The Mail is teaming with Mindful Margaret River to share guidance and support from local members of the Mindful Margaret River alliance.
I was first introduced to Mindful Margaret River (MMR) by local identity Stuart Hicks AO back in late March just as COVID-19 was starting to really impact Australia.
Having spent a week in Victoria promoting the pending Jetstar flights to travel agents, I was dumbfounded to learn that within a week of returning to the region, Jetstar was no longer going to operate their inaugural flight scheduled to land on the 25th March and our WA borders were closing to protect the interests of our community.
The speed it unfolded was mind blowing and having been through SARS, the collapse of Ansett, the global financial crisis to name a few, I had never experienced anything quite like this global pandemic. It was truly surreal.
My thoughts were initially focussed on the impacts to the tourism industry and what the potential fall-out would be, but I quickly realised that COVID would affect all businesses and every Australian in some way.
So, when Stuart approached me with an idea to support local businesses during this time, I jumped at the opportunity.
The alliance saw a need to have an authentic impact in the business community during the challenges of the COVID global pandemic facing our region.
Many individuals in business have felt worried and anxious during this COVID period and thanks to the Augusta Margaret River Shire, funding was made possible to support the role of a Business Counsellor to help people during this challenging time. Under the governance and oversight of Lishman Health Foundation, I was engaged as a Business and Job's Counsellor to provide support.
Hundreds of businesses in the region have been impacted by COVID-19. This is evident with the amount of Job Keeper applications processed by the ATO. I have worked with businesses which have had to close overnight due to government lock-down strategies or concern over personal safety.
I have been impressed with so many businesses pivoting their business direction early and the innovation that has taken place to survive.Pip Close
There have also been temporary and permanent shut - downs of business loss of revenue, and discussions with business owners over the need to adapt to suit the current needs of the climate and local community.
I have been impressed with so many businesses pivoting their business direction early and the innovation that has taken place to survive.
Many filled a gap in the market based on current needs, or focussed on local community and collaborations, and as a result, most have managed to continue opening their doors.
Job Keeper has been a lifeline for businesses able to receive it.
This has been a short-term reprieve, a pause if you like as it has provided businesses the opportunity to take stock of their business model and current operations to see whether adapting was possible.
I have been lucky to mentor a number of businesses in the region with support and advice during the lock-down period to help them come out the other side into a sustainable future. This has involved grant application advice, marketing advice, business efficiency ideas & tools to improve, and COVID-19 re-opening guidelines.
Thanks to collaboration with the Margaret River Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Margaret River Wine Association and the Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association, I was able to deliver support with one on one mentoring to over 65 businesses in the region.
This has ranged from online support, Zoom meetings (particularly in the early stages), face to face meetings , a lot of email and quite a bit of technology advice as businesses move further into the digital age.
I have found it very rewarding to know in some way I have added value to businesses and that the COVID funding the Shire provided through their community care package has been of value and a good spend of rate payers money.
There have been numerous notes of thanks from businesses spread across the Shire who commented on this great initiative.
Most importantly, I have personally gained a new appreciation of mental health issues understanding that mental health is a mixture of many things from basic needs of anxiety and money worries, to more severe cases and it has opened my eyes to realise that everyone suffers from these issues at some stage in their life and it is almost the "new norm".
I encourage anyone in need to reach out to connect for support and advice.
Ms Close's work with Mindful Margaret River has now concluded.
Mindful Margaret River is an alliance of mental wellbeing professionals, government agencies, community members and the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River to promote health and wellbeing in the Shire.