Awareness around mental health is growing, with some wonderful people working hard giving support to those who need it the most. In 2013 we were inspired to work even harder and decided to also support the work thata��s being done at a place called The Good Life Farm.
What is the Good Life Farm? The Good Life Farm is a place where kids who are suffering from mental illness, self harm, abuse and neglect are able to heal, learn life skills and be shown love and kindness. Many come from troubled homes with parents who may be suffering from mental illness and addiction. The ethos of the farma��s animal based therapy is that by taking care of animals and the environment, by being outdoors and working, they not only learn social and life skills but they also heal themselves.
Some of the complex issues these young people suffer include:
*Mental Illness A�*Substance Abuse A�*Self HarmingA� *Suicide Risk A�*Limited Education, Life & Social Skills *Anti Social Behavior *Difficulties Building & Maintaining Healthy Relationships.
Where is The Good Life Farm? Nestled in the beauty of the great divide in Chum Creek Valley / Healesville.
How do kids find the farm? The gates at The Good Life Farm are always open to everyone. Some kids are referred by Anglicare, Department of Human Services, Salvation Army (Bushfire Recovery Program), Department of Education and EMR Options, Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMS), Eastern Health, Child First, Care Connect and a lot of referrals also come through word of mouth.
How is help provided?The Good Life Farm provides therapeutic care and support using both ABT (Animal Based Therapy) and a holistic approach. The farm creates a space for young people to connect with animals, environment, family & community and challenges can be overcome by talking to pigs, milking the goats & good old fashions farm work.
The Good Life Farm is also based on the Permuculture belief system; Earth care, People Care & Fair share. These core values play an integral role when working with the young people, again providing a connectedness to other people not only those they know but within their communities, animals and the earth. They learn and discover empathy.
Using ABT therapy, young people are creating bond, based on care and respect with the animals, which is then transferred into their relationships with people. ABT therapy is also very successful in allowing the person to be present in a space of no judgment or fear of judgments.A� Animals also teach young people awareness and understanding of body language and social ques.
What is the history of the farm? The Good Life Farm is owned by a lady called Lesley Porter, who has known tragedy her whole life. Being the sole survivor after her entire family were killed in a car accident she lost everyone she loved in an instant. Growing up lost and confused and moving around a lot, Lesley was sent to live with distant relatives where she suffered severe sexual & physical abuse. Lesley never felt she belonged anywhere or to a family as she was forced to live outside with the animals.
When Lesley was 11 a trip to a holiday farm/riding school changed and saved her life, a place where she found love and healing from the animals and close friendships she formed at the riding school. It was forever Lesleya��s dream to one day own a home and place where others just like her could come and feel love and be healed. The Good Life farm is a place built on one resilient woman who dared to dream.
And so it was in 2005 Lesley bought a farm and opened the gates taking in kids that needed love and care. The word got out about the farm and soon kids were being referred from various services. However, the reality was the farm was still operating on a shoe string. As the farm was not a registered A�Non For Profit organisation it was unable to receive tax deductible donations. A�It received modest funding from some of the referring services and counted on local and personal support in cash and in kind from people who knew about the farm.
To become a NFP you need to A�go through a registration process witha lawyer and set up an incorporated organization. A�Legal fees for NFP accreditation can reach above $20,000. A NFP organization must also appoint a board of directors and go through major changes from operating as an individual to being a full NFP organization, a process Lesley found very daunting and out of reach. In 2012 Lesley was still running the farm on her own with youth workers volunteering or accepting very low pay. A�Lesley found it very hard to have to say a�?Noa�� to any of the kids.
Winning Pride of Australia Medal for Inspiration. It was in 2012 that the Bolt Blowers found out about Lesley and the work at The Good Life Farm. A�As the winner of Pride of Australia Medal for inspiration, Channel 10a��s The Project ran a story on Lesley and her work at The Good Life Farm.. It didna��t take long for us to be inspired. We had to lend a hand. We called Lesley that same day and soon after visited her at the farm. We felt an instant synergy with what the Bolt Blowers is about, a community of people being there for each other, a grass roots program that uses nature to heal, working towards mental health!! We were on board!!
The Bolt Blowers and The Good Life Farm .. and so it was, we decided the money raised from our 2013 Surf competition event was going to be split between the Good Life Farm and One in Five with 80% going to the farm and 20% to One in Five.
What is the long term vision of the farm
a�? To be able to be fully operational and financially sustainable with dedicated youth workers being paid properly and for the farm to be able to look after the animals comfortably
a�? To be able to accept more kids and run more programs
a�? To bring back mature-adult program (Lesley did run adult programs however this had to stop as financially Lesley was not able to support these and run the farm and the youth programs all at the same time). As the farm creates a space for mature-aged learning from the most basic level, connecting animals, environment, family, and community, Lesley has seen how much these programs have changed peoplea��s lives and would love to see them return.
a�? To be able to build an accommodation facility where people can stay overnight and heal over a few days, especially. adults and particularly men.
What has been achieved since 2013 when the Bolt Blowers got involved?
a�? $34,945.07 has been donated to The Good Life Farm ($29,445.07 from The Bolt Blower Invitational 2013 & 2014 and $5,550 from an individual from the Bolt Blower community). This money has helped to extend programs, pay staff and help with the farms infrastructure i.e. materials etc.
a�? We enlisted a lawyer who agreed to come on board and provide over $20,000 of lawyer fees free of charge and on 23 September 2013 The Good Life Farm became a Non For Profit Organisation, opening many doors!
a�? The Good Life Farm is now overseen by a full board of professional directors.
They are working on:
a�? Paid for building permits for the accommodation facility to be built and with building plans now approved, money raised from 2015 surf comp. and GALA auction, means building can now commence so people will soon be able to stay and heal over a few days.
a�? Through a Bolt Blower contact The Good Life Farm will soon have a new website and new photography again provided through The Bolt Blower community
a�? Introduced Lesley to influential philanthropist Jill Reichstein and Susan Barton, Founder of the Lighthouse Foundation, who inspired Lesley to well .. keep going!
a�? Provided Lesley with professional business and marketing support and paid for a Leadership Victoria membership to ensure Lesley had full business support during these big corporate changes as we felt a strong sense of responsibility as Lesley life was changing fast!
a�? We are stoked to say that The Good Life Farm is now running at almost full capacity, running 2 programs a day, (one on one’s, small groups, school groups, and also a pre requisite course for Animal studies) enabling the farm to open their gates to a far greater number of people, to both high at risk youth and also primary and secondary aged inner city kids who attend through various councils.
a�? We are currently working with a number of businesses from the Bolt Blower community who have been inspired just like we did by the work here and are in discussions now about how they can add to the programs at The Good Life Farm.
a�?Where The Good Life Farm is today simply would not have been possible without The Bolt Blowers community love and support. Words will never express our gratitude to the Bolt Blowers.. all we can do is continue to provide love, care and support to everyone who walks through our gates showing them that there are people who care and understand”. Lesley Porter and all at The Good Life Farm
See interview courtesy of The 7pm Project & Channel 10.