself up with Facebook Messenger. On a few days, each week, I’d jump onto a House Party catch-up or Messenger group chat, where people from all over the region could enjoy a few laughs together and feel we weren’t alone in being home alone. I found it really relaxing to join in with the online groups.

Although my work continued, because I’m an essential worker, I found I really needed to strengthen those connections with other people, in order to maintain a positive mindset and feel encouraged. Technology made it easy for me to do that, before and after work. Something as simple as seeing each other put on silly hat or animal effects, through an online app, would lift our spirits for the week ahead.

I’ve also served with the Community Advisory Council to Flourish Australia over this time and meeting monthly via Zoom has not only made an important difference to the organisation’s responsiveness, it has helped us to connect our communities, and feel connected in our shared experience. Members come together online, from Queensland, Melbourne, Sydney and all over NSW, bringing a broad representation of communities and ideas to the table. Meeting via Zoom also makes it easier for the Flourish Australia CEO to join our discussion.

Doing this digitally has been so effective that we’re now introducing a Local Champions Group, at each site, bringing people together to talk about topics relevant to their local community, and providing input to the broader Council discussion, via their local Council Member. I’ve now been nominated as Council Chair and see this regular, two way flow of knowledge and information as a real asset. It’s made possible by us all being connected digitally now. 

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